Lot 8    

Civil War Letter Archive of George A. Howe, Co. H, Ohio 148th Infantry
Special Collections: American History, Nov. 11th, 2010
George Augustus Howe letters, 1861, 1864. Belpre Home Guards and 148th Ohio Infantry; 22 letters (7 in Belpre Home Guards; 15 in 148th Ohio).

George Augustus Howe served in the Belpre Home Guards at the start of the Civil War, and enlisted for a second stint in the military when he was inducted into the 148th Ohio, a hundred day regiment. Neither unit can be counted among the military elite of the Civil War, and neither have left a significant record, but Howe's experiences are more representative of the typical union soldier, and perhaps because he is an intelligent, opinionated man and a good writer, his letters leave a strong impression of one man's war.

Like many militia units in eastern Ohio, the Belpre Guards were called up in the earliest days of the conflict to guard railroads and bridges as the Union army was being pieced together from scratch. After serving with the Guards for the summer, Howe apparently returned to civilian life until three years later, May 1864, when the 148th Ohio was organized at Marietta from the 46th Ohio National Guard (Washington County) and 26th (Vinton County). The 148th served their brief enlistment at Harpers Ferry, Washington, D.C., and White House and Bermuda Hundred.

For a man with such a slender military record, Howe was an unusually avid soldier. Writing from Belpre in May 1861, he seemed to be busting with pride over the Home Guards and ready to enter the fray: "We have got a grand rifle company of young men. There is also a large company of Silvergreys Car Company had a grand time night before list burning Jeff Davis in effigy. I supposed the war excitement is increasing rapidly throughout the whole county...." Yet by August, when other companies were being federalized and sent to Virginia, but the Guards remained in "Camp Miserable" guarding the railroad and Howe drifted away.

Howe's letters while in the 148th barely skip a beat from his early-war letters, setting the same optimistic tone and eagerness for soldiering. The series of 15 letters begins when the 148th passed over the devastation of the old battle field at Bolivar Heights before arriving in Washington, where there was an abundance of food and a side trip to the capitol building. It is little surprise that Howe was pleased. After this interlude, however, the regiment joined Benjamin Butler's entrenchments near Point of Rocks, Va., situated between the twin centers of conflict in Richmond and Petersburg. The reaction at his first sight of a colored regiment was considerably more positive than most of his comrades (" don’t think I ever saw a nobler set of fellows in my life, are well drilled and the Brigade Commander says they are all fight..."), and he reacted to the first experience of seeing a bombardment with aplomb: "I tell you what, it sounds grand to hear the cannons roar, especially when in a good cause." Yet Howe was an unusually sympathetic man and was deeply affected by the carnage: "I feel our men were using them, But alas! How much suffering it brings not only on the rebels, but on our brave boys. I feel for the poor soldier as I never felt before. I have seen ambulance load after ambulance returning from the front, loaded down with poor fellows wounded in every way imaginable. It is heart rending to see them, but yet they feel as warlike as ever, and many of them hope soon to join their comrades again in the deathly strife, believing that victory is ours...."

After his first taste of battle, Howe's feelings grew harder. On July 2, 1864, he wrote home from Bermuda Hundred to say he had "seen the elephant," but was still confident "that by the time our hundred days are out that the rebs will be whipped and that soundly too..." Three days later, however, he complained about news accounts the disparaged the performance of his regiment. "The boys say they want you to mark the person that started the report that we were ordered out and wouldn’t go but threw down our arms," he wrote. "We intend to see tho [sic] him when we get home, and I imagine he will be handled rather roughly. I can say our boys layed in the rifle pits for 8 days, and the rebs were firing away at us with all their might. The shell came in our camp very often, but none of us were hurt. We have seen the elephant, I assure you, and are not afraid to meet him again if need be. Why should we, I consider we would be doing our duty...."

Howe keeps up a running commentary on his family's farm and the demands of farm work in his absence, and lambastes the copperheads at home attempting to run off the men helping his father farm. "I don’t care how many threats they make, but let them undertake to carry them into execution if they dare. One hundred days will be out after a while, and we hope to return, and then they will have to fess. The government have us employed to clear up the ods and ends in the rear, and we think if things continue as begun, we might as well commence the work in Belpre as any where else… Tell Pa not to mind what the Copperheads say but keep as many contrabands to work as he wants and protect them too. They think by making threats they can scare him, but he needn't be afraid, they dare not undertake to drive them away...."

During the last couple of weeks of his enlistment, Howe was confined to hospital at City Point with a minor foot injury, remaining optimistic about defeating the Confederacy and taking Petersburg and Richmond and about the performance of the "colored" soldiers, adding a rather strange personal twist: "There are a great many new recruits arriving here every day under the last call of the President. I saw quite a squad from Washington County all of them colored…. I expect to bring a colored boy home with me to raise. It is the captains waiter. He appears like a smart boy and I think (and so do others) that he will be a first rate fellow if rightly trained. He is about the size of Willie Beurd. He will be a useful boy on the farm and will save you a great many steps. There has been several trying to get him to go with them but he says no. he intends to go home with Corporal Howe. He does any thing I wish him is very kind and seems to know his place well..."

One letter written on printed ballad by Henry C. Work, Brave Boys Are They: Dedicated to the Sisters of Our Volunteers, with elaborately engraved head depicting a cavalry engagement.

It is quite uncommon to find correspondences either from home guard units or hundred days men -- much less both -- and particularly uncommon to find such correspondences that are so extensive and literate. Unusual content with interesting details of the life of a surprisingly active and motivated soldier. Expected wear with some starting at the folds, age toning. An attractive opportunity.
Sold: $658.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

Indian Wars Discharge Papers for Wm. Hart, 5th Cavalry
Lot # 51 - Indian Wars Discharge Papers for Wm. Hart, 5th Cavalry
Lot of 4 items relating to William J. Hart, Troop F, 5th Cavalry, of Broklyn, NY, including honorable discharge papers dated February 1, 1891, PLUS two letters addressed to Hart, dated January 23 and February 3, 1891, relating to his final pay status and discharge, PLUS an 1887 copy of the Soldier's... > Item Details
Two Mid-Twentieth Century Western Saddle Catalogs,
Lot # 177 - Two Mid-Twentieth Century Western Saddle Catalogs,
both are 8vo size is illustrated self wraps, titles include Catalog No. 18-19 For 1931 N. Porter Saddle & Harness Company Phoenix, Arizona, 48pp, many illustrated including a number of fine Porter saddles, Crocket spurs and bits, Navajo saddle blankets, Stetson hats, sterling mounts and more, AND La... > Item Details
Scarce Mexican Pamphlet Leading Up to the War,
Lot # 56 - Scarce Mexican Pamphlet Leading Up to the War,
Ultimas comunicaciones entre el Gobierno Mexicano y el Enviado Estraordinario y Ministro Plenipotenciario Nombrado por el de los Estados-Unidos, sobre la Cuestion de Tejax, y Admision de Decho Agente. Mexico, 1846. In Spanish. Small 4to, disbound, 22pp, part of top partially uncut. This is Jose Her... > Item Details
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, CDV & Piece of Flag with Receipt
Lot # 47 - Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, CDV & Piece of Flag with Receipt
E. & H.T. Anthony backmarked CDV of Morgan, plus a 1" x 4" section of flag embroidered with Morgan's signature, plus a receipt dated August 6, 1881 for the purchase of the clipping for $5.00 from Maggie Hampton, wife of J.W. Hampton who rode with Morgan with the 10th Kentucky. > Item Details
Civil War Papers of Alonzo Bell, Future Asst. Secretary of the Interior
Lot # 9 - Civil War Papers of Alonzo Bell, Future Asst. Secretary of the Interior
Assorted Civil War papers of Alonzo Bell (d. 1906) a Civil War voluteer from New York City who would later become Asst. Sec. of the Interior under President Hayes. Lot includes letters written to his mother throughout the war, full of anecdotes relating to things such as his initial journey from New... > Item Details
Civil War Letter To Wife From Camp Near Potomac, 1863
Lot # 17 - Civil War Letter To Wife From Camp Near Potomac, 1863
Possibly written by William Bryan, Co. M, 8th IL Cavalry. 3pp letter, dated Camp near Potomac Creek, Va, March 17 1863, and addressed to My darling wife. Bryan is describing the state of his recovery after an unspecified injury or illness when not pouting about how much he misses his wife. Includ... > Item Details
Luther <i>Yellowstone</i> Kelly Stereoviews
Lot # 191 - Luther Yellowstone Kelly Stereoviews
Lot of 3 views lacking studio imprints, but printed from negatives taken by Stanley Morrow of Yankton, D.T., with the following verso titles handwritten in pencil: 136 Yellowstone Kelley [sic] setting traps for beaver (on the Missouri), with some hand coloring; 137 Indian discovers Kelly's trail; an... > Item Details
Civil War Snuff Box
Lot # 48 - Civil War Snuff Box
polished horn, 1.75" x 3.5" x 1" high elliptic cylinder, wood reinforced with metal bands at each side of the hinged lid, with a metal nameplate on lid that has no inscription. > Item Details
CDVs of Osage and Omaha Chiefs From Kansas
Lot # 76 - CDVs of Osage and Omaha Chiefs From Kansas
Lot of two, including an a ca 1870s albumen photograph with the pencil inscribed caption Little Bear Chief of Osages below image and Parker & Daugherty of Fort Scott, Kansas, imprints on recto and verso, PLUS an albumen photograph of an unidentified chief, probably Otoe or Omaha, on the verso side o... > Item Details
1937 Ohio River Flood Photographs,
Lot # 165 - 1937 Ohio River Flood Photographs,
in obl. binder 12 x 23.75", black "leatherette" with Ohio River Flood, January-February 1937 in gilt on front. Panoramic aerial images 9.5 x 19" with hand lettered captions in white on black "construction paper" pages. Taken Jan. 25, 1937: Huntington, W. Va. (2, views from different directions); Dam... > Item Details
Portrait of Ambrose Burnside with War Dated Circular,
Lot # 7 - Portrait of Ambrose Burnside with War Dated Circular,
an early contact print of the ubiquitous Burnside (1824-1881) near the end of his life with impressed seal denoting “McDonalds Portraits of Men, NY” at bottom margin. Accompanying the print is a copy of “Special Orders 321 dated Headquarters, Department of the Ohio, Cincinnati, August 20, 1863” in ... > Item Details
President's Message on <i>Condition of the South</i>
Lot # 29 - President's Message on Condition of the South
108pp, 8vo, string-bound. Addressed to the Senate by President Andrew Johnson, dated Washington, D.C ., December 18, 1865, beginning with the line, In reply to the resolution adopted by the Senate on the 12th instant, I have the honor to state, that the rebellion waged by a portion of the people ag... > Item Details
Cabinet Card of Two Men Armed with Rifles
Lot # 133 - Cabinet Card of Two Men Armed with Rifles
on a cream card marked Wm. Cass of Grand Haven, Michigan, below image, showing a studio shot of two sharply dressed young men in bowler hats, each holding a double barrel shotgun, and leaning on what appears to be a large piece of coral or volcanic rock, with a dog in the foreground. > Item Details
Mettner Cabinet Card of a Young Woman in Patriotic Dress,
Lot # 132 - Mettner Cabinet Card of a Young Woman in Patriotic Dress,
ca 1890, albumen print of a young Clare Jaeblick wearing a star-and-striped dress, ribbon, clutching an umbrella in hand. Imprint of F.F. Mettner, Lawrence, Kan. viewed below, Clare Jaeblick/Lawrence Kansas/15 yrs 1890, inscribed in pencil on verso. > Item Details
Mixed Lot of Civil War CDVs
Lot # 45 - Mixed Lot of Civil War CDVs
Lot of 8, all unidentified, including a Silsbee, Case & Co. of Boston backmarked studio shot of a man displaying a Company D, Infantry kepi, PLUS a W.B. Eastman of Boston studio shot of a uniformed officer, PLUS a G.F. Child of Washington portrait of a man in civilian dress, PLUS a CDV of a young ma... > Item Details
Chicago, IL Stereoviews Before and After the Fire of 1871
Lot # 144 - Chicago, IL Stereoviews Before and After the Fire of 1871
Lot of 19. All imprinted Copelin & Hine, Photographers, Chicago, Ill, and either Stereoscopic Views of Chicago Before the Fire (12 views), or Views of the Ruins of Chicago / October, 1871 (7 views) on recto. On red or yellow card stock with no markings on verso and all cards are captioned in penci... > Item Details
<i>Farmers Almanac</i>, 1849
Lot # 115 - Farmers Almanac, 1849
Philadelphia: R. Wilson Desilver. 36 pp, 6 x 7.5 in. Manuscript on front D.W. Corey, 1849. The Farmer's Almanac for 1849. Includes calendar of moon cycles, advice for crop and cattle management, information on courts, and other advice. > Item Details
John J. Valentine Wells Fargo Retained Letter,
Lot # 174 - John J. Valentine Wells Fargo Retained Letter,
retained copy, 1p, January 5, 18?, on Wells, Fargo & Company letterhead. Addressed to only "Dear Sir," Valentine informs the recipient (the Post-Master General of the United States?) that in spite of new postal regulations requiring pre-payment for newspapers sent through the mail, that Wells Fargo... > Item Details
Washington Fire Society Constitution, Newburyport, MA
Lot # 124 - Washington Fire Society Constitution, Newburyport, MA
Full title: Constitution and Laws of the Washington Fire Society, in Newburyport; Instituted, January, 1806. Later printing, since it includes amendments dated 1818. 16mo, in orange paper wraps, 9 numbered pages. Last 2 pages list of members. Fire has long been a fear of city-dwellers. One need only... > Item Details
7th New York Civil War Photographs of Camp Cameron
Lot # 42 - 7th New York Civil War Photographs of Camp Cameron
Three albumen photographs mounted on lined paper with inked identifications and applied paper clippings, housed in a double-sided glass frame, 7.75" x 9.5" sight, 13" x 15" overall. > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20