278. WEST POINT SUPERINTENDENT THOMAS H. RUGER ARCHIVE,
1871-1876; ca 110 items.
Ruger returned to his alma mater when he was appointed Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on April 25, 1871, serving until he was replaced by his former commanding officer, J.M. Schofield, on Sept. 1, 1876. In keeping with his inclinations and reputation, it appears that much of Ruger's efforts at West Point were devoted to improving discipline among the cadets and restoring the standing of the Academy in the eyes of the public. Barely six months after taking the reins at the Academy, Sec. of War William W. Belknap wrote to say that he was pleased with Ruger's efforts (Nov. 17, 1871): "I am pretty satisfied with the success of your management, and private conversations with officers of all grades, & with civilians too, who have been there since your accession, make me feel that my hopes & wishes are being carried out."
What Ruger was up against can be read between the lines of a letter from Belknap requesting that the cadets and their band be present at the presidential inauguration in 1873. Innocuous enough, it would seem, but Belknap added: "I am satisfied that a trip of this kind would not be injurious, but would be beneficial to the Corps, and I am confident that the cadets would have sense enough to behave themselves, especially when under the wholesome restraints of discipline. In fact, I believe that the appearance of the Corps, at such a time & before such a vast assemblage of the people, would do a great deal towards gaining for the Academy many friends." What they needed, it seems, was a dose of Ruger discipline.
The small collection includes a few letters that speak to other kinds of issues among the cadets. Among these is a fascinating letter of support from an instructor for a student who had been accused of lying and stealing. The instructor said he could hardly believe either about this fine young man, to which came a curt reply stating that the cadet had been caught stealing his roommate's pants and had been found to have ripped the label out to hide the fact. Dismissed.
Many of the letters in the collection are either to or from William W. Belknap, Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of War until 1876, when he became the only cabinet member ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives for allegedly selling offices.
The collection includes letters from a number of important figures in the military, many with a Civil War pedigree. Among these are William T. Sherman (8 friendly ALsS), J.M. Schofield, D.H. Mahan, Vice Admiral Stephen C. Rowan (2 ALsS), and Arthur MacArthur. Apart from Belknap, the best represented figure in the collection is the exceptionally talented Emory Upton (11 ALsS), mostly dealing with their mutual interest in improving the cadet corps. "Academic standards must be raised," Upton wrote, sounding much like Ruger, "and the worthless material eliminated from every class. This policy and this alone will win friends for the Academy and restore its former reputation. You and I cannot fail to work earnestly together, our ideas of discipline always have accorded...."
Most notable, perhaps is a 3p. ALS from Ulysses Grant as President, Sept. 26, 1874, tendering the appointment of Douglas Howard: "... a poor orphan boy, the son of a Volunteer officer who, with about one third of his company, was killed by a rail accident before reaching the field. His mother is the daughter of an old Army officer -- and graduate -- well known no doubt to the older professors at West Point... his mother being poor he has been deprived of their [schools'] advantages for a year past, to earn something to aid in support of the family. I am told however that he is very bright. His brother, older than himself, I appointed to the Naval Academy five years ago, when he was but little over fourteen. He graduated No. 4 in his class -- head in mathematics...." Grant's sincerity was not feigned. In a subsequent letter, Grant's secretary wrote to obtain an update on Howard's progress. Howard graduated seventh in the class of 1878, and after frontier service in Wyoming, filled a number of posts in the Artillery and Ordnance service, even returning to the Academy for four years to teach mathematics.
The collection includes several miscellaneous items worthy of special note. For photographic historians, there is a claim filed by Carl E. Giers, the famed photographer of Union forces in Nashville, for reparation of materials appropriated from him by Ruger during the war. Giers attests that he was a staunch Union man throughout and that reports that he had been drafted into Confederate service were false: "I told the person so reporting that I would die first. I never went into the arm. I am in the photographing business in this city, with the exception of a few months I spent north...." Three printed invitations to opening ceremonies at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 1876. According to accounting in the collection, Ruger charged the War Department for his trip to Philadelphia, marking it down as a "meeting."
Provenance: Descended directly in the family of General Thomas H. Ruger
Condition: Some items fragile, but most in good condition with expected age, wear and tear.
Price Realized: $6,462.50
Price includes buyer's premium.