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Alfred Pleasonton Signed Orders to Gen. Judson Kilpatrick Regarding Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid

2pp, 8 x 10 in. on Headquarters Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac letterhead, 26 Feb. 1864. One of the largest, and certainly the most controversial, cavalry raids of the American Civil War was the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren expedition against Confederate Richmond in February and March, 1864. The raid aimed to liberate the thousands of Union prisoners in Richmond. While a failure in its purpose, the raid produced one of the largest scandals of the Civil War because of papers purportedly found on the body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, killed in the raid. They seemingly implicated the leaders of the raid, General Meade, and the Lincoln administration in planned war crimes, especially the assassination of Jefferson Davis and the other leaders of the Confederacy.

Maj. Genl. George Meade assured General Lee that Dahlgren's papers were unsanctioned. In fact, after they were reported in the Richmond Examiner, they completely disappeared. No one was ever able to see them to determine whether they originated with Dahlgren, Kilpatrick, Secretary of War Stanton, or, indeed, if they even existed at all.

This letter of orders did exist and was written and signed by corps commander Alfred Pleasonton to General Judson Kilpatrick. It describes the make-up and purpose of the raid. In part: Your command increased to four thousand men, with one battery, will be placed in readiness to?? on a raid to Richmond for the purpose of liberating our prisoners at that place. You will start on Sunday Evening the 28th....You will not be confined to any specific instruction in reference to such matters. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren is authorized to accompany you, and will render valuable assistance from his knowledge of the country....Important diversions will be made in your pavor, the particulars of which you have been already advised. That these may be more fully & completely arried out you will direct Brigadier General Custer, to report in person to these Head Quarters until further orders....[signed] A. Pleasonton, Maj. Genl. Cmdg.

Judson Kilpatrick graduated from USMA in 1861, just as fighting began. He was wounded in June, which disabled him for much of the summer. Many of his engagements were of the skirmish or raid variety, such as the operation in 1863 to destroy Confederate gunboats in the Rappahannock River, although he was engaged in a number of large battles such as Gettysburg.

Alfred Pleasonton was also a West Point graduate, but he completed his studies in 1844 and four years later fought in Mexico. After the Mexican War he served to maintain order in "Bleeding Kansas" and then was assigned to Oregon. He was still in Utah when the Civil War broke out, and remained there until returning to Washington in August. He served with the Army of the Potomac until this fiasco. By the end of March he was on his way to Missouri. He remained in service for three more years after peace was established, resigning his commission in 1868. Like so many others, his post-military career was spent developing railroads.

Condition:Folds and light toning as expected, else fine.

Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium
$5,875
06/11/2010

 

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