[CIVIL WAR - BATTLE OF THE MONITOR AND MERRIMAC]. HANSON, Thomas (b. ca 1844). Autograph letter signed ("Thomas Hanson"), 1st New York Cavalry. Camp Hamilton, Fortress Monroe, [VA], March 1862.

6 pages, folio, 12 7/8 x 8 ¾ in., Holyoke & Co. embossed "Congress" lined stationary, very minor toning at a few folds, 

A stirring and detailed account by a cavalryman with an obvious flare for narrative. Description of the first day of battle (before the Monitor arrived) includes the Merrimac’s incapacitation of the Cumberland and Congress. “While all this was going on we had Orders to Report to Genrl Mansfield at Newport News as it was supposed the Rebels were coming By land at the same time to attack Newportnews.” There follows a detailed description of their speedy ride to Newport News, meeting wagons of fleeing civilians as they approached the battle, and the combat itself: “Expecting every moment to be our last and not being able to fight against the Infernal Machine that the Rebels had to work against us—But kind providence looked upon us in our weak condition and Spared us. One Shell went through Genrl Mansfield’s office But thank god the brave old Genrl was not in it at the time. The Brave old Genrl who is loved and respected By all his soldiers said not a man should leave the place and he was willing and would die with his men before he would surrender to the damned Rebels.” Then he recounts how “about 50 men all sharp shooters” moved down the river to harass the Merrimac, picking men off the deck.

The troops then returned to their prior position. “By land and water in the meantime [after the Merrimac stopped shelling in the evening] Saturday night Ericcsons Battery Monitor arrived here and Genrl Wood sent it right away to Newportnews to await the coming of the Merrimack on Sunday.” As anticipated, the Merrimac, accompanied by the Yorktown and Jamestown, returned in the morning to finish off the Minnesota. “But what was her surprise you can better imagine than I can describe when she seen the little Ericcson which looked like a Black Ball on top of water.” Then he vividly describes the engagement of the two vessels. “The Merrimack and Ericcson Battery then fought like tigers for four hours until the Ericcson commenced firing steel wedges into her which Began to have Some effect in putting holes into her and it was soon discovered that the Merrimack was in a crippled condition and retreated as fast as she could. Then the anxious shout of joy rang through Camp Hamilton and Fort Monroe. The sound almost made the old fort shake.”

He then discusses the status of his unit: “Being up four nights and four days without sleep or rest of any kind Our horses and men were completely used up never having the saddle off their Back all the time and the bit scarcely out of their mouth long enough to let them eat. We have all had one good nights rest and feel much better but there is not a man allowed out of camp for wee are all under arms and have got to be ready at a moments warning. I am Corporal of the Guard to night.” A superb eye-witness account composed soon after the event. Perfectly legible. Tiny holes and light soiling at a few of the folds. Otherwise in fine condition.

The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection Lots 79-98; 116; 138-153; and 266

Cowan's is pleased to offer the third installment of Richard B. Cohen's collection of Civil War Brown Water Navy photography. Richard was known to many in the field as a "disciplined collector who maintained a relatively narrow focus having built an important, perhaps unsurpassed collection in his area of specialization." From cartes de visite to large format photographs, this portion of the collection features a noteworthy selection of images of Brown Water Navy warships, among them, the USS BentonChoctawLafayette, and Louisville. Many important identified naval officers are also represented, including an exquisite CDV of the promising young officer, Lieutenant Commander William Gwin, who died of wounds aboard the USS Benton following an artillery duel with Confederate forces at Snyder's Bluff, and an exceptionally large war-date photograph of the controversial commander of the USS Pittsburgh, Egbert Thompson.

This auction also features a premiere selection of autographs and manuscripts from Richard's carefully curated collection. Highlights include a letter from Jefferson Davis to his distant cousin, John J. Pettus, Governor of Mississippi, dated a year before secession, conveying intricate plans for securing armaments in preparation for the war; an Abraham Lincoln signed endorsement; a letter from Admiral D.G. Farragut from New Orleans, offering excellent insight into his "political" thinking as well as his dedication to his work; correspondence from Gideon Welles, David Dixon Porter, U.S. Grant, and W.T. Sherman; and a pair of superb letters with highly descriptive accounts of the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac.

Provenance:The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection

Estimate: $800 - $1,200
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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