Prison Letter of Union General Charles K. Graham, Wounded at Gettysburg and Confined at Libby Prison, 1863

Graham, Charles Kinnaird (1824-1889). Naval midshipman and Union Army general wounded at Gettysburg and confined at Libby Prison. ALS during his imprisonment, 1p, 4.5 x 7.5 in., "Libby Prison Hospital / Richmond, Va." August 11, 1863. Addressed to Alvey Ader (1842-1924), Graham's nephew and acting Secretary of War during the Spanish-American War. 

Restricted to a single sheet of paper, Graham responds to a letter he received from Ader, who apparently was displeased by either the brevity or infrequency of his uncle's correspondence. Graham humorously notes that he is generally "indisposed to correspondence at all times, [so] my usual habits are not likely to be bettered by my present surroundings." Unable to elaborate on sensitive subjects too freely, he updates his nephew on his health instead: "The contusion on my hip has disappeared, but the soreness of the joint still continues & a kidney infection, its consequence, will last sometime longer. The wound through the muscle of my shoulders, 8 inches in length, is doing beautifully."

Graham's military career began in the United States Navy as a midshipman serving in the Gulf Squadron during the Mexican-American War. He resigned his commission in 1848 to study engineering and worked during the 1850s in New York City, where he helped design the layout of Central Park and held a construction engineering role at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Simultaneously active in the state militia, Graham entered the Union Army as a colonel with the 74th New York Infantry. After the Peninsula Campaign, he was appointed brigadier general and assumed command of a brigade in the III Corps, which he led during the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, May-July 1863. He was wounded in the shoulders and right hip at Gettysburg on July 2 and taken prisoner by Confederate forces. Graham was held in Richmond, VA at Libby Prison until September 19, 1863, when he was exchanged for General James L. Kemper (1823-1895). Graham was the first Gettysburg prisoner freed in this way, and while his exchange was viewed negatively by the general prison population of lesser ranks, it was perhaps indicative that his health was not as robust as he led his nephew to believe in the letter. After a period of recovery, Graham was assigned to command a gunboat flotilla on the James River in the spring of 1864 and finally mustered out on August 24, 1865. He resumed his engineering career after the war as a surveyor of the port of New York.


Creasing as expected, with light wear to edges/corners and a few minor areas of brown spotting.

Estimate: $800 - $1,100
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