June 22, 2018 10:00 AM EDT Cincinnati


Two Civil War Letters Regarding the Capture of Jefferson Davis, by Captain Edward Dale, US Commissary Dept.

Lot of 2 letters written by Captain Edward Dale to his wife and son in Wisconsin. First is 4pp, on letterhead of Headquarters, First Division, Cavalry Corps, Mil. Div. of the Mississippi, Office Commissary of Subsistence, dated at Macon, GA, May 10, 1865. Second is 4pp, ink dated the same as the aforementioned letterhead but on May 29, 1865. 

The first letter is dated May 10, 1865, the very day Jefferson Davis was captured. Writing from Macon, less than 100 miles north of the place Davis and his wife Varina were taken into custody, Capt. Dale describes the local conditions: "...everything appears to be in a confused state, the Citizens have no available currency (with a few exceptions) the Confederate paper is almost universally refused -- a person couldn't even get shaved for $100 of it....I am afraid the people of these States will be submitted to considerable difficulties before the domestic affairs can be settled, but I don't know that they are entitled to much sympathy for they are the most bitter secesh I ever met with, and more especially the women; still (perhaps it may be from policy) we are generally treated with a great deal of respect when meeting them at their homes. Most of the ladies are for more war, but the men -- that is, the soldiers who have seen hard service -- have very little to say and appear willing to acquiesce in the course of events." Unaware that Davis was captured within hours of his letter-writing, Dale expresses anxiety that the former president would skirt justice: "...it is reported that Jeff Davis passed a little North of this place 2 or 3 days since trying to reach the Mississippi River. I am afraid the old fellow will escape." He continues, "A great many of the citizens here rather exulted over the death of Lincoln at first but after sober reflection and considering the man who succeeded him and their prospects under his future policy, their tone underwent a very remarkable change, a great many of them even say now that Lincoln was a just man and the change for Johnson is a hard blow for them." This is followed by two more pages about Dale's interactions with the local population and a powerful paragraph describing the emotions felt in the heat of battle.

Captain Dale begins the May 29 letter with sorrowful reflection on the news of the passing of young family member and constructive criticism on grammar to his son before describing witnessing the former Confederate president as a prisoner: "Jeff Davis and his family were captured about 2 weeks since. I saw them when they were brought in here. They left again on the evening train en route for Washington where, I have understood, they have arrived and old Jeff properly cared for. A great many of the prominent Rebels have been captured in the vicinity of this place." Captain Dale then gives an account of his unit's march to its present location, including a detailed description of the Battle of Selma ending with the burning of the Confederate arsenal late that night, which he calls "the prettiest sight I ever saw." He states that he was among the first Union officers to enter the former Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama, and that he immediately "procured 2 United States flags from a Citizen and hoisted one of them on State Capitol." His contingent was soon after approached by the mayor and several of the city's most prominent citizens bearing the flag of truce and given a kind and respectful reception by them. Their reception at Columbus, Georgia, was very different, and Dale gives a detailed account of his harrowing personal experience at the Battle of Columbus before moving on to Macon and learning of the truce Sherman had brokered just 20 miles from the city. A well-written eyewitness account of some of the final armed conflicts of the war with important commentary on the attitudes of the Confederate citizens in defeat.

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


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