June 21, 2019 10:00 AM EDT Cincinnati


War of 1812 and Seminole War Veteran, Captain John Culbertson, Correspondence Incl. Zachary Taylor Letter Written from Fort Snelling, 1828

Lot of 10 letters spanning 1821-1835, most related to the military career of War of 1812 veteran Captain John C. Culbertson (1791-1868).  Lot includes signatures of the future President Zachary Taylor as well as antebellum statesman and political firebrand John C. Calhoun.

John Craighead Culbertson was born in Pennsylvania in 1791. Just months prior to the start of the War of 1812 Culbertson enlisted, and he went on to serve during the war with the 22nd Infantry Regiment under the command of fellow Pennsylvanian Colonel Hugh Brady. During the War of 1812, the 22nd participated in several prominent engagements including the Battles of Chippawa and Battle of Lundy's Lane. It was during these battles that Culbertson was wounded and earned his reputation as a competent and meritorious soldier. The letters in this archive focus on the years following the war during which the army downsized and many veterans were let go from the service. Culbertson was one of the soldiers who lost his position after he was discharged on June 1, 1821.

The documents show that Culbertson moved quickly after his discharge to mobilize the efforts of powerful friends, all of whom were current or former military officers, to write to the War Department on his behalf and help him secure a new position. The earliest letter in the collection dates from June 6, 1821, and is written by Jonathan Kearsley, who at the time held the position of Receiver of Public Monies in Detroit. Kearsley writes, in part: "It gives me pleasure to comply with your letter of yesterday...I have no hesitation in declaring my belief that from 1812, when you entered the military service of our country as an Ensign to the present time I have never known or heard of any imputation against your character as a gentleman or an officer - on the contrary, during the war, when we served in the same division of the army, I do know that at all times you were held in the highest estimation by Col. Brady and others your superiors in the, then, 22d Regt. of Infy...." Additional letters of support for Culbertson's reinstatement come from the following: two letters (copies) from War of 1812 veteran Lewis Cass, written while serving as 2nd Territorial Governor of Michigan, and submitted to Major General Jacob Brown and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun; one letter written by Lt. Col. William Lawrence, 2nd Infantry Regiment, to General Thomas S. Jesup; two letters (copies) from War of 1812 hero Colonel Hugh Brady, written while serving in Sackets Harbor as Colonel of the 2nd Infantry Regiment, and submitted to Major General Jacob Brown and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun. In his letter to Secretary Calhoun, Colonel Brady notes that Culbertson "was in the advance at the taking of Fort George, and in the affair of Stormy Creek was gallantly wounded under Genl. Scott at Chippawa and fought with credit at the battle of the falls. I write my wishes with Capt. Culbertson; that his pretentions and honorable services be weighed in the event of a vacancy occurring of his rank."

Capt. Culbertson's own entreaty for reinstatement and request for position as a sutler is included in the archive as well. He writes on July 29, 1821, to his friend Colonel George Gibson, Commissary General of Subsistence, stating that he has applied personally to Secretary of War Calhoun for an appointment to the sutler position with the Regiment at Baton Rouge, and asking Gibson to follow-up with Calhoun about the appointment. Culbertson's wish was granted as he was appointed sutler to the 1st Infantry in Baton Rouge on August 1821. Interestingly, in an April 1822 letter written by a secretary but signed "J. C. Calhoun," the Secretary of War informs Culbertson that he desires the sutler to take an appointment with a different Battalion stationed at a remote outpost on the Red River.

Culbertson did eventually leave Baton Rouge, but he remained with the 1st Infantry and accompanied the troops to the Upper Missouri. He later joined in the 1825 Yellowstone Expedition under the command of Gen. Henry Atkinson before again assuming the position of sutler to the 1st Infantry stationed then at Fort Snelling (Michigan Territory/present-day Minnesota). The final two letters in the collection are written in 1828 and 1835 respectively. The former letter is addressed to Capt. Culbertson at St. Louis, MO, and was written by Col. Zachary Taylor, on July 13, 1835. Taylor, who at the time was serving as commander of Fort Snelling, seeks Culbertson's assistance with shipping items to his plantation in Louisiana. While the letter does not indicate how the two were acquainted, it is possible that they met while Culbertson served as sutler in Baton Rouge and Taylor was stationed there. The 1835 letter is an interesting inquiry from Roger Jones, Adjutant General US Army. Addressed to "Captain John Culbertson / Sutler to Ft. Snelling / Cincinnati / Ohio," Adj. Genl. Jones inquires as to how and why the sutler for Fort Snelling is residing in Cincinnati. The answer to this question remains unclear, however, Culbertson spent the remainder of his life in Cincinnati.


Documents are generally in good condition with expected wear, toning, and folds given age. Some have minor loss along edge line or at folds.

Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000

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