Feb 04, 2016 - Sale 2404

Sale 2404 - Lot 108

Price Realized: $ 4,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(CIVIL WAR--CONFEDERATE.) Correspondence archive of high-level Confederate courier Hansford D. Norrell. 54 items in one binder, including 10 Letters Signed to Norrell from CSA Secretary of State Christopher Memminger, 10 from Secretary of Navy Stephen Mallory, 4 other letters addressed to Norrell, 10 letters of recommendation written for Norrell by other parties, 15 receipts and other documents, 3 newspaper clippings, and 2 carte-de-viste photographs; minor wear, some letters trimmed or with address panels pasted down in blank areas. Vp, 1861-65 plus clipping dated 1922

Additional Details

Hansford Duncan Norrell (1834-1914) was a bookseller in Augusta, GA before the Civil War. This fascinating archive traces his progression from clerk in the Confederate treasury department, to treasury courier between Richmond and the deep south, to courier on a secret mission to France, to Confederate representative based in England until the end of the war. The story told here begins in June 1861, with a flurry of letters of introduction written on Norrell's behalf to Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs and other Richmond leaders. These letters discuss his experience as a bookseller and his integrity; one letter describes him as "industrious and indefatigable in whatever he undertakes." On 24 July 1861, Secretary of Treasury Christopher Memminger hired him as a clerk, followed by a 3 June 1862 appointment as a courier. He often was often entrusted with delivering enormous sums of currency; receipts shows that he brought 5 boxes of treasury notes worth $3,000,000 to Jackson, MS and $2,000,000 to Charleston, SC.
The treasury department had difficulty printing its notes, and sent Norrell to Europe to secure new engraving plates. He received his orders from Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory on 28 September 1863: "Herewith you will receive from this department two packages, each containing one thousand Confederate cotton bonds, which you will take charge of and deliver to Hon. Colin J. McRae in Paris. You will proceed in one of the war department's steamers . . . without delay. . . . The bonds must be so placed as to render their immediate destruction easy and certain should this be necessary to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy." The next day, Mallory suggested destroying the bonds if necessary "either by throwing them into the furnace of the steamer, or overboard so arranged as to sink them." Newspaper clippings show that his blockade runner only narrowly escaped the Union patrols under heavy fire. However, a 30 November 1863 receipt from his Parisian contact McRae shows that the mission was a success.
Four letters from 1864 are addressed to Norrell in Liverpool. Most notable is a 27 June letter from Secretary Mallory: "You express confidently the opinion that not only vessels of the Alabama class can be built, but that rams may also be built and sent to sea. . . . Such vessels are greatly needed of both classes, and the man who will furnish them to the Confederacy will be regarded as a public benefactor." At the close of the war, Norrell was faced with the challenge of returning to America as a defeated enemy. He requested a passport in May 1865, and one is included in the collection--apparently under the false identity of "William Martin (British subject) travelling in America." However, the final document in the collection is his United States loyalty oath, signed on 20 June 1865 under his own name. Also included are two photographs of Norrell, one dated 1865 with a Liverpool backstamp and the other signed "Hans." This archive tells a compelling story of the Confederacy. A complete inventory is available upon request.