Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 179

Price Realized: $ 1,125
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 600 - $ 900
WITH INTERESTING EPHEMERA (CIVIL WAR--MASSACHUSETTS.) Rufus M. Graham. Letters of a soldier in Louisiana, including the assault on Port Hudson. 6 Autograph Letters Signed to his parents and siblings in Haverhill, MA, plus 6 postal covers and 7 other pieces of ephemera; moderate wear. Vp, March to May 1863 (letters)

Additional Details

Rufus Melvin Graham (1845-1922) worked at a shoe factory in Bradford, MA before enlisting as a drummer in the nine-month 50th Massachusetts Infantry in 1863. The regiment's first posting was on guard duty near Baton Rouge, where his first 5 letters were written. Shortly after his arrival on the banks of the Mississippi on 22 March, he wrote "A party of slave hunters passed our camp on horse back. They all had knives and revolvers, and they were a hard-looking set of fellows. In a little while they came back with negro in tow. When they got to our camp, we took the darkey away from them and sent him home, and told the slave catchers to make themselves scarce." On 3 April he wrote: "We saw the rebel general Johnson's plantations. It is a splendid place. He used to keep a 1000 niggers, but it is deserted now." On 29 April he noted "The're raising nigger reg's here fast as they can. They can drill as well and are just as good soldiers as whites. The're as proud as peacocks to get a uniform on."

Graham's 30 May letter was written shortly after the regiment's first combat: the 27 May assault on Port Hudson, LA. Union troops had surrounded the fort over the previous five days, and an assault on the fort's northern defenses had failed that morning. Graham was part of Dudley's brigade which made an assault on the eastern defenses that afternoon: "The battle commenced at half past one and lasted till dark, killing 75 and wounding 250. . . . The artillery was most deafening. We didn't succeed in taking the fort, but got whipped. The 116 N.Y. and 30 Mass lost most. It is miraculous how our reg. came out so lucky. Our major came near being killed twice. He was leading the men onto the field when a solid shot struck at his feet, covering him all over dirt and most knocking him down, and a shell burst over his head but didn't hurt him." After that, the Union forces dug in for a siege: "On the morning of the 28th, some Rebs came out of the fort on a scout and our folks took them, 75 of them and captains and a col. They were a hard-looking set of fellows. . . . Contrabands come in every day. . . . I went down to the hospital (if you can call it a hospital) to see the wounded. They lay there on the ground under the trees, wounded in every place imaginable. Doctor Cogswell does all the amputating. Yesterday, they buried 14 legs and 11 arms that was taken off."

Accompanying the letters are: stamped and cancelled postal cover with two illustrations of the Volunteer Refreshment Saloon in Philadelphia; an illustrated folding card to advertise the Volunteer Refreshment Saloon; program for "Complimentary Dinner to the Fiftieth Regiment, Massachusetts Militia" at the Refreshment Saloon, Philadelphia, 1 January 1863; program card for "Grand Complimentary Ball to Mr. R.K. Graham" (father of the letter writer), undated; pair of deeds to father R.K. Graham, 1856; carte-de-visite of an unidentified civilian friend; and 6 postal covers.