Feb 21, 2008 - Sale 2137

Sale 2137 - Lot 264

Price Realized: $ 15,600
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT (MILITARY.) Group of nineteen Civil War Letters to and from an African-American family. Fourteen letters to Western H. Moore, African-American soldier (see Moebs, p. 454), two from him and one from his cousin Thomas Brown sent to the Moore family in Mercer County, Ohio; plus two letters from comrades sent to Western Moore via the family back home; ten of the letters have their original envelopes with franking, stamps, etc. Condition is generally very good; some staining and wear to a few, especially along the creases where the letters were folded to fit the rather small envelopes of the period; one letter with an engraving of the naval engagement off Fort Jackson (rather stained, but quite readable). should be seen. Folly Island, S.C. and Mercer County, Ohio, 1864-1865

Additional Details

Western H. Moore, who wrote two of these letters (and a part of a third), and to whom the bulk of these letters were addressed, was a farmer from Mercer County, Ohio. Many of the letters bring greetings to or from recruits from the same county. One gets the impression that the Moores were a conduit of information for a number of families from the same area. News of deaths, marriages and engagements come home via young Moore as the soldiers send news on. One letter addressed to Moore is from Esther Langston, possibly a relative of their recruiter John Mercer Langston. In a letter dated April 25th 1865, Western's father, Edward Moore writes to his son and nephew: "The death of the president is a national calamity when his services are needed in the restoring of peace . . . but I hope his successor with the help of his cabinet . . . will soon restore peace, union and equal rights to the people."
Many today are aware of the gallant men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Their less well known sister regiment, the 55th, was raised at the same time and saw much of the same action. Two hundred and twenty-two men from Ohio enlisted in the 55th, almost twice as many men as from Pennsylvania, and far greater than any northern state. This was largely due to the efforts of John Mercer Langston, who was later to become a Reconstruction representative from Virginia. The 55th, like the 54th, served for 18 months without seeing a penny of pay: ". . . well, we of the fifty-fifth regiment refused to take two paymasters, so we have not been paid off. We were offered ten dollars by the government and three by the state . . . the white soldiers tells us we are right." (Western Moore, December 16th 1863). As a consequence, the families back home suffered greatly. "I am willing to wait," Moore goes on, "It is good to wait then say if the U.S. recognizes us as white soldiers, as we were enlisted, sworn and mustered in the field, it will be quite a miracle. If not I think we will be home in spring." Moore and his comrades finally received their pay on October 7, 1864.
The Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina took place on November 30, 1864. In furious fighting, many of the soldiers of the 55th and their officers fell. Their commander, Colonel Hartwell was shot several times, his horse shot from under him, his aide killed. The company standard bearer, Robert M. King (see lot 263) was shot and killed. "This engagement gave the opportunity which the 54th Massachusetts had had at Fort Wagner, of proving that a black regiment, well disciplined and well-officered, could behave as gallantly under fire as the best troops in the service." (Charles Soule, The Battle of Honey Hill, Philadelphia, 1884).