Mar 21, 2024 - Sale 2663

Sale 2663 - Lot 293

Price Realized: $ 1,062
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(MILITARY--CIVIL WAR.) Letter describing Emancipation Day celebrations in Washington, and a new training camp for the Colored Troops. Autograph Letter Signed by James H. Estes to his family. 6 pages, 7¾ x 4¾ inches, on 2 sheets; mailing folds, light toning. Fort Ethan Allen, Alexandria County (now North Arlington) VA, 11 January 1863

Additional Details

The letter writer, Private James Henry Estes (1842-1921) of Keene, NY, served in the all-white 118th New York Infantry. In this letter written from the defenses of Washington, he made some interesting observations about the local Black community. Most notably, he described the celebrations in honor of the Emancipation Proclamation just ten days before: "The Blacks had fine times at Washington and Elexandria New Year's. They met together and made speeches and proclaimed themselves free."

He also noted in passing: "Government is fitting up a camp near us for the contrabands to live in. They are going to be drilling them." Camp Casey was a major training center for the United States Colored Troops which was established around this time in modern-day Arlington. Its exact location remains unknown to this day. Perhaps this letter by Private Estes could help locate it near today's Fort Ethan Allen Park.

Estes also discusses New York's newly inaugurated governor, the infamous Copperhead Horatio Seymour, who was opposed to the war: "Governer Seymore had better keep his secesh mouth shut if he knows what is good for himself, for there is some of the 118th that would shoot him as soon as they would a Rebbel."