Item #8236 [Autograph letter, signed, by John S. Harrison to his father Samuel T. Harrison on the conditions causing his enlistment in the Confederate army.]. John Spencer.  Harrison.
[Autograph letter, signed, by John S. Harrison to his father Samuel T. Harrison on the conditions causing his enlistment in the Confederate army.]

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[Autograph letter, signed, by John S. Harrison to his father Samuel T. Harrison on the conditions causing his enlistment in the Confederate army.]

Baltimore, Maryland, 2 February 1863. Bifolium, 8” x 5”. 4 pp. in ink. CONDITION: Good, separations along old folds, spots of dampstaining, but no loses to the text.

An unusual letter written by a Maryland man who enlisted in the rebel army five months after writing this letter, touching on a range of subjects including “Negro bills in Congress,” Northern abolitionists (“negro fanatics”), and more.

Born in Maryland, John Spencer (“J. Spencer”) Harrison (1838–1865) was living in Church Hill, Queen Anne County, Maryland before the war. Harrrison was twenty-five when he enlisted on July 1st, 1863 at Richmond, Virginia as a Sergeant. He was mustered into 2nd Maryland Battalion Cavalry (AKA Gilmor's Partisan Rangers), Company B. On June 15th, 1864 he was listed as a prisoner of war in Piedmont, Virginia, where he was captured on 5 June 1864. By June 22nd, 1864, he was imprisoned at Johnson's Island in Ohio, a Union prison camp for rebel officers. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 19 Sept. 1864 and was released from Johnson’s Island on an Oath of Allegiance on May 13th, 1865. He died on May 27th, 1865, aged twenty-eight, only a few weeks after his release from prison. His gravestone reads, “Here the prisoner is at rest.” 

Born in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, Col. Samuel T. Harrison (1804–1863) served in the House of Delegates, Queen Anne's County from 1836 to 1837, from 1843 to 1844, and in 1847, as well as in the Maryland State Senate, Queen Anne's County, from 1861 to 1862. Harrison died on 3 June 1863 in Queen Anne's County, Maryland, some five months after this letter was composed.

John Harrison opens this letter by noting that he has received two of his father’s letters. He raises the current bone of contention between himself and his father concerning his decision to marry a Southern woman and fight for the Confederate Army: 

I am very sorry to have caused you so much surprise and pain but I thought you always knew my sympathy with anything south of Mason and Dixons line, and you may rest assured that my intercourse with one of its best and fairest daughters has in no way lessened it. You say ‘if my affections still linger on an object South.’ I must say they do and will and if I am never so happy as to possess her I am afraid you will never see me married, but for her I will be or do anything honorable or not. For her I’d be the poorest soldier of the Confederacy and endure the greatest hardships and I am only waiting for that little word, ‘come’ to make me leave ‘all’ for ‘her’ so you see where my affections are and will be. 

After briefly touching on the Lincoln administration and the Emancipation Proclamation (issued on 1 Jan. 1863, just over a month before this letter was written), Harrison expresses his hostility towards northern abolitionists, and asserts that the North and South are equally complicit in the outbreak of the war:

I am glad to hear your views on the [Lincoln] administration and [the Emancipation] proclamation but why not tell others? Let the country know it. I cannot think that ‘all’ has been brought on by the cotton states, but that it was brought by both parties, viz., the negro fanatics in the north and the Secessionists of the extreme South but first commenced by the abolitionists and while I think secession was no remedy for the grievances and that they should have tried first to settle it in Congress: still it is done[;] the South has succeeded, declaring that they now only are fighting for their independence only to be left alone and have maintained this for two years and more and will continue so to do until they achieve that for which some of their best blood has been shed but this you still seem to doubt. You say their country is devastated and ruined[.] I don’t think so[;] there are hundred of thousands of acres that have never felt a soldiers tread and as to their being ruined look at the public debt of the two sections, the Federal is assumed to be at the end of this year twenty five hundred millions and the Confederate less than five hundred million so if the south is ruined the north will be more than ruined; look at the advance in gold 60 cts premium and even now people are this very morning enquiring in this counting room. 

Harrison expresses his contempt for the newly-created Union regiments composed of free African Americans and articulates his racist intention to fight against them:

Look again at their infernal Negro bills in Congress—150,000 Negro troops. The streets of Baltimore will indeed run with blood if they bring them through here, and I will help. Do not understand me that I wish to plunge madly into the horrors of camp life[.] Far from it. I want to see her and if possible I will. I want to go and come back. I want to see you to talk to you about it. I have been advised by Mr. Newman to stay. I don’t wish to mortify you or to act dishonorably by anyone if I had I should have married Miss. L. long ago, but I wanted to be your own son and I believe it is as dishonorable to stay where I am thinking as I do as to leave.

The 2nd Maryland Battalion Cavalry was established and commanded by Col. Harry Gilmor, who served under Gen. Stonewall Jackson early in the war. Shortly after the Battle of Kelly’s Ford in March 1863, Gilmor petitioned to raise his own cavalry regiment. He organized several companies of mostly Marylanders into a unit that called themselves “The Band.” Gilmor’s Battalion sometimes fought alongside other units such as McNeill’s Rangers and the 1st Maryland Cavalry. After the Gettysburg Campaign, the rebel army returned to Virginia and during this time Gilmor had six full companies of rangers operating in the Shenandoah Valley who primarily conducted guerrilla-type operations against the Union Army. In June 1864—around the time when Harrison was captured—Gilmor’s Battalion was designated as the 2nd Maryland Cavalry. 

An engaging letter by a Maryland man justifying to his father why he wants to fight for the Confederacy.

REFERENCES: “Samuel T. Harrison” at Archive of Maryland; “John Spencer Harrison” at Civil War Data; “2nd Maryland Cavalry, CSA” at 2nd MD Infantry US online.

Item #8236

Price: $750.00

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