336: Lieutenant George W. Weston, 26th Iowa Infantry, C
Lieutenant George W. Weston, 26th Iowa Infantry, Civil War Archive
Lot includes 15 letters and documents (12 war-date); Weston's bayonet & scabbard; scrapbook and relics; wallet including receipts; Bible; 6 photographs. 1861-1865.
Older than usual, with a wife and two sons, and a staunch opponent of slavery, George Weston enlisted as a sergeant in the 26th Iowa Infantry and enjoyed a stellar military career. This small collection includes three particularly fine wide-eyed letters describing Weston’s transit through the Vicksburg Campaign, where he died in the service.
On a boat 30 miles above the Yazoo, Jan. 21, 1863, en route to Vicksburg, Weston wrote: I hope we shall get off the boat soon for it is getting very sickly. Men are dying every day. We have not lost any of our company except those that were killed. We have been crowded together on this boast most of the time since Dec. 21st and we have suffered more than I shall try to tell you... I sometimes think there will be a Southern Confederacy because we are so corrupt and they are honest with themselves and in earnest. I hope for the best but things look dark to me. We are passing large plantations all the time and have stoped near some and I have seen the damn monster in all its glory. I went over one place where there was over 200 slaves. I went into the pen where they put the babes to be nursed by the old women and little girls while the mothers are in the field at work. I will not try to describe it to you but there was about 50 put together like pigs. All this I saw and many other things. I will say if I hated it before I saw, I hate it worse now but it is not (I am sorry to say) so with most of the soldiers, they look at the black in his condition and curse him for being so. They are all friendly to us and many have asked me when we was coming to take them all away. I could not give them much hope, but talked about their children and told them to look ahead...
In other letters, he demurs from offering financial advice to his wife (I can trust you better than I can myself because I am not there to see...) and draws a rough map of his camp at Vicksburg, Feb. 22, 1863: Our mortars throw a big shell into Vicksburg occasionally just to let them know we are here. I am a little more hopefull now than when I last wrote, but the Nation is very, very wicked... Weston’s hope counted for little: he died not long after this letter, leaving Emelia Jane a widow. After Weston’s death, she had to use all the confidence he had once placed in her judgment to make her own way forward: About the disposal of my funds, I have not thought much, but am in hopes I can before a great while... I shall follow it as near as circumstances will allow about a home. I have not even given it a thought, circumstances will decide for me. I find I have enough for me to think of without thinking much of the future.
Among the documents in the collection is Weston’s handsome partially printed appointment as 2nd Sergeant, 26th Iowa (issued by Col. Milo Smith in the field at Helena, Ark.), Nov. 1, 1862; two passes written for Weston in Mississippi; his manuscript mustering-in roll after promotion to Lieutenant, April 1863 (signed by Miles Smith, Col. of 26th Iowa); also a copy of his wife’s will; three documents relating to Weston’s wife’s efforts after her husband’s death: Weston’s death certificate in Clinton Co., Iowa (Aug. 18, 1863); a certificate of return of ordnance (Jan. 1864) and allowance of a pension of $17 per month, dated while the war still raged, Feb. 1865.
Of special note is Weston’s will, made out in October 19, 1862 as he was lying sick, specifying that he wished a sermon preached at his funeral, but if any of my friends & neighbors choose to meet at the burial of my dead body & are moved to make brief appropriate remarks, I am willing they should do so, but I desire all the exercises connected with my burial shall be brief, peaceful & quiet; but I direct expecially that my body be not buried till all the circumstances of my decease, with a sufficient lapse of time therefrom prove beyond the possibility of a doubt that I am really dead.
Finally, the collection includes some regalia, including Weston’s bayonet and scabbard and a scrapbook made of a women’s magazine and snippets drawn from poetry books and other publications, bound into a homemade cover. Tipped in variously are artifacts collected by Weston: a boll of cotton picked at Helena, Ark., Oct. 1862; pencil sketch of a log hut used by soldiers; beautiful pencil-sketch map (folded) of positions along the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers, from Helena, Ark., to Granada, Miss., showing Grants’s forces, Prices forces, and the camp; A piece of the Rebel flag take at Arkansas Post; pressed flowers picked on the banks of the Mississippi in Arkansas and Mississippi; exceptional two-color ink map of positions along the Mississippi opposite Vicksburg in late December 1862.
Gorgeous sixth-plate ambrotype of soldier in uniform paired with sixth plate daguerreotype of a Emelia Jane, Weston’s wife (half case and some oxidation of the image); also three cartes-de-visite of Weston, one in a sergeant’s uniform, another in Lieutenant’s. Among the miscellaneous items are a handsome school-boys manuscript newspaper (labeled vol. 2, no. 2) edited by Weston and with handsome calligraphic title and illustration of an American flag on the cover, and a small travel Bible presented to Weston by George to his brother
Documenting the short, but memorable military career of an Iowan, the Weston papers are a reminder that death mowed down many and left a bumper crop of widows. One letter (Feb. 20, 1863) with section town away obscuring some text, else expected wear and signs of age.