[Civil War]. Union General Luther Stephenson Letters (2) Signed "Stephenson." Two letters from the Union General Stephenson (1830-1921), who was in command of the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry. The first letter, five pages, 5" x 8", near Chickahominy Run, Virginia; June 12, 1864, was written while Stephenson was fighting at the Battle of the Wilderness. Addressed to Col. Francis J. Parker, the letter speaks of how Lee appears to be outsmarting Grant's tactics and how the Union took many losses in the Wilderness. It reads, in part:
"We get the newspapers filled will all sorts of nonsense with regard to the campaign (two thirds of which we know to be false) the reading of which to a person not posted would create the belief that Gen Grant had succeeded in all his plans and that he had only to give the order and Richmond would fall...I believe his plan to have been as follows, to cross the Rapidan, marching through the Wilderness cutting off the Danville and Petersburg Rail Road. This plan would be beautiful provided he met no obstacles on the route but it seems to me he should have known that the character of the country through which he must pass was such that it was perfectly defensible and that Lee had the game in his own hand. Lee seems to have comprehended all Grant's movement and at no time did we find him unprepared. He attacked us in the Wilderness before we were prepared for a fight and from the knowledge he possessed of country defeated what was probably Grant's plan, not to fight until he could do so in a position when he could use his superior numbers in such a manner as to entirely route the rebels and force them to retreat to Richmond...we have had some hard fighting. Our loss has been so far 1 officer killed, 8 wounded, 30 men killed, 181 wounded and 15 missing. This does not include quite a number who have been slightly wounded and have been returned to the regiment. We have now about 180 of the 32d with us on duty."
Stephenson had to resign from duty just two weeks later due to wounds received throughout the Overland Campaign.
The second letter, four pages, 7.75" x 9.75", Titusville, Pennsylvania; September 6, 1864, speaks of the oil business in Pennsylvania. Disheartened by the way the war was going, and having had to resign due to wounds, Stephenson hoped to get involved in the oil rush taking place in Pennsylvania. In the letter, Stephenson mentions visiting James W. Dalzell's oil wells; Dalzell would soon become a successful businessman and prominent figure in Pittsburgh.
"I visited today the Noble & Delamanta the McElkeney and the Dalzell farms or territories. The Noble & D Co. have a flowing well which they work themselves when it commenced flowing about 16 months ago it yielded 2500 bbls per day. It now yields 400 bbls...I have made enquiries about Story Farm and it is represented to be 'good territory'. I shall reach it tomorrow...the principle topics among the people of New York was the draft. They had draft on the brain...the towns along the Erie R.R. were paying $1000 for men to serve one year and $200 & $400 in addition for two and three year men. Most of them are raising the funds on scrip...the town debts in some cases must be very large. I ventured to ask some enthusiastic Republicans how they would be able to furnish men for the next quarter and pay their debts. Oh! They said that 'this' draft would furnish all the men that would be necessary, Gen. Grant had said so. I ventured to express an opinion that it would require 50,000 more men to conquer the South and that they would be obliged to go themselves finally. I saw myself pointed to afterwards as a traitor. What credulous people these Republicans are."
Condition: Usual mail folds are present. July 12th letter has some light toning along the upper margin, otherwise very good overall.