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Lot 0041 Details

Description: Civil War

Civil War Letters by a Veteran of the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh and Another Who Died at Andersonville

This small archive includes wartime and postwar letters surrounding William V. Denslow and his extended family, as well as four letters related to Freemasonry in Missouri and Montana. One letter offers a particularly riveting account of the defense of the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh. A love letter by a soldier to his new wife becomes particularly poignant when one realizes that he would die seven months later at the notorious southern prisoner of war camp near Andersonville, Georgia.

[CIVIL WAR; FREEMASONRY.] Archive of 13 Autograph Letters Signed by members of the Denslow family and Freemasons in Missouri, 1861-1880. 34 pp. Most items in very good condition.

William V. Denslow (1823-1888) was born in Indiana and moved to Benton County, Iowa, in 1849. He married Martha M. Cockburn (1840-1899) in Iowa in 1855, and the next year moved to Grundy County, Missouri. They had three sons between 1856 and 1860. In August 1861, he enlisted in Company C of the 23rd Missouri Infantry. Captured at the Battle of Shiloh, he endured six and a half months of life as a prisoner of war, nearly dying of starvation in Libby prison in Richmond. He was exchanged and returned to Missouri. After the war, he gained election as a member of the Grundy County Court, and he promoted railroad and commercial development in the county. He was a Republican, a Methodist, and was affiliated with the Masonic order, including the Royal Arch degree. He was buried in the Spickard Masonic Cemetery in Grundy County.

Items and Excerpts

- [Martha Denslow] to husband William V. Denslow, September 19, 1861, Middlebery, Missouri, 2 pp. (loss at edges)

“marven has been sick he had the Fever but is getting about again he took sick the 9 of this month he was sick two or three days.... the most of the union men hav joind the six month sirvis.... Mr Chatfield came here this morning and Wants to Fix the our Waggon For horses to Work to I told him to Fix it and use it A Wile S? if you are Willing For him to hav it or not I did not kow What else to tell him he says he Will do all he can to kep me comfortable.... our house is Done all that can be till the chimney is built Farly has sent me word that Milt Myers has bought brick For the chimney the Flour is laid and the Windows an doors made and hung....”

“Oh how lonely I Feel Since you are gone May the lord Bless you and preserve you And keep you From all harm And hasten the long prayed for time When we Shall Meet again is my daily prayer I did not think When We parted it Would be so long as What is has till we would Meet again Ever be Firm and Faithful and put your trust in the god that Rules on high And I will try to Do the Same O if this war would stop And you could come home if you Could but be here but 24 hours it Would be A great satisfaction to me”

William Marvin Denslow (1858-1918) was the second son of William and Martha Denslow. He later became a newspaper editor and a member of the Missouri legislature, as well as an active Mason.

- William V. Denslow to wife Martha Denslow, November 30, 1861, Camp near Chillicothe, Missouri, 2 pp.

“I have neglected to answer your letter expecting to Start home to day but we are disappointed we have word that the enemy are crossing the missouri River in large numbers and we do not know how soon we may have a battle but I am determined to stand to work till the last armed foe expires if I live I shall come home just as soon as I can and try to make you as comfortable as I can....”

“I send you a pair of coarse shoes they will do to wear in wet or snowy weather they cost 40 cents if you send your Gaiter Boots down by some body I can get the money back for them and buy you a fine pair”

- William V. Denslow to wife Martha Denslow, March 16, 1862, Chillicothe, [Missouri], 4 pp.

“it is with feelings of sadness that I write. I am well in body but Sadly distressed in mind we are ordered to leave here and there is no possibility of coming home as we shall start in a day or two I could have left better satisfied if I could have come home and have seen you and the dear children once more....”

“I go forth as a Soldier I shall do my duty and with Gods help try never to dishonor my calling I have no fears for myself but to leave you unprotected in this world of wickedness and sin in these troublesome times drives me nearly distracted.”

“I have no money to send you as we are not paid but I will continue to send it to you as soon as we get it I will do every thing in my power for you and to make you comfortable and happy because if you should cease to Love and respect me I should not want to live any longer but I have full confidence in you and intend to live so that you shall never have a blush of shame to mantle your cheek on my account”

Denslow’s regiment, the 23rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry moved from Chillicothe, Missouri, to St. Louis, then on to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, where Colonel Jacob T. Tindall was killed and 400 members of the Regiment were captured at the Battle of Shiloh in early April. The remainder of the regiment returned to St. Louis for provost and guard duty in Missouri.

- William V. Denslow to wife Martha Denslow, October 26, 1862, Washington, D.C., 2 pp.

“we arrived at Pittsburg landing on Saturday the 5th day of April and at the dawn of day next morning we heard the roar of the enemy’s cannon playing upon our advance guard after a hasty Breakfast we were ordered into line to march to the scene of action we had not proceeded far before we met plenty of the wounded making their way to the rear we were ordered to take a position in the centre of the extended line of battle after getting in position we had not long to wait the bristling bayonets and wide mouthed cannon of the enemy were soon seen approaching I then offered a prayer for strength and protection for myself and if I should fall for Gods protection and watchful care of my darling wife and children after which we opened fire upon the enemy and from that time till one oclock we held our position against overwhelming odds at one oclock I could till [tell] by the firing on either side of us that the enemy were flanking us still we held our position in the evening we were ordered to fall back but it was too late the enemy were on three sides of us and it was then they pound in a fire upon us truly terrific to behold Grape canister round balls mingled with musketry and Rifle balls cut off the trees tore up the ground and thinned our ranks very fast and we were compelled to surrender or all be cut down I cannot say that I felt any fear during the whole action but I was fully sensible of my great danger after our surrender were started towards Corinth and stopped in an old field for the night when it set in raining and we passed a sleepless night sitting or standing in the mud and rain the next morning they gave us a mouldy cracker and a very small slice of meat a piece and started us on the march we arrived at corrinth at night where we were kept standing in a hard rain all night without Blankets or overcoats as we had left them on the battlefield in the morning we got one musty cracker and then were piled in old hog cars so thick that we could not lie down and were conveyed to Memphis where next morning about 1 oclock we got some bread and meat that is about a sample of our treatment for the last six months we have been most all over the southern confederacy we have been at Memphis Jackson Mobile Montgomery Macon Augusta Columbia Charlotte Raleigh and Richmond besides various other places”

“my health is rapidly improving since I have got into Gods country and among his people I am able to come home now but they will not let me till I get my pay.... We got our new clothes to day and I think we will get our pay soon”

Denslow was among the 400 members of the 23rd Missouri that were captured in the Hornet’s Nest at the Battle of Shiloh, the most determined part of the Union resistance to the Confederate attack. After parole, they returned to St. Louis as non-combatants until formally exchanged.

- Benjamin F. Denslow to wife Elizabeth Denslow, December 13, 1863, Camp near Bealton Station, Virginia, 2 pp.

“I thought I would take this Blank half of your letter and answer the other half just to let you know that I received it and to bless you my Sweet Love for remembering me and writing to me. I bless my God that I know there is one person that really Loves me and O Dear in that Sweet Love is all the happiness in this Life that I crave.... Heckart wrote to me that he had heard from the old mare that She was in Blue Earth City and that the man that had taken her up had written to you about her several times. The charges is ten Dollars for taking up and advertizing and feeding her. I do not know how you will pay it and pay Father for going after her besides you will have to sell her to do it I guess do the best you can and you will please me.... Dearest my heart goes out after you I feel and believe that our hearts are inseparably one and its this thought and belief that cheer me on through life’s rugged path my Heart is wholly thine where you live there will I live where you die there will I die and be buried by your side yours throughout time”

Benjamin F. Denslow (1826-1864) was born in Indiana and was the younger brother of William V. Denslow. In 1860, he was a clerk of courts in Forest City, Iowa, and was married to Elizabeth Denslow (b. 1842). He enlisted in Dubuque, Iowa, as a private in the 12th U.S. Infantry in December 1861. He died of scurvy as a prisoner of war at the notorious prison camp near Andersonville, Georgia, on August 1, 1864.

- John H. Denslow Jr. to brother William V. Denslow, June 20, 1864, Paducah, Kentucky, 2 pp.

“I write to let you know that I am well. I enlisted in the 100 days service on the 6th of May at Chicago and was in camp Fry near Chicago about a month, when we went to Columbus, Ky. We stayed there a few days and was ordered here and arrived here last Thursday I am in the 132d Reg’t Ill. Vols Inf. Capt. Vogel. I have not written to you for a long time before and probably you have not kept track of my goings and doings. I left Alton last August and went to Des Moines, Iowa, and worked at my trade there till last March when I went to Chicago and worked there till I enlisted. I could not get work all the time but when I could I made $18.00 per week and had to pay $4.00 per week for board. I don’t like soldiering I think I will quit it when my time is out. I believe as I have all along, that is, that this national difficulty will at last end in compromise, unless a military despotism is established and I hope that the latter will not be done. I want to see the Union restored as much as any other man, but I want the same old Union, with the rights of all the States unimpaired, and this same old Constitution of our forefathers.”

“I hope to see you all shortly after my time is out, and then we can talk. How would you like to go to California next spring? I think some of going with some friends in Monroe....”

In 1864, Ohio governor John Brough proposed to raise 100,000 men from the militias of New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, for short-term service to resist any invasion of the North and to release veteran units from routine duty to go to the front lines. The Lincoln administration immediately approved the plan. Ultimately, approximately 81,000 men volunteered, and they became known as Hundred Days Men. Illinois raised fourteen regiments, among which the 132nd Infantry was the first. It mustered in at Camp Fry in Chicago on June 1, 1864. After 100 days of service, the regiment returned to Chicago, where it was mustered out on October 17.

John H. Denslow Jr. (1837-1880) was born in Indiana and became a printer. In 1870, he worked as a printer in Wakenda, Missouri, and lived with his wife Elizabeth Graham Denslow (1845-1908) and their two children.

- John C. Nichols to his sister Malinda Nichols Schooler, September 26, 1864, Camp near Atlanta, Georgia, 2 pp.

“I suppose you have heard of the death of our dear Brother I have not heard anything more concerning his death more than what I wrote to Father.... I intend to apply for a furlough in a short time I would like to see you all very well Twenty five months ago yesterday I left home but I think we will be mustered out this fall. The talk is that we will be mustered out when Co K is mustered out their time is out in December”

John Clark Nichols (1840-1920) was born in Missouri and married Elizabeth Ann Tharp in 1861. He mustered in to Company C of the 23rd Missouri Infantry in August 1862. He was mustered out on June 10, 1865.

Malinda Nichols Schooler (1833-1915) married William Douglas Schooler (1826-1900) in 1848. Their daughter Malinda Caroline Schooler (1862-1936) married William V. Denslow’s son William Marvin Denslow in 1880.

John and Malinda Nichols’ brother William Harrison Nichols (1839-1864) was born in Ohio and joined the 23rd Missouri Infantry in August 1862. He served as a corporal in Company C and died of disease at the hospital in Chattanooga on September 17, 1864.

- Samuel Russell to Anthony O’Sullivan, June 20, 1866, Saint Joseph, Missouri, 1 p.

“This is to notify you that to morrow I start for Montana, and consequently all matter connected with the office of G. H. P. [Grand High Priest] you will please hand to R. E. D. G. H. P. [Right Eminent Deputy Grand High Priest] .... So now my dear friend if your great pressure of business will give you time to cast your thoughts to our wild mountain region remember that you have a true friend, yea friends, in that far off land, where but a few short years ago none but the red man of the forrest was to be found, but now it resounds with the very hum of civilization, and where thanks to the teaching I have received from you our beloved order is in a prosperous and flourishing condition.”

Samuel Russell (1814-1902) and his business partner Paris Pfouts (1829-1910) established a log store in Virginia City, Montana, in 1863. Two years later, they constructed a stone structure on the site and gave the second floor to the Masonic Lodge. On January 24, 1866, the Grand Lodge of Montana Ancient Free & Accepted Masons was founded there.

Anthony O’Sullivan (1808-1866) was born in Ireland and died in St. Louis in the cholera epidemic. He was very active in Masonry and served as Eminent Commander of the St. Louis Commandery and as Eminent Grand Recorder of Missouri for fifteen years.

- Martin Collins to George Frank Gouley, August 19, 1866, Saint Louis, Missouri, 3 pp.

“I hereby appoint you Grand Secretary of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the state of Mo in place of our Beloved and Venerable Companion OSullivan, and may God in his mercy assist you in making as good and as faithful a servant to the Fraternity as our deceased Comp.”

Martin Collins (1827-1908) worked in the fields of fire insurance and life insurance and also served for a number of years as collector of water rates in St. Louis. Collins was admitted to the Thirty-Third Degree in Freemasonry in 1864, and served as Grand Chancellor of the Supreme Council and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Missouri. At his death, he was the oldest thirty-third degree Mason in the United States.

George Frank Gouley (1832-1877) was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and studied law. He settled in St. Louis, where he edited the Free Mason, a Masonic newspaper, for several years to 1875. He was serving as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Free Masons in Missouri, when he died in a hotel fire in St. Louis.

- Samuel Russell to George Frank Gouley, September 3, 1866, Virginia City, Montana Territory, 2 pp.

“It is with extreme sorrow that I have learned of the death of our excellent and esteemed friend OSullivan whose spirit I trust is now in repose in a better and brighter World. I feel his death more deeply than I can find language to express it, for he was my sincere friend and confidential adviser on all Masonic matters that came before me.”

- Samuel Russell to George Frank Gouley, October 19, 1866, Virginia City, Montana Territory, 4 pp.

“Very many of your old friends out here and some who do not know you have read your foreign Correspondence with the Grand Chapters, and all are highly pleased with it, but I think the correspondence with the several Grand Lodges excels, but as I did not receive it before leaving home, have not had an opportunity of examining it very closely or showing it to my friends.”

“By the way, you may want to know how Masonry is progressing out in this Mountain Country. On the first Monday of the month the G? met and after a cession of four days closed its labors, six Lodges were represented in all. You take my word when I tell you it way [was] a Gay Institute. They elected for Grand Master a keeper of a whisky saloon and he is already electioneering for an other term by ever unmasonic act he is capable of using to an advantage. I have become so disgusted the the actions of the Blue Lodges that I have not been to either of them notwithstanding we have two here in Town and one two miles from Town”

“I have been here three months and during that time we received Dispensation for a Chapter & Commandry and am proud to say are doing a good show of work. We have exalted 15 and Knighted 14 and the good work still goes on. I have taken an active part in both Chapters & Commandry as well as my partner P. S. Pfouts who sends his kindest regards to you.”

- John H. Denslow Jr. and Lizzie G. Denslow to brother William V. Denslow, December 14, 1872, Kansas City, Missouri, 4 pp.

“We were glad to hear from you and to learn that you were all getting along well and especially were we glad to hear that you were a local preacher. Preaching is certainly the highest and most responsible calling on earth. God grant that you may be instrumental in His hands of doing much good.”

- Martha J. Sirrine to brother William V. Denslow, August 30, 1880, Clear Lake, Iowa, 4 pp.

“I presume you know that Clear Lake is quite a summer resort there has been hundreds of people here this summer more than ever before. Among the visitors here was Mr Ford from Boston he came to attend the state camp meeting he staid at Ellens the most of the time was out to see us once. I should like to have you and Martha come up next summer I think you would find both pleasure and profit.”

“I am glad you did something for Lizzie I feel so sorry for her left as she is without any thing I had thought for some time that John ought to get out of the city in some country place I believe he would have done better. I suppose you must have known his wife. from his letters I should think she was a very superior woman Ellen wrote to her that she would take one of the children but she would not part with any of them I cannot blame her for I should feel the same, but I do not see what she is going to do.”

Martha J. Denslow Sirrine (1843-1915) was born in Iowa and married Robert O. Sirrine (1837-1901). They settled in Clear Lake, Iowa. Her sister, Mary Ellen Denslow Wood (1839-1892) also lived in Clear Lake.

Her and William V. Denslow’s younger brother John H. Denslow Jr. died earlier in 1880 in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was a printer and lived with his wife Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) and their three sons, ages 12, 11, and 3.

- 2 Envelopes from Martha J. Sirrine, Clear Lake, Iowa, to Martha Demslow, Spickardsville, Missouri, ca. 1860s-1870s.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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Civil War, 13 Excellent Letters, a Soldier Who Died at

Estimate $600 - $700Jun 26, 2019
Starting Price $200
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