SKU: AM00287 Categories: ,


Description: In four descriptive letters to his father Dr. Joel Holton of Jamaica, VT, Second Lieutenant William H. H. Holton describes the challenges of transporting conscripts to a distribution camp, and after the assassination of President Lincoln, he describes the mood in Washington and at his funeral procession in Harrisburg.

Holton escorts 300 recruits, “a hard crowd of [mostly] bounty jumpers [from NY],” from Cliffburne Barracks to Briggs Barracks in Alexandria. He instructs his guards “to shoot the first man who should attempt to make his escape . . . to arrest . . . [stragglers],” consequently gaining and retaining more men. In contrast another “Lieut Col” who was transporting recruits to Washington lost men that “jumped overboard” and were shot or drowned while trying to escape (June 7, 1864). He says he suffers liver damage from being overworked and is as “‘yeller as a saffern bag’ as the old women have it.” He also helps an “intelligent and ladylike” Mrs. Gray, a refugee from N. C., make her way to Dorset VT, and thinks that his father will be “very much interested in conversing with her” (Sept 30, 1864).

After the assassination of the President Lincoln and the attempt on Secretary William Seward, Holton writes (letter dated April 15, 1865) in part: “The President died at about 7-30 this morning but was inconscious [sic] while he lived. The assassan [sic] made his escape, and there is but little doubt that J. Wilkes Boothe son of the great tragedian is the guilty perpetrator of this horrid murder. Hopes are entertained that Secretary Seward may recover…the excitement is very great…if the assassons [sic] were to be brought to the city . . . they would be tourn [sic] in pieces by the desperately excited crowds on every corner. . . The whole city is draped in black crape—all places of business are closed—the people talk of nothing but the murder of the President…” He signs, “In sorrowful haste, Henry”. Later in April, Holton is placed in command of the Company D in Hollidaysburg, PA. His company is ordered to accompany other regiments to escort President’s remains to the State House in Harrisburg. A thunderstorm breaks out as they approach the State House, and Holton emotionally adds, “the heavens mingled their artillery with the earthly . . . their tears with the tears of the multitude . . . The bands played a slow dirge and it did seem almost like the funeral of a nation. . . .  The face of our President looked quite natural . . . wearing that same kind and benevolent expression which characterized it in life” (April 26, 1865).

13 handwritten pages on ruled ivory paper of differing sizes, no larger than 8”x 6.5”. Item #AM00287

Major William H. H. Holton (1841-1905), son of Dr. Joel Holton of Jamaica, VT, enlisted as a private in the 8th Vermont Infantry Regiment during the Civil War and was discharged as Brevet major. His family are direct descendants of the puritan William Holton who came from Ipswich, Suffolk County, England to Cambridge MA during the Great Migration.

Condition: Mailing fold lines with several 1/4” separations at the edges, scattered light soil. Generally very good condition and quite clear and legible.