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Description: In a foreshadowing of the military conflict soon to ensue, Col. Vosburgh, the first colonel of the 71st New York Regiment, writes two letters marked “Private” and “Confidential” to the then Adjutant General Frederick Townsend. The first recommends “Genl Ewen’s choice of Lt. Col. (Homer) Bostwick for Colonel over the reelection of (Daniel Tompkins) Van Buren, an Engineer who joined as a staff officer for the New York Militia. The second letter is a strong response to Townsend’s decision to organize an exclusive Light Brigade, thus demoralizing the men of the 71st Regiment that Vosburgh commands.

Keenly interested in the outcome of the election for a new Colonel, Vosburgh writes, “I understand Genl Ewen has made returns for staff officers of the 11th Regiment . . . I trust General you will endeavor to forward the commissions of the officers so returned that they may be able to vote in the election for Colonel. . . . I deem it very important that they should be here –as Lt. Col. Bostwick is a candidate for the Colonelcy–and I hope will be elected. Of the other candidate (Daniel Tompkins) Van Buren, he writes “I trust the success of the corps will not be the case as I consider him a gentleman in every respect–but a man wholly unfit or incompetent to command a regiment” (May 19, 1858). Written on two sides of ruled ivory 5”x 8”paper.

In the second letter, Vosburgh contests Townsend’s “action in organizing the 2nd Regt as an exclusively Light Infantry Regiment . . . taking from the [the 71st Regiment] the position on the right of the Brigade, which [they] have held for the past three years.” He asks him to “modify the order” so the 71st is not subordinated to the 2nd, as he is “afraid of the consequences and shall resign at once or commence a war . . . which will result in destructing the Brigade or the 71st Regiment— . . . that every officer in the Regiment will resign or decline upon appearing in Parade, pay their fine for absence and let things take their course.”  He considers Townsend’s action as “the great injustice” which he should “at once remedy” even if it seems a “quibble.” He adds that he has “begged and implored the officers to remain quiet and make no demonstration . . . .”  In conclusion, he “asks can you not mod[ify] the order creating the 2nd as an Exclusively Light Infantry Reg[iment] leaving them Infantry to do duty as Light Infantry.” (Sept 25 the 1860). Written on two sides of ruled blue 7½” x10” paper.

Item #AM00300

Col. Abram S. Vosburgh (1825-61) was the first Colonel of the 71st Regiment. Despite illness, he led his men to Washington in 1861 and died from it. He was honored by President Lincoln who is said to have laid a wreath on his casket a few days after his death.

Col. Frederick Townsend (1825-1897) founded the 3rd New York Infantry Regiment and served with the US Army 18th and 9th Infantry Regiments. He also served three terms as the Adjutant General of New York from 1857-61 and in 1880.

Condition: The 1858 letter has a small hole with minimal loss to text, fold lines and light soil, still in good condition and quite readable. The 1860 letter has scattered soil and a thumbnail-size loss on the left margin. The text is legible and the missing letters in two words are easily decipherable.