David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has published their catalogue No. 197. Rare Americana. David Lesser features primarily ephemeral items, including documents, pamphlets, photographs, manuscripts and prints, along with a few full-length books. It looks like they must have acquired some things from a collector of the Confederacy as there are a fair number of South-oriented items from the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction. I don't often see images of Confederate generals but there are several here. There are particularly nice photographs of P. G. T. Beauregard and R. S. Ewell, along with one of Lee and Johnston together the year Lee died. Jeff Davis makes an appearance too. There's also a large portrait of Jubal Early in a printing of an address he gave. Johnston sought to mend the national divide in the post-war years, serving as an honorary pallbearer at Sherman's funeral. Early remained an unreconstructed Confederate and white supremacist to the end. These are a few selections from this catalogue.
We start with the only from life photograph of Gen. Robert E. Lee and his generals. It is post-war, taken in 1869. It also includes some Northern philanthropists. The generals and philanthropists had gathered at the Greenbriar in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. They were there to support a good cause, the orphaned children of the Confederacy. It was the first time Lee had gotten together with his generals since Appomattox. Among the generals was Beauregard, Magruder, Lilly, Wise, Lawton and others. Northern Philanthropists included George Peabody. For some reason, the Turkish Minister to the United States was also present. Item 90. Priced at $3,750.
Speaking of Lee his generals at Appomattox, item 80 is an image depicting Lee and a bunch of generals, though mostly Northerners, at the surrender in the home of Wilmer McLean. The printing says it was “Entered according to the Act of Congress of the year 1867.” It was meant to reimburse McLean for furniture destroyed by souvenir takers. Grant, Sheridan, and Meade are among the Union officers. Along with Lee for the Confederacy, is Richard Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor, who once threatened to hang anyone in rebellion against the Union. And, look over there. It is a young officer by the name of George Armstrong Custer. He was always in the right place at the right time, until he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. $3,500.
Thomas Nast was noted for his biting, satirical cartoons. This one will not disappoint. Nast is mostly known for his role in bringing down Boss Tweed and the corrupt Tweed Ring of New York's Tammany Hall, that ran city government in the 1870s. However, before that, he was actively advocating for other causes, notably abolition and the Union cause in the Civil War. That takes us to this classic cartoon from 1864, Compromise with the South. Dedicated to the Chicago Convention. The Chicago Convention was where the Democratic Party nominated Gen. George McClellan for President. McClellan had been removed from Command of Union Troops by President Lincoln for not doing well on the battlefield. McClellan attempted to return the favor by replacing Lincoln as President with himself. The party platform was even more anti-war than McClellan, calling for a negotiated compromise and an end to the war, rather than victory. Nast wanted no part of appeasement. In a dig at the idea of compromise, he has marked a gravestone in the cartoon as “In memory of the Union Heroes who died in a useless war.” A downtrodden, beaten Union soldier with a wooden leg shakes the hand of a sturdy, proud Confederate soldier. An upside down American flag lists Union battle successes and “Emancipation of the Slaves.” The Confederate flag lists “Slavery” and “Treason,” along with various barbarities, “Starving Yankee Prisoners,” and “Murderers Bayoneting the Wounded Sleeping.” Nast wasn't into subtlety. Item 85. $750.
Unless there is more to this than meets the eye, this is a case of an egregious injustice perpetrated by the government on a former soldier. The title is Report of the Committee of Claims to Whom Was Referred, on the Fifth Instant, the Petition of Azor Bagley, from 1797. Bagley was a private serving in the Revolution, and as such was entitled to “Settlement Certificates” consisting of his termination pay. However, one David Craig appeared at the Treasury with a forged Power of Attorney supposedly signed by Bagley. The Treasury paid the money to Craig, who did not give it to Bagley. Bagley requested the Committee award him the money he was due. It denied the claim, saying “Government is undoubtedly bound to enact laws for the punishment of forgery as well as other crimes, but has never been considered as liable to claims for indemnity to individuals suffering by forgery.” But... not even when they were the ones who gave his money to a forger? Item 4. $150.
We will close with some fare lighter than war, corruption, and injustice. Item 130 is Windham Bull Frog Song. It is a broadside circa 1840s or 1850s, whose author is uncertain. It talks of a dark night in 1767 when the residents of Windham were awaken by a loud noise. Some people thought it was supernatural noises and dropped to their knees to pray. More rational ones figured it was angry Indians and grabbed their guns ready to defend themselves. By morning, the noises had died down and the defenders returned home. Later, it was determined the cause was that a mill-pond outside of town had nearly run dry. The noises were from the bullfrogs fighting for the last patches of water. It ended in the deaths of “several thousand” frogs. $750.