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Excellent lot of 18 letters by General John Willian, Jr., who enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th New Jersey Infantry just days after the war started, and then methodically rose through the ranks, ultimately rising to Brigadier General by the end of the war. Willian writes primarily from the 6th New Jersey Infantry, where he fought in the Battles of Williamsburg, Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Court House. He also fought in the Battle of Boydton Plank Road as a Lt. Colonel in the 8th New Jersey Infantry, and in the Battle of Fort Stedman as a Colonel in the 12th New Jersey Infantry, while serving as Assistant Inspector General on Brig. General Gershom Mott's staff.

In chronological order, Willian's letters to his family begin on 16 June 1861 in the 4th New Jersey Infantry, Co. H, where he writes in part, ''...there was a very solemn duty...preformed this morning by our Regt. It was the drumming out of one of the soldiers. He belonged to the Camden Zouaves. The whole of our Regt was in line when he was brought out of the guard house...he marched up & down our line & then he was marched 3 miles into Washington. All this was the penalty for striking a sergeant...it is the greatest disgrace that can be heaped on a soldier...J. Willian, Jr.'' Willian follows up with an intriguing letter on 20 June 1861 from Fort Princeton, ''...we have got spies within our lines and we are on lookout for them. We took one last night who had in his pockets a pass from General Beauregard. We have him in our camp so he will not get away without having thorough examination. We are...expecting to move 4 x 5 miles...toward Fairfax Court House...about 16 miles distant...the government sending all those troops in advance of us make us pretty sure that we shall have no trouble with the Rebels...John Willian Jr.''.

Willian is promoted to 1st Lieutenant and transferred to the 6th New Jersey Infantry, Co. D when he writes his next letter on 16 February 1862, in part, ''...our Regt is getting rather unhealthy. We have quite a number of very dangerous cases of Typhoid Fever. We buried one from our Company on Friday. A young man from Camden named Ross. We have 2 more cases in our company...it is a sorrowful sight to see the poor fellows buried...here though they get a very nice funeral consisting of a whole company...full band...we are compelled to bury them now unless their friends come after them in which case we & the Company will pay the expenses of the corpse over the railroad...Thursday I was on duty at the depot near where the boats land...I went to see if our Col. [Gershom Mott] had come down...J. Willian''. He writes again on 23 February 1862, ''...our Co. has suffered severely and...we lost 2 members. They died of a malignant typhoid fever. They had every attendance. We have now no serious cases in our Co. The Co next on our left went out on Friday to bury a man & returned just in time to see another of their comrades die. It is very hard to see it...we are about to be thrown across the river...we are confident of success...there is only six Regts to oppose us. Our Division has received 2...Whitworth guns presented by the Loyal American Citizens of England. I went about a mile for our camp...to see them tried on old Cockpit Point which stands out in bold relief the terror of the travelers Potomac. The Rebels have hoisted their flag in our sight. I expect to go over & see our new guns practice on it...J. Willian.''

Willian next writes from the ''Battlefield of Williamsburg'', where the regiment lost over 60 in killed and wounded. On CSA accounting paper, Willian writes, ''...you will join with me in saying thank God that I have escaped unhurt. Our Regt fought like tigers 8 hours yesterday. We...suffered very severely. Col. Van Leer was killed, Capt. [George] Wilson is wounded severely, but not dangerous. He is a prisoner. The killed of our company are Sergeant Riley, Wollard, Timothy Cloran, Joseph Parks. We have 12 men wounded. We are now taking up the march...John Willian''. He goes into more detail about the battle a week later, on 12 May 1862, in part, ''We have halted...after a march of some 22 miles. It is very hard marching now on account of the heat...we must continue until we reach Richmond...about our fight of the 5th inst. we lost, in our Company, in killed, wounded & missing 19 men. The boys from Gloster fought like veterans. Our Co. never broke...there is not many Co's can say that. I was...through the thickest of the fight & never got a scratch. G. Holmes has leg amputated. I don't think he will recover [Holmes had already died on 10 May]...there will be a great many enquiring about their husbands, brothers & sons...we are about 40 miles away from the wounded. I have seen sufficient now to make me heartily wish for this war to come to a conclusion. I have just heard that the Rebels have made a stand on the Chickahominy River...probably we shall have another brush with them...J. Willian''.

The regiment's activity was mostly quiet until the Battle of Chancellorsville, although Willian's letters still remain informative and entertaining. On 6 January 1863, he writes about capturing Rebel General JEB Stuart, ''...we have been on a reconnoissance to a place called Morrisville...consists of two hoses & one store yet it is a place of importance on account of being near one of the many fords across the Rappahannock River. This ford is about fifteen miles from here. It is guarded by two companies of Rebel infantry. We went up to capture them. The reason we did not succeed was...just as we got in sight of the Rebs we received orders that...our cavalry should proceed in the direction of Alexandria to intercept the Rebel Genl. Stewart...we were compelled to abandon our object after marching thirty miles. It was one of the most severe marches I have been on...J. Willian''. He writes on 24 January 1863 about the impassable roads in Virginia and his possible resignation, ''...you have heard of our second attempt to take Fredericksburg. We marched about 6 miles to right of our present position where we intended to cross the river, but our Genls. found it utterly impossible on account of the roads. They are in an awful condition...some of the guns that ought to go at full run with 6 horses I saw...sticking fast in the Mud with 14 horses. You folks who have never seen an army in Virginia have no idea of bad roads or mud...I have been troubled some little with my old complaint about resigning. I shall try and see you before I take any steps in it. I saw J. Ashworth [Sgt. John Ashworth, 4th New Jersey Infantry] again marching to the fight. I guess he like many others was very agreeably disappointed...J. Willian''.

On 16 May 1863, Willian writes about the ''great Battle of Chancellorsville'', where Willian describes losing several in his company. Letter reads in part, ''...We are again settled down in the same place we occupied previous to the great Battle of Chancellorsville. We man are becoming as lively as they were previous to the movement...their confidence in Genl. Hooker is unshaken. He knows how to hold this confidence. He shows himself on the battlefield which is very inspiring...a large number of our wounded were sent into our lines last night & today. They all agree in saying that the Rebs are sadly pushed for everything in the shape of supplied. Our wounded got no food only such as was found in haversacks of our own men. One Lieut. in our brigade came over today. He says the Reb have given up the idea of gaining their independence, but they are all getting Religion...we have heard nothing of Franklin Pike as yet. He was serving in my Co. at the Battle. I have the color Co. & he is one of the color corporals. Both my color bearers were wounded, also my color sergeant, besides several in my company including my 1st Lieut. [John Howeth] who was very severely wounded in the head [he died of his wounds on 15 May]...of the death of Genl. Stonewall Jackson. He must be a great loss to Rebs. It was his forces our brigade fought. A great number of prisoners are taking the oath of allegiance both here & at Washington...J. Willian''. In another letter, undated but shortly after Chancellorsville, Willian signs a report as commander of Co. C entitled ''Garrison Equipage Expended in the public service...in Battle of Chancellorsville & on the march'' where he lists ''one complete drum'', knapsacks, haversacks and ''De Arbre Tents...Lost in action at Chancellorsville, Va., May 3, 1863, the men in whose possession they were, being wounded and in consequence of the Regt. changing its position under a heavy musketry fire was compelled to leave them on the field...''

On 13 May 1864, Willian recounts the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and having his horse shot from under him. Written on ''Head-Quarters, 4th Division, 2d Corps'' stationery, Willian writes, ''...I was in the greatest battle that has been fought in this war and the victory...was complete. We captured about 30 guns & a whole Div. of Rebels and in getting them are Generals Johnston & Stewart and any quantity of Rebel flags, one of which I carried through the fight. We had, of this staff, one officer killed & two wounded. Both the armies are completely worn out. We are now packing to go in pursuit of the flying columns of the enemy. Genl. Lee has never received such a thrashing before. I reverently thank God that I have again been spared unhurt...I pray that I may be safe throughout this campaign...I am sorry to say my horse Joe was shot under me...J. Willian''. Willian writes of replacing his horse in a letter dated 1 July 1864, ''...We are still lying here in the boiling sun...all is very quiet, scarcely any firing. The pickets are in an open field within 150 yards of each other. they are not allowed to communicate with each other. The other day they became very familiar...that the pickets walked over to each other and had quite pleasant little conversations...this had to be stopped. Now they lay and watch each other...I bought a very nice little horse a few days ago...John Willian''.

Willian describes a ''brilliant little affair'' in his letter dated 18 September 1864, as well as barely missing a sharpshooter's bullet. In part, ''...Our Div. is in the line in front of Petersburg running across the Jerusalem Plank Road where we had quite a brilliant little affair the other evening which resulted in our capturing a portion of the enemy's picket line. I assure you he feels very sorry about it. We still hold that ground. Our Hd. Qrs. is about 500 yards in rear of the front line - are very unpleasantly reminded that the enemy's sharpshooters are around with Whitworth Rifle's which they say will carry a bullet almost any distance. One bullet came along this afternoon and struck right in the centre of my tent floor and glanced up and a half mile further...a person is never safe about here...J. Willian''.

As a Lt. Colonel of the 8th New Jersey Infantry, Willian writes of the Battle of Boydton Plank Road on 2 November 1864, in part, ''...our fight on the left, though only called reconnoissance was very severe, two of this staff [Capt. Henry Bell, 73rd New York and Lt. James H. Lockwood, 120th New York] being wounded, one I am afraid mortally. I was riding over the battlefield with him when he was shot. In my effort to hold him on his horse after he was struck his horse took fright and he fell under my horse's head which jumped over him...he...certainly would have been killed...I hope you don't see many old veteran soldiers joining in any Democratic political demonstrations. The army vote shows you what we think of them...J. Willian''.

Lastly, Willian describes the Battle of Fort Stedman, just weeks before the war ended. Writing as Colonel of the 12th New Jersey Infantry, Willian writes on 26 March 1865, a day after the battle, ''...The 2d Corps has once more met the enemy and as usual got the best of them. We were woke up yesterday morning at about 4 o'clock a. m. by tremendous artillery firing on our right. The cause of it was soon ascertained. It was the enemy who had broken through the line of the 9th Corps and had suffered very heavily in prisoners. As soon as we could get ready we attacked the enemy in our front and captured his picket line which consisted of about 400 men...we killed & wounded about 2000 men...the Rebel Genl. Lee feel[s] very bad...this war is fast coming to a close. I passed through the action without being struck...I feel very thankful...return to camp where we are now laying just as comfortably as though there has been no fight...J. Willian''. All 18 letters are in very good condition, in ink with very legible penmanship. An excellent grouping by a smart and disciplined officer.
18 Civil War Letters by General John Willian, With Personal Content on the Battles of Chancellorsville, Williamsburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Fort Stedman & Boydton Plank Road18 Civil War Letters by General John Willian, With Personal Content on the Battles of Chancellorsville, Williamsburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Fort Stedman & Boydton Plank Road18 Civil War Letters by General John Willian, With Personal Content on the Battles of Chancellorsville, Williamsburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Fort Stedman & Boydton Plank Road18 Civil War Letters by General John Willian, With Personal Content on the Battles of Chancellorsville, Williamsburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Fort Stedman & Boydton Plank Road
18 Civil War Letters by General John Willian, With Personal Content on the Battles of Chancellorsville, Williamsburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Fort Stedman & Boydton Plank Road
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Auction closed on Thursday, January 31, 2019.
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