Lot 421: Fascinating collection of material related to Lt. Charles H. Burd, 4th Maine Volunteers, who was shot in the head at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, captured by the rebel forces, and held in the Confederacy's notorious Libby Prison for nine months before an exchange back to the Union. The group is comprised of letters related to Burd's wound and recovery, the bullet fragments that were surgically removed from his skull, various related ephemera, and some personal effects. Included is an LS from Lorenzo Thomas to Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, January 21, 1862, in part: "Major General Wool has been directed to propose the exchange of Lieutenant Charles H. Burd…for some person held as a prisoner by the United States." This must have been in response to an ALS by Hamlin, also present, dated a month earlier, stating that he will "call the attention of the Secy of War to the case of Lieut Burd."By far the most fascinating item in the archive is the actual bullet that was removed from Burd's head, consisting of two fragmented pieces approximately half an inch in diameter, one of which visibly retains pieces of his skull lodged inside. The surgery and these bullets are described in two letters, both signed "J. W. Brown," February 27 and March 5, 1862. The first, from Fort Monroe, in part: "I found Chas. quite comfortable…He removed here…to have his head operated upon. He had a terrible wound…To-day it has been performed. Two of the most skillful surgeons in the U. S. removed the balance of the ball, which had passed thro' both tables of the skull and was embedded in his brain. It was knitted to the bone, and was a most delicate job. His life hung by a thread. Thank God, it is removed and he is quite smart. He is now walking the room."Brown's second letter, in part: "I left Chas. in good health and first rate spirits…I brought home the bullet taken from his head at Ft. Monroe, & have also the piece taken out by Dr. Banks in the field. They make quite a lump of lead. The last piece has the bone adhering to it which was broken when it was taken away…Chas. is fat, strong, & is a good deal more of a man than when he left us, in mind & body. He says he went away a democrat, a pro-slavery man, he comes back a rank abolitionist. He has seen the masters, and I presume that satisfied him…I saw a great many interesting sights among the rest Abraham Lincoln and lady." Three cartes-de-visite of Burd are included, most notably one in which his head is bandaged following the surgery and two showing him in uniform.Also includes a DS signed by Edwin M. Stanton appointing Burd to the Invalid Corps, as well as some other related letters and documents, and a mounted albumen photograph of Libby Prison. In addition to the comprehensive archive of papers, a number of Burd's personal effects are present, among them a purple and gold officer's sash, two 'prisoner art' carved bone cufflinks, a rare bone spoon, and a few items from family members. In overall very good to fine condition. This absolutely unique collection not only chronicles the recovery of a wounded prisoner-of-war, but reveals firsthand sentiments of those involved.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 462
Wednesday, 14th October 2015
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