‘The President Has Been Shot’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The July release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes several regimental histories and other recollections of the war. Highlighted here are reminiscences of cavalrymen from Ohio and New York, and a collection of engravings depicting various battles from American history.

The Battles of America by Sea and Land (1875)

By Robert Tomes

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Robert Tomes (1817-1882) was a physician, diplomat and writer. He practiced medicine briefly in New York before working as a surgeon for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and making several voyages between San Francisco and Panama. Tomes was appointed U.S. consul at Rheims, France, in 1865 and served until 1867. His The Great Civil War a History of the Late Rebellion can also be found in The American Civil War Collection. In this assemblage of images, published to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the American Revolution, Tomes includes engravings of battles and commanders from many wars including the Civil War.

The Buffalo, NY, Superintendent of Education offered the following endorsement:

Having examined the engravings of your work entitled “BATTLES OF AMERICA,” and carefully read some of the advance numbers, I cheerfully recommend it to the reading public. The engravings are of fine execution and are new in design, affording a decided relief from most other works.

In my opinion the engravings are alone worth the price of the work, and with the other matter combined it is a work that will surely command the attention and patronage of all.

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The Story of a Cavalry Regiment (1897)

By Thomas West Smith

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Thomas Smith served as a private in the Eleventh New York Cavalry during the Civil War and 30 years later was appointed by his fellow soldiers to prepare a history of the regiment. Smith refers to the regiment as “Scott’s 900” and writes:

The regiment was organized in December, 1861, at Staten Island, N.Y., and served until September 30, 1865. It participated in campaigns and engagements in nearly all the Southern States, and the graves of its members who lost their lives during its service are scattered from the Potomac River to the Gulf of Mexico, and along the banks of the Mississippi from New Orleans to Memphis, and scores of them found their last resting places beneath the waters of the Atlantic.

Smith includes the reminiscences of many members of the regiment, such as the following by Captain MacClermont who tells of being in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865:

The streets were thronged with people, and in the crowd my pocket was picked of my valuable papers. As soon as I discovered my loss, I went to the Chronicle office on Ninth street to advertise a reward for my papers. As I was coming from the office by the rear way, a man rushed in, exclaiming, “The President has been shot in Ford’s Theater.” I went around the corner to get to the front of the theater on Tenth street. When I got there I saw four men carrying a body. As I knew Mr. Lincoln, I pressed up to the party to see if it really was the President. As I got up close I saw it was Mr. Lincoln who was being carried. One of the party, seeing I that I was an officer in uniform, made way for me to take his place, which I did by placing my hands under Mr. Lincoln’s head and shoulders, and in doing so one of my shirt cuffs became stained with the blood of the martyred President.

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Recollections of a Cavalryman of the Civil War after Fifty Years, 1861-1865 (1915)

By William Douglas Hamilton

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William Hamilton (1832-1916) served in the Civil War as Colonel, Ninth Ohio Cavalry and was later appointed Brevet Brigadier General. Introducing his history of the regiment, Hamilton writes with hindsight and hope:

With the help of some of my old comrades, I have undertaken to dig through accumulated memories of fifty years and record incidents,—many of them commonplace enough to us then, but to which time has added a charm which warms our hearts to each other and to this dear land of ours.

As a regiment the Ninth Ohio Cavalry, which belonged to the Army of the West, operated most of the time under general orders on its own responsibility. Often stationed quite in advance of the infantry, we were thus brought into close touch with the Southern people, and as a result dislikes on both sides were very much modified.

Professional historians have written of the campaigns and battles of the Civil War. The incidents here preserved are side-lights on its dark background but they helped in a small way to modify the bitterness of it all.

This story has been written for the benefit of those who will come after us, and in the hope that there will never be any call for the youth of our country to further develop the art of war. This wish is more sincerely felt since there is a very dear grandson and namesake of mine now in the senior class at the Military School at West Point, and my cherished hope and faith is that he may be assigned to the development, rather than to the defence [sic], of our God-given resources, and that there may never arise any national problems that may not be settled by the wisdom of our advancing civilization without recourse to the barbarity of arms.

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For more information about The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact readexmarketing@readex.com.

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