Civil War

5/5/21 – A Confederate Descriptive Book

Descriptive Books are listings of the physical descriptions of all the men in a company. They are defined as “The following books are allowed to each company: one descriptive book, one clothing book, one order book, one morning report book, each one quire, sixteen inches by ten. One page of the descriptive book will be appropriated to the list of officers; two to the non-commissioned officers; two to the register of men transferred; four to the register of men discharged; two to the register of deaths; four to register of deserters – the rest to the company description list.”
A friend has an original Union descriptive book in his family collection. But until recently, I had not seen a Confederate Descriptive book. A few weeks ago, someone sent me some scans of an original Confederate Descriptive book and asked me if I could create one.
Examining the scans, I noticed very few differences in the pages, with exception being the letters U.S. were left out. Below are some scans of the original and pictures of my reproduction.

Civil War

My First Reenactment

47 years ago in early July, I invited a friend over for the 4th of July. He said he couldn’t make it because he was going to a Civil War reenactment. I asked him, “What’s that?” He explained that we would recreate a Civil War battle. I thought that sounded like lots of fun, so I asked him if I could go. He said he would ask his friends if they had things to loan to me for the day.

With an old Stetson hat, the wool pants that we wore in military school, and a white shirt, we headed up to Gettysburg to participate in a reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg, held on the 110th anniversary of the battle. Yes, do the math, that’s 1973.

This started the passion in me for living history, which still continues now on the 47th anniversary of my start in reenacting.

For you youngsters, we used original weapons and original leather equipment. One of the officers had an original Confederate major’s coat which he wore. Because we wore some woolen clothing, we were considered “authentic”.

Some months later, I was shopping in a bookstore (wow, that sounds dated), and saw this set of books by Bruce Catton. Then I took a good look at the box. On the cover, I recognized that person with the white sleeve in the center of the picture as my friend who had invited me to the event. And there, two hats to the right, holding that short Enfield musketoon, is me. I was immortalized in print in my first reenactment.

Of course I had to buy the set. As you can see, I still have it. Take a good look at that picture. It was taken in July of 1973.

Civil War

6/17 – A Success to Rival Harry Potter

While sales of the first 7 novels were successful, Irwin Beadle wanted even bigger sales for their forthcoming eighth novel. On September 29, 1860, the following question appeared nine times on the front page of the New York Tribune.

Who is Seth Jones?

And this add appeared in the Kenosha Times (Wisconsin) on September 27, 1860:

Two days later ads appeared which stated:

Seth Jones is from New Hampshire.

 Seth Jones understands the redskins.

 Seth Jones answers a question.

 Seth Jones strikes a trail.

 Seth Jones makes a good roast.

 Seth Jones writes a letter.

 Seth Jones objects to sparking.

 Seth Jones in his element.

 Seth Jones takes an observation.

 Seth Jones can’t express himself.

And finally on October 2, 1860 this ad appeared six times in the New York Tribune:

Seth Jones; or, the Captives of the Frontier. For sale at all the news depots. Ready this morning,”

Seth Jones, Dime novel #8

The marketing campaign was a huge success. One of the Beadle brothers stated in later years that 60,000 copies were sold right away. (Johannsen 1950) The first edition of the Dime Novel “Seth Jones” was of 60,000 copies. (Everett 1864)

Prior to Seth Jones, a sale of 2,000 copies of a book was considered a success. For reference, here are some mid-19 century best sellers with their original number of copies sold:

  • Guy Mannering (1815), Sir Walter Scott: 2,000 copies in its first day. (Karen 2016)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1850), Harriet Beecher Stowe, 5,000 copies in its first year. (Winship 2007)
Sullivan Press Reproduction of the Dime Novel Seth Jones

We offer this book for sale on our website. Seth Jones

Civil War

6/16 – Family Troubles

Business partnerships don’t last forever. Erastus Beadle, his brother Irwin Beadle and their young partner Robert Adams had a good business going. The firm of Beadle & Adams was very profitable, and their dime novels were breaking sales records. For whatever reason, by the summer of 1862, Irwin Beadle wanted out. His financial interest in the business was purchased by the other partners. It may not have been an amicable parting. We will never know.

When the firm first moved to Manhattan, the address was 137 William Street and the name of the firm was Irwin P. Beadle and Company. As business grew, the firm moved two doors down to 141 William Street.

In 1863, they moved again to 118 William Street. but as they were moving, Irwin Beadle entered into a partnership with George Munro, and began producing, wait for it, 10-cent books. The books did have a picture of a  10-cent stamp on them instead of a picture of a dime, but still! Not only were Irwin Beadle and George Munro producing 10-cent books, but the operating name and address of the new partnership was Irwin P. Beadle & Co., 137 William Street.

This was too much for Erastus Beadle and Robert Adams. A similar name, a familiar address, and similarly named books? They took Irwin to court, seeking an injunction preventing him from calling his books Ten-Cent books and other similarities. The judge ruled in favor of the defendants (Irwin and George), but they were not use the word “Dime” in their titles.

Inside front cover, The Hunters, a ten-cent book published in November of 1863.

In the fall of 1863, the Irwin P. Beadle company issued their first novel, The Hunters. The inside of the front cover contains the wording of the settlement of the court case. The Hunters is part of my collection, and it shown below. The Sullivan Press reproduction of this book is available for sale.

Original edition on the left, reproduction on the right

By 1864, Irwin was out of the partnership with George Munro. Munro continued to publish dime books and novels, under the name of Munro’s Ten Cent Novels. Irwin never returned to business with his brother again. He dabbled in bookbinding, retiring from the publishing business in 1868. He was 42 years old.

Civil War

6/15 – Sending Money Home

Many Civil War soldiers talked about sending money home. Or receiving packages from home. How did they do it? One method of sending money was through an express agency. An express agency was an organization that delivered large and small packages from one location to another. There were several express agencies that flourished during the Civil War. One of the most prominent was the Adams Express agency, founded by Alvin Adams in Massachusetts in 1854. Another agency that was prominent at the time was American Express. I have an original American Express receipt in my collection, pictured below. Notice that on the receipt two of the partners listed are Henry Wells and William Fargo.

Original in personal collection

While the tradition of delivering large and small packages continues today, neither of these agencies are in the package delivery business. Both still exist. Adams Express is a close-end equity fund management company. Adams Express changed their name to Adams Funds in 2015. American Express, well, most people are familiar with that organization. And Wells and Fargo went into the banking business.

I had the opportunity to visit Adams Express in Baltimore some years ago, and spent a pleasant hour with their archivist/historian. He shared with me several examples of their various receipts and other paperwork. All of the paperwork he showed me did have one consistency to it – it was all printed in an orange color ink.

from Collector’s Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Lord.

The thing I found most interesting was hanging in the lobby. There were examples of money envelopes, a picture of is shown below. Money that was being sent in these envelopes was placed in the envelope and sealed in three places with wax. When the envelope arrived at its destination, the envelope was supposed to be opened on the side to get the money out and to preserve the seals, indicating that the envelope was not tampered with.

Image courtesy of Adams Funds

This envelope, hanging in the lobby at that time, is framed in such a way so that you can see the envelope has been opened on the side, and the seals remain intact. Note that the border on the envelope doesn’t go all the way around, showing that the envelope was cut open on the side.

Image courtesy of Adams Funds

The intact seals prove that the envelope was never opened from its original location to its destination. Reproductions of the Adams Express mailers are available from my website.

Civil War

6/12 – Mistake Filled Forms, and the Concerned Colonel

August Kautz was a career army man, and very detail oriented. Born in Germany, a veteran of the War with Mexico, and an 1852 graduate of West Point, he was 33 years old in 1861. Promoted to Colonel shortly after the war started, he was now in charge of a regiment, the 2nd Ohio Cavalry. And he was disgusted with the way the paperwork was being handled at the company level before being turned into regimental headquarters. Too many errors, and incorrect use of forms, were causing delays and snags, and new Colonel Kautz was mad.

But like a good schoolmaster, he wrote a series of orders to be given to his company commanders, especially the company clerks. Kautz handed out orders that said, “Here’s how to hand in morning roll call sheets. Here’s what needs to be filled out every week. Here’s what needs to be filled out every month. Here’s how to keep track of the sick, and the company fund. If you need these items, this form should be filled out and here’s who to send it to. And if you need THOSE items, THAT form should be filled out (in triplicate) and sent to this person.

This series of orders was so successful, paperwork errors virtually disappeared from the 2nd Ohio, and other commanders wanted to know how Kautz did it. Eventually he was persuaded to publish his orders in book form, which he did in 1863. That book, The Company Clerk subtitled What to Do and How to Do It, sold 13,000 copies during the war.

Original Company Clerk in the Bryn Mawr College library

I had the book reproduced in 1996, and still have copies available for sale As a side note, in 1996, one of the first customers to purchase the book was the Mormon Church. In trying to figure out why the Mormon Church would want a copy of the book, I was told that they have one of the greatest genealogical record systems in the world, and a book like “The Company Clerk” would point them to the correct forms when searching for genealogical information on Civil War soldiers.

Sullivan Press reprint edition of The Company Clerk.
Civil War

6/11 – A Draft Notice

In the Summer of 1862, the United States government closed down the recruiting offices, deciding that there were enough men in military service and no more would be needed. In early 1863, the government came to the realization that many of the men who enlisted early would be mustering out in 1863. War weariness had begun to set in, and fewer men were “answering the call.”

In March of 1863, the United States enacted a national draft. the draft proved to be very unpopular. One of the ways a man could avoid the draft was to produce a substitute (for a fee). Another way was to provide a medical reason to avoid military service.

On September 27, 1864, Zenas Delong, of Union Township in Tuscarawas county, Ohio, was drafted. Zenas DeLong was born in 1819, making him 45 years old at the time he was drafted. Zenas was able to obtain such an exemption in October by reason of “being over age”. Below is Zenas’ s draft notice, and his exemption certificate. From my collection.

Revolutionary War

6/10 – Clothing – Very Bad

The Second Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Christian Febiger, was inspected on May 25, 1779. The regiment was somewhere in the New York area at the time. The Second Virginia wasn’t inspected that day by just anyone, but by the Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm Steuben himself. On that day, there were7 officers, 6 staff, 20 non-commissioned officers, 10 musicians, and 224 privates. According to the Inspector General’s report, the regiment was 280 men short of a full compliment. The men polished their weapons, cleaned up their equipment, and presented themselves as best as they could. So, how did they do? At the bottom of the report is written, “Arms, in good order, 51 stands missing.” “Accouterments – in good order.” “Cloathing – very bad.”

So how bad DOES your clothing have to be, to earn the words: Very bad?

Revolutionary War

266,274 Musket Cartridges

Did you know that was the number of musket cartridges surrendered by the Crown forces at Yorktown in October of 1781? Someone counted them. In fact, someone counted all of the cannon balls, muskets, swords, flags, and every other piece of equipment surrendered at Yorktown. And why not? You capture an army, and all of its equipment, well, someone has to count everything to see what you have.

Accounting for an army, debits and credits. Debits were the items given out from stores to various units, and credits were the items that were turned in.

On October 8th, General Knox picked up a ream of writing paper.

It rained on the night of October 8-9th. And things got wet and were no longer usable. On October 9th, the artillery brigade turned in 350 damaged musket cartridges (probably from the rain) and Colonel Alexander Scammel’s detachment turned in 1016 damaged cartridges.  

On October 13th, Colonel Ebenezer Stevens obtained a 2-foot rule.

And on October 19th, the United States received 266,274 musket cartridges. Fortunately for us, this record is preserved in the National Archives.

Civil War

The Modern Laocoön

A Civil War period envelope, one of my favorites because it has the term “Red Tape” as a serpent on it. And who is Laocoön?

At the Siege of Troy, Laocoön begged the Trojans to set fire to the horse to ensure it was not a trick. Laocoön did not give up trying to convince the Trojans to burn the horse, and Athena made him pay even further. She sent two giant sea serpents to strangle and kill him.

Original envelope on the left, reproduction on the right.