Civil War Confederate Letters
Appraised Value: $6,000 - $12,000 (2013)
IMAGE: 1 of 9
Appraisal Video: (3:24)
Books & Manuscripts
Brattle Book Shop
GUEST: People who worked for my mother tore down an old house in Oakland, Mississippi, and they found these letters in a wooden box up in the wall of it. And they brought them to my mother, and she gave them $100 for the letters. Most of these letters are correspondence during the war, the Civil War, back and forth to family members. Particular parts of them are from a G.D. Barnes, who later became Lieutenant Barnes because he signed his letters as "Lieutenant Barnes." His early letters, he didn't sign them that way. The letters start out with him in Grenada, Mississippi. He wound up... we do have correspondence in here where he was in Kentucky, and that's where he sends his letters back as Lieutenant Barnes.
APPRAISER: There was one letter that you pointed out that was particularly interesting, I think this one here about a marriage. Tell me about that one.
GUEST: This lady's named Theo. She's writing back to her friend Lucy. She says, as rumor has it, she is to be married to a lieutenant in the 28th Mississippi in a couple of weeks, and never before has she ever detested a poor man as much in her life, but she will let her know at what date they have selected for her to marry him.
APPRAISER: So she hates him, but she's marrying him.
GUEST: She's going to have to marry him anyway, apparently.
APPRAISER: One of the things that we look for in letters is content. Do you get the idea of what the soldiers were doing? Do you get the idea of how the war was going? Do you get the idea of what the home life was like? Paper was fairly expensive, so they tended, especially in the letter closest to you on the top, you can see how they wrote very tiny because they needed to get as much in as they could. But one of the things that makes these letters particularly interesting, usually you see way, way more Union letters. First of all, they had loads of supplies. Also, there weren't many battles fought in the North, so when the letters went home, they survived. So the big thing about this is to have an archive of Confederate Southern material. I'd love to find out, did she get married? Do we know?
GUEST: Possibly if we could go continue to research through the literally hundreds of letters, we may get a follow-up on that.
APPRAISER: Well, one of the things that you should do with letters like this is maybe get them transcribed. Maybe get together with a bunch of your friends, pull them out and try to transcribe them so that you know every detail. Have you ever tried that?
GUEST: We actually tried it once and we didn't get too far. We got to reading the letters and of course we're down here in south Louisiana, you know, so the crawfish started boiling and we forgot about the letters and went on to the party.
APPRAISER: Now I guess one of the main things that we get to is what are these letters worth? Now, I know you have a whole archive, but all we're going to talk about is the six letters that are here, and I think they're spectacular letters and I think easily, you could be talking to $1,000 to $2,000 per letter. So you have six letters here, so you're probably talking $6,000 to $12,000 at a retail price of what's just here.
GUEST: Sacre tonnerre.
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