A mysterious, tongue-in-cheek letter from an Alabama Cavalry Sergeant to an Alabama Infantry Lieutenant written during the last weeks of the Civil War. Sgt. Robert Lanier to Lieut. Harris S. Waller.

A mysterious, tongue-in-cheek letter from an Alabama Cavalry Sergeant to an Alabama Infantry Lieutenant written during the last weeks of the Civil War

Fort Direction (Macon), Georgia to Greensboro, Alabama: March 25, 1865. Envelope or Cover.

This three-page letter was sent by Lanier to Waller just one week before the fall of Richmond and two weeks before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Its envelope is annotated on the front “Paid on the other side,” and is franked on the reverse with a 10-cent blue Jefferson Davis stamp (Keatinge & Ball Type I with curved ornaments, see CSA Catalog pp 348-350). The stamp is tied with a double-circle Macon postmark in black. The letter is in nice shape. The envelope has been neatly split on three sides; the stamp was applied over the back flap and was torn in half when first opened. A glue stain along the edge of the flap suggests that it was resealed after opening.

In the letter, Sergeant Lanier refers to the Lieutenant as “Haris” implying an unexpected familiarity, and the content is informal, uses slang, and is, at times, tongue-in-cheek:

"I am again in Macon holding fast to my bum proof position. . . . I have made and application to the Secretary of War to get on a special detail. . . . If I succeed in getting papers from Richmond I will soon return to Greensboro & then I will take unto myself a zib. I found Mrs. Phillips this morning and she has your valice and is taking good care of it. She would take me into her bed room to see it. I mean the valice. . . . I will meet you at the depot. I am afraid I am going to be sick. I have had a head ache now for days. It is no drunk head ache either. Haris I will close for I have nothing to write about. Let me hear from you soon. . . “. Good to Very Good. Item #009331

No doubt, Lanier’s reference to his “bum proof position” refers to the fact that Macon was the only city in the path of Sherman’s “bummers” march through Georgia that didn’t fall to the Union. Both Lanier’s 3rd Alabama Cavalry and Waller’s 39th Alabama Infantry were instrumental in its defense at the Battles of Dunlap Hill and Sunshine Church where the Union forces were driven away from the city. However, at the time of the letter, Lanier would have been expected to be with his unit in North Carolina, and Waller’s 39th Infantry had already surrendered. Perhaps, either or both may have been wounded as "Camp Direction" was a mobile Confederate hospital that operated in both Tennessee and Georgia (see Schroeder-Lein’s Confederate Hospitals on the Move).

In mid-19th century slang, “zib” was slang for an eccentric person, and the mention of Mrs. Phillips bed room speaks for itself. Lanier’s assurance that he did not have a “drunk head ache” suggests that he and Waller may have shared more than a drink or two in the past. And what of Lanier’s possible special detail and the contents of Waller’s mysterious valise?

All in all, a very unusual and compelling letter sent as the Confederacy was dying with multiple unanswered threads suitable for further research.

As of 2019, nothing similar is for sale in the trade, there are no auction records for similar items, and nothing similar is held in institutional collections.

Price: $500.00