West Point, New York to Springfield, Massachusetts: 1846. Envelope or Cover. This stampless folded letter is datelined “Good Friday Morn. 1846”. It was sent by Margaret Stebbins Scammon to her brother, a banker in Springfield, Massachusetts, and displays a faint red circular West Point postmark and a fancy “5” rate handstamp. In nice shape with some minor internal splitting along some folds. Transcript included. Margaret apologizes to her brother for the delay in sending him several promised barrels of beer, noting that just as her husband, Eliakim Parker Scammon, a promising Army lieutenant and professor of mathematics at the U.S. Military Academy, had sat down to write, he was summoned to an important meeting in the library by the institution’s Quartermaster. She reports that as Scammon departed to attend, he
“begs me to write for him and apologize to the best of my ability for the non-appearance of your beer. You must have thought him very neglectful and tho’ it is rather an awkward task I will tell you the whole truth. If you will have patience to wait till the end of this month, it shall then be forthcoming. He expected to order it on the 1st but our cook took it into his head to go back to the city to live, and as we had, at his own request, kept back the quarter part of his wages for 18 months, you must know our last month’s pay went with a rush, and as we are so involved on every side we wont borrow, and therefore, all parties, ourselves included, must wait till after another visit from the Paymaster for our good beer. . ..”
She also cautions him that the barrels in which the beer will be shipped are valuable,
“the value of the empty half barrels returned, is $1.50 each, and . . . are returned at any time and credited to the sender.”. Very good. Item #009644
Hudson River Valley beer was prized throughout the country during the 1830s to 1850s, especially from breweries located north of West Point in the region surrounding Albany. Perhaps, this is where the promised beer was to be brewed.
Scammon graduated high in his West Point class of 1837 and although appointed as an artillery lieutenant, he was retained at the academy to serve as an Assistant Math Professor. He later served with distinction in the Topographical Engineers in the Seminole and Mexican-American Wars. In 1854, Scammon, although not an engineer, was assigned to Santa Fe and charged with building territorial roads in New Mexico, After two years, little progress had been made and office bookkeeping was in shambles. When Scammon could not account for a $350 discrepancy, he was dismissed from the service and became first a mathematics professor at Mount St. Mary’s College and subsequently President of Cincinnati’s Polytechnic College. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Scammon volunteered his services to the governor and was appointed as the Colonel of the 23rd Ohio Volunteers and fought at Bull Run, Antietam, and South Mountain. Two future presidents served under his command, Rutherford B. Hays and William McKinley. Scammon was captured twice (once as a passenger on a Kanawha River steamboat when it was attacked Virginia partisans) and spent time in Richmond’s Libby Prison. Following the war, Scammon served a stint as the U.S Counsel to Prince Edward Island, a civil engineer for the federal government, and for many years as a professor at Seton Hall University. He died from cancer in 1894. (For more information, “Eliakim Parker Scammon” at CivilWarTalk online, “Eliakim Parker Scammon” in the Catholic Encyclopedia online, and the Army Corps of Engineer’s Vanguard of Expansion, “The Southwestern Reconnaissance 1849-1860.).