Envelope or Cover. Two-page letter and endorsement enclosed within a stampless cover. The letter was written by Justus Ingersoll on 6 December 1841 and endorsed by General Winfield Scott on 17 December before forwarding to the Secretary of War, John C. Spencer. The endorsement is signed “Winfield Scott", and a postscript is initialed, “W. S.” The cover bears a circular “Detroit / Mich” postmark dated December 10 and a “FREE” handstamp. Additionally, a 5¼“ x 8”print of Scott as a Lieutenant General is included. It was engraved and published by J. C. Buttre of New York, circa 1863. Everything is in nice shape.
Ingersoll’s request reads in part:
“I do hope and trust General that it will be your good pleasure to give me the appointment at this place – of Military Store Keeper: as I candidly do not know how to support my family otherwise. [You] gave it to me before; at the last reduction I lost my place. I did suppose it was permanent. Do General, give me this situation for seeing that I have served my country. . .. I cannot perform manual labor, on account of my wounds.”
Scott, who did not have the authority to appoint Ingersoll to the position forwarded the request to the Secretary of War with an endorsement that reads in part:
“Judge Ingersoll having made the mistake of supposing the appointment to be in me, ought not to prevent me from laying his letter before the proper authority, and accordingly I beg leave to submit it to the Secretary of War – with [these] Remarks.
" Judge Ingersoll served gallantly and efficiently in the campaign of the Niagara, 1814, and was disabled by wounds. He, however, has vigor and activity sufficient for the employment in question. His moral character is also excellent. I consider him as having high claims upon the country and the War Department. . ..
“I do not ask the removal of Major Webb. I know nothing against him, but suppose him to be worthy of his place. My recommendation of Judge Ingersoll is general. . ..”. Very good. Item #010140
Scott’s reference to Ingersoll’s gallant and efficient performance in “the campaign of the Niagara, 1814” suggest that Ingersoll served within his command at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in Canada near Niagara Falls.
Scott was the most important officer ever to serve in the U.S. Army and served from 1808 until 1861. Astonishingly, he was a general officer for 47 of those 53 years and during that time was principally responsible for American success in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. He was diplomatically astute and played a key role in diffusing the Patriot War, the Nullification Crisis, and implementing the Indian Removal as humanely as possible. As well, although Scott did not command forces during the Civil War, it was his Anaconda Plan the split the Confederacy in two and ultimately strangled the eastern half by capturing the Mississippi River and, somewhat less effectively blockading Southern ports.
I have been unable to determine if Ingersoll’s request was granted by John C. Spencer. However, as an interesting aside. Spencer’s son, Philip, is more famous (well, actually notorious) than his father. Philip was an incorrigible, wild, and uncontrollable young man who as a boy was fascinated by pirates. After expulsions from Geneva (now Hobart) and Union Colleges (where he founded Chi Psi ( ) fraternity, his father, by then the War Secretary, easily purchased a midshipman’s commission for Philip in the U.S. Navy. Continuing his horrendous behavior, Philip was removed from two vessels, the USS North Carolina and the USS John Adams for drunkenness, insubordination, and brawling. However, he was not cashiered because of his father’s position. He ended up aboard the USS Somers where he rapidly alienated the captain and other officers and became drinking and smoking buddies with the crew, especially two sailor swhom it was rumored had previously served on slavers and with pirates. After the men’s behavior suggested they were plotting to mutiny, seize the Somers to use as a pirate ship, their belongs were searched. Unfortunately for them, the search turned up an incriminating slip of paper in Philip’s shaving kit that was written in Greek, and all were shackled to the foredeck. The next morning, after a deliberation between the captain and his other officers, they were hanged from the yardarm without court-martial. Their hanging was well-published throughout the country, and although public opinion was split, the captain and officers were exonerated by a court of inquiry. Philip’s execution was the driving force that stopped the navy’s on-board sea training of boys and young men to become officers and led to the establishment of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Herman Mehlville, whose cousin was an officer aboard the USS Somers and a first -hand witness of Philip’s hanging, based Billy Budd upon the incident.
(For more information see, Graves’s The Battle of Lundy's Lane, On the Niagara in 1814, McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, “Scott, Winfield” in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Melton’s A Hanging Offense: The Strange Affair of the Warship Somers.)
Documents and letters signed by Scott are scarce. At the time of listing, there are three signed letters for sale in the trade, and the Rare Book Hub shows that four have been sold at auction since 2000. OCLC reports Scott letters are held at only four institutions..