Civil War

Great Letters and Artifacts of James B. Ricketts, Civil War Artillery Officer Wounded Four Times at First Battle of Bull Run, including "Pieces of the Last United States Flag Which Waved Over the Capitol of Richmond, Va. in 1861" and a Dramatic Telegram “Not dangerously wounded, Left on the field to be taken prisoner or killed there”

Great Letters and Artifacts of James B. Ricketts, Civil War Artillery Officer Wounded Four Times at First Battle of Bull Run, including "Pieces of the Last United States Flag Which Waved Over the Capitol of Richmond, Va. in 1861" and a Dramatic Telegram “Not dangerously wounded, Left on the field to be taken prisoner or killed there”


This fascinating group of items highlights the thrilling Civil War activities of one of the Civil War's most famous actors, Major General James B. Ricketts, and his wife, Fanny Ricketts, who accompanied her wounded husband to the infamous Confederate Libby Prison and nursed him and other wounded soldiers there. The archive, mostly handed down through relatives many years ago, includes her detailed eight-page handwritten story, as well as three Autograph Letters Signed by James B. Ricketts, one Telegram, one letter to the widow Ricketts, several newspaper articles, a photograph James B. Ricketts, and an amazing period framed relic of "Pieces of the last United States Flag which waved over the Capitol at Richmond, Va. in 1861 given me while in prison there in August 1861."


Accompanying the flag is a cabinet card of Ricketts who was shot four times and captured at the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. He was confined in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, and Fanny was allowed to travel to Richmond and stay with him as his nurse. He was later exchanged for a Confederate officer on December 18, 1861. In addition to the cabinet card are several articles, one of which is entitled "Six Months in the Enemy's Lines," a note sent to Libby Prison from "Office of Frank Leslie's Publications," from New York and dated 1862. Leslie had sent Fanny a clipping entitled "Release of Captain Ricketts." Below the article is written "From the Richmond Examiner." Also in the archive is a retained copy of a letter Fanny sent to a "Miss Flagg" who had inquired about her missing brother after the Battle of Bull Run. In the letter, Fanny wrote, "I left Washington the third morning after the fatal battle, accompanied by a driver and found my wounded husband, Capt. Ricketts, in a stone house near the battle field where over a hundred of our badly wounded brave soldiers had been taken, among them your brother who was shot through the body & one leg." She explains that the wounded were placed on a train to Richmond "exposed to...intense heat...on open boxcars used for freight. Soon after leaving Gordonsville & perhaps a mile from the station, your husband died. The person in charge of the prisoners removed him from the cars which ran slowly while his body wrapped in a blue Army blanket fell to the side of the track. Never can I forget the horror & bitterness of feeling with which I gazed my poor wounded husband's face to that of your brave brother, our companion in misery & this left!" The heart of this remarkable archive is an eight-page handwritten account by Fanny of her Civil War nursing activities.

The following excerpts provide a glimpse of her story.


"Realizing his condition prevented escape from capture, he begged Lieut. Baker to cut off his sash and take it with his sword to me, saying 'I will never surrender my sword, take it to my wife, tell her I have done my duty, my last thoughts are of her and our child.'"


"The horrors of that drive over the battlefield strewn with putrefying, swollen corpses of men and horses in the hot July sun baffle description, also my entrance into the Hall while a man was being amputated on a dining room table, arterial blood spouting and sprinkling the ceiling and walls, as I ascended the stairs to a room so small that for nearly three weeks its seven occupants touched each other while sleeping on its bare floor! Genl. Ricketts alone was on a stretcher wrapped in one of his own red artillery blankets, his Army hat bandaging his cut forehead and generally unconscious from his wound not having spoken that day...but as I knelt by his side, he drew me down saying 'My wife, I knew you would come.'"


"On arrival...President Lincoln, his cabinet and members of Congress, personally called....The Secretary of War gave me a general pass...which enabled me to spend four years of war chiefly in camps or on battlefields, while keeping open house in Washington as a hospital for all my wounded friends."


Civil War General James B. Ricketts sends a telegram that he is alive after being wounded and captured at the First Battle of Bull Run, accepts promotion after the war, and writes two heartfelt letters to his daughter. After Ricketts’s death, Civil War naval hero John J. Almy writes to Ricketts’s widow.


More Highlights of the Archive


-- James B. Ricketts, Telegram, to Mrs. C. L. King, July 23, 1861, Washington, D.C. 1 p. on American Telegraph Company form, 8.25" x 5.5".

“Not dangerously wounded Left on the field to be taken prisoner or killed there”


Ricketts had commanded Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery, at the Battle of Bull Run. It was one of two batteries ordered to advance to the vicinity of Henry House Hill. There it came under fire from Confederate snipers in the Henry House. The battery fired on the house and killed the elderly bedridden Mrs. Henry, literally blowing her out of the house. Confederate infantry eventually overran the battery and captured all six of its newly issued Parrott Rifles, a rifled cannon invented by West Point graduate Captain Robert Parker Parrott.


Ricketts remained a Confederate prisoner until exchanged in December 1861.


-- James B. Ricketts, Autograph Letter Signed, to Adjutant General, United States Army, September 18, 1866, Washington, D.C. 1 p., 7.75" x 9.75".


“The commission of Brevet Major General, this day received, is hereby accepted, and the prescribed oath enclosed.”


On July 17, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Ricketts for appointment to brevet major general to rank from March 13, 1865. The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on July 23, 1866. Two months later, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas sent the commission to Ricketts, to which this letter is his reply.


-- James B. Ricketts, Autograph Letter Signed, to daughter Frances Brewerton Ricketts, May 19, [1886], Washington, D.C., 3 pp., 4.5" x 6.75".


“I am delighted with your dear letter and the charming account of your country surroundings and more than thankful to Mr & Mrs. Mitchell for their unremitting [?] and attention.... Your dear Mother is busy today, assisting Mrs Logan after the Garden party which was a great success clearing over a thousand dollars, notwithstanding a heavy rain.... Your dear Grandmother seems much better today, and I am growing stronger and am able to take daily walks.”


Frances Brewerton Ricketts (1866-1946) was born in Washington, D.C., and in 1888, she married Chauncey Rea Burr (1862-1923) at the Church of the Holy Communion in New York City.


On May 18, 1886, Mary Simmerson Cunningham Logan (1838-1923), the wife of Senator and 1884 Republican vice-presidential candidate John A. Logan (1826-1886) of Illinois, hosted a garden party in aid of the Garfield Hospital, and Frances Ricketts was in charge of the “supper room,” which was “beautifully decorated with flags, flowers and plants.” The Garfield Hospital had been established in Washington, D.C., in 1881, as a memorial to President James Garfield, killed earlier that year by an assassin.

-- James B. Ricketts, Autograph Letter Signed + Envelope, to daughter Frances Brewerton Ricketts, n.d. (ca. 1880s). 2 pp., 4.5" x 7".


“I was delighted with your sweet note which I have sent to your dear Mother who will be very glad to get it. Basil is up early and goes by the morning Boat to Boston, returning Sunday morning.... Of course I miss my darling, but feel better since I am assured you are having such a pleasant visit and please present my thanks and kind regards to Mrs Davis.”


Basil Norris Ricketts (1868-1910) was the youngest child of James and Frances Ricketts. He served and was wounded in the Rough Riders under the command of Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.


-- John J. Almy, Autograph Letter Signed, to Mrs. Frances Lawrence Ricketts, December 31, 1893, Washington, D.C. 4 pp., 3.625" x 4.5".


“Many, many thanks for your dear precious little Paper Cutter, which arrived safely and which I shall always treasure. It will be used only to separate leaves of reading matter which contains pure, elevated, and instructive thoughts, such as always pervade the mind of the generous and thoughtful giver.”


John Jay Almy (1815-1895) was born in Newport, Rhode Island, and became a midshipman in the U.S. Navy in 1829. Commissioned a lieutenant in 1841, he took part in the siege and capture of Vera Cruz during the Mexican War. He participated in the coast survey in the 1850s and was commissioned a Commander in 1861. While in command of the USS Connecticut during the Civil War, he captured four blockade-running steamers and destroyed four others. He continued to rise in rank after the war, including to Rear Admiral in 1873, when he took command of the U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific. He retired in April 1877, having completed nearly twenty-eight years of sea service, the longest credited to any officer of the Navy to that time.


James B. Ricketts (1817-1887) was born in New York City and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1839. He married Harriet Pierce (1817-1854), niece of future President Franklin Pierce, in 1840, and they had one child in 1842. During the Mexican War, Ricketts participated in the Battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. Promoted to captain in 1853, he served in Florida against the Seminoles and in Texas. After his first wife died, Ricketts married Frances Lawrence (1835-1900) in 1856, and they had at least three children. In 1861, he aided in the defenses of Washington, D.C. At the First Battle of Bull Run, Ricketts was shot four times and captured after Confederate infantry overran his battery. He was imprisoned in Richmond and exchanged in December 1861. On April 30, 1862, President Lincoln appointed Ricketts a brigadier general of volunteers. He commanded a division in the Second Battle of Bull Run and had two horses killed under him at the Battle of Antietam, the second of which fell on and badly injured him. While recuperating, he served on the court-martial board of Fitz John Porter. He returned to the field in March 1864, commanding a division of John Sedgwick’s corps in the Army of the Potomac. Ricketts received a brevet promotion to colonel in the regular army for his actions at Cold Harbor in June. His troops opposed Jubal Early’s attack on Washington, D.C. at the Battle of Monocacy. For his actions there, Ricketts received promotion to major general of volunteers. At the Battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864, he received a wound in the chest that disabled him for life. He returned to command two days before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. In 1866, he received promotions to brevet brigadier general and then breve major general in the regular army for “gallant and meritorious service in the field.” He retired from active service in January 1867 and served on courts-martial until January 1869. He lived in Washington, D.C. for the rest of his life.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.



Item: 67714

Price: $15,000.00
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