RARE 1861 AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY PRESIDENT LINCOLN, WRITING FROM THE EXECUTIVE MANSION TO HIS SECRETARY OF WAR WITHIN WEEKS OF THE UNION ARMY'S DEVASTATING LOSS AT BULL RUN
LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph letter signed. Washington, D.C., August 20, 1861. Single leaf of unlined ivory paper (8 by 9-7/8 inches), handwritten in cursive on the recto and verso, docketed on the verso. Housed in a custom half morocco folding portfolio. $26,000.
Exceptional August 1861 autograph letter penned entirely in Lincoln's hand, signed by him in the first year of the war and mere weeks after the Union loss at Bull Run, written to Secretary of War Cameron regarding the appointment of John Huntington, from a distinguished Connecticut family, to the position of Assistant Quarter-Master of the Army, beautifully housed in a custom half morocco portfolio featuring a handsome engraved portrait of Lincoln.
This 1861 letter from President Lincoln to Secretary of War Simon Cameron is dated less than six months after the attack on Fort Sumter and the month after the Union Army's defeat at Bull Run. The letter, entirely in Lincoln's precise cursive with his bold signature, reads in full: "Executive Mansion August 20, 1861 Hon. Sec. of War, Sir. Mr. John M. Huntington calls on me this morning saying that several weeks ago I indorsed [sic] on his application to be an Assistant Quarter-Master in the Army these words to wit 'Mr. Huntington is presented for the position of Assistant Quarter-Master in the Army. I herewith send letter and papers, recommending him for a different appointment, as showing his position and standing. If there is a vacancy, I think his appointment would be a very proper one.' He also says Senator McDougall in his letter, asks for the appointment, as a personal favor to himself—If these things be found to be correctly stated, let the appointment be made—Yours truly [signed] A. Lincoln."
In July, the month before this letter, California Senator James McDougall had written Lincoln to say: "John M. Huntington Esq is the only living descendant of Samuel Huntington one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I have known him for years in California as an able, talented and upright gentleman, and the nominee of the Whig State Convention of 1852 for the Supreme Bench of said State: as such I ask his appointment as Assistant Quarter Master of the United States Army, and will regard his appointment as a personal favor to myself, knowing him to be fully qualified and worthy of the position." McDougall may have been misinformed regarding Huntington's descent from Samuel Huntington, the Connecticut delegate who signed the Declaration of Independence. While they were of the same distinguished family, Huntington's great-grandfather was Jabez Huntington, Samuel's second cousin. Jabez Huntington was a major general in the Connecticut militia during the Revolution, and John Huntington had another important familial connection in his uncle Jabez Williams Huntington, who served in the Connecticut legislature and represented Connecticut in the U.S. Congress during the 1830s and 40s.
That same July, President Lincoln had written on Senator McDougall's letter to him, saying: "Mr. John M. Huntington is presented as an Assistant Regimental Quarter Master in the Army. To show his standing and position, I send papers recommending him for a different office. If there be a vacancy, I think his appointment would be a very proper one. July 25 '61 A. Lincoln." Two days later Huntington had delivered a package in further support of his appointment to Secretary of War Simon Cameron. It included that letter, as well as letters signed by Senators Milton Latham and James McDougall, and by Senators James Dixon and Lafayette Foster of Connecticut addressed to the Secretary of the Navy, as well as letters by Republican presidential elector Charles Washburn, and John Satterlee, chairman of the Republican Committee of California to President Lincoln, all recommending Huntington's appointment.
On August 3, Huntington and Senator Foster visited the War Department, where Foster told Colonel Thomas Scott, who had that day been appointed Assistant Secretary of War, that he had known Huntington from his childhood and that Huntington's testimonials were "of the most ample and satisfactory character." Ten days after this August 21 letter from Lincoln, Huntington received his appointment as an Assistant Quartermaster, serving for the next three years in Ohio and western Virginia. In September 1862, a Virginia Unionist in the 6th Virginia Volunteer Infantry sent a letter to the editors of the Daily Intelligencer in Wheeling, (West) Virginia, from Clarksburg. In the letter, the volunteer wrote: "Capt. J. M. Huntington…has introduced a novel, nevertheless, a good thing in Clarksburg. He has provided all his employees with arms and has them drilled every day by competent officers of our regiment, in order, should the enemy make his appearance, to defend the property of 'Uncle Sam.' He made a little speech to them Saturday evening, which convinced me that he is an honest and efficient officer, a true Union man, and the right man in the right place." Huntington was honorably discharged on May 20, 1864, and he died on October 10, 1864, in Marietta, Ohio.
Less than six months after this letter to Secretary of War Cameron, Lincoln confronted the problems caused by Cameron's leadership and called for his resignation, replacing him with Edwin Stanton. Original leaf with faint foldlines; letter on the recto right half, continued on the verso. Small notations on recto left half; docketed on verso left: "August 21, 1861. John M. Huntington For appointment as Asst. Qr M. by President Lincoln." With date of "1861" above the docketed entry in red ink, along with notation at bottom also in red ink, dated "October 4, 1866."
An impressive presidential autograph letter with the vivid large signature of "A. Lincoln."