by (CIVIL WAR -- CAMP DOUGLAS, CHICAGO). ORMSBY, John H. (1841-1902).
This Union soldier with Company G of the 101st Regiment of Indiana Volunteers was mustered in August 1862 as a private and mustered out as a sergeant in July 1865; in later years he served as a Wells County, Indiana school superintendent and circuit court clerk. Good content ALS, 3pp (lettersheet), 8" X 10", Chicago, IL, 3 June 1863. Addressed to Lucas F. Smith (1844-1924). Very good. Single lengthy tear near letterhead gutter neatly, archivally closed, thus discreet and inoffensive. Writing from Camp Douglas, the controversial POW camp known as "The North's Andersonville" because of the harsh weather conditions and higher-than-average mortality rate (17%). "It is not necessary for me to Give you my political opinion from the fact I agree with you to a demonstration. What Gets me is to see these Processions headed with Negroes or Negroes connected with them at all. Why if I was Going to be buried I would rather a dog to piss on me than have a set at Negroes following me around. oh is it not ridiculous And I do firmly believe the Negroes will soon have a vote. they have voted already in Ohio of cours there is a great many deny it but those very d___n cusses who deny it are in favor of it. And there is boys in my Co. here who were home at the Presidential Election in Ohio And saw them vote. you thought it very hard for a white man to humble himself with a Negro. It is very true it is hard for a man, but there is a set of beings on things that the Negro is to Good for them. unless I alter my opin[ion] I will never help bury an Ab[olitionis]t unless it would be to keep the Hogs from eating them...." As for Camp Douglas, Ormsby notes: "you see from the heading of my letter that I am with the Provost Guard I do not have but very little to do I make the detail and that is about all... We live pretty well here...." By this time the semi-notorious POW camp had passed its heyday, had then been used as temporary housing for parolees awaiting exchange and sat largely empty, housing as few as fifty Confederate prisoners. Most interesting perhaps are Ormsby's comments about "the fair," which although unnamed might be the very first "Sanitary Fair" organized by Mary Livermore and Jane Hoge as a fund-raiser for the newly-created Unites States Sanitary Commission created by women of the North to support Union soldiers. Notes one source, "The Chicago Sanitary Fair opened on October 27, 1863. People paid seventy-five cents to come to see all the exhibits and have a meal. Prominent women in Chicago served as hostesses for the meals. Exhibits were on display in halls. One hall had Confederate flags and war relics. Another hall had an art gallery. Another hall had farm equipment. Other halls had things for sale that had been donated. Pianos, toys, clothes, and food were just a few of the things for sale. President Lincoln gave a handwritten copy of his Emancipation Proclamation. It sold for $3,000!" This fair was also known as the "Northwestern Sanitary Fair," and other contemporary sources cite the opening as the end of May. Ormsby writes in June that "the fair is Going on here now and we are haveing quite a lively time. There is any amount of Girls comes to see me every day. the Guards I have hired are Guarding the fair Building and at Night there is no person in but my Guards and I tell you the ice cream cake and Pie and so on has to suffer...." He chats a bit about friends in his old regiment and tells Smith to "Please write soon" and direct letters to him at "Co. B, 8th Regiment V.R.C. / Camp Douglas / Chicago / Ill." The original envelope is present and Ormsby addresses it to his friend Smith at "Co. G, 101st Ind Vol / 2nd Brig. 3rd Div 14th A.C." in Washington, DC. Legibly penned in brown ink on lightly lined stock, this superb letter bears interesting original content on race relations of the day, on Camp Douglas and on the first Sanitary Fair in the country. Smith was an Indiana printer with the "Bluffton Banner" newspaper, but after the war became a well-known attorney in Texas and a civil servant who rose up to the Texas supreme court, later moving to northern California to practice law.
(Inventory #: 42551)
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