$4,750.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 846-176

This identified Confederate officer’s haversack is beautifully and boldly inscribed in period brown ink across the underside of its cloth-lined flap: “Major Eustis / A. A. Gen’l / Gen’l J.E. Johnston’s / Staff.” James Biddle Eustis served in key positions alongside several of the most famous Confederate Generals from late 1861 to the very end of the war. He was with Magruder on the Peninsula and at the recapture of Galveston, the only major port still in Confederate hands at the end of the war. He was with Johnston twice: first from 1863 to late 1864, as Johnston coped with Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg and Sherman’s campaign against Atlanta. He then served in the same capacity with Hood, until summoned to act as Assistant Inspector General with Beauregard in his new position as head of the Department of the West, supervising both Hood and Dick Taylor. Lastly, he was summoned again by Johnston when he was returned to command in early 1865 in the last ditch effort to defeat Sherman in the Carolinas. We owned this once before and are proud to offer it again. Haversacks were utilitarian items and so useful after the war for everything from satchels to school book bags that the survival rate is very low for any. This is especially rare as Confederate, and both identified and inscribed to an officer with significant service.

This is a typical commercially produced haversack for private sale to officers, who (on both sides) had to supply their own uniforms, arms, and equipment. Constructed with a brown leather body and strap, the body is lined with blue-striped, heavy-weave white cotton cloth, forming two interior pockets, one leather- bound along the upper edge, the other, closest to flap, having tarred canvas as an additional waterproofing measure or to prevent any leaking through of dirt, grease, or liquids, whether ink for making out important documents or the contents of a pocket flask. Where enlisted haversacks were largely for foodstuffs, the officer’s version often served as a portable office as well, with maps, dispatch pads and note books, blank orders, pencils, pens, portable inkwells, etc.

The carrying strap was fixed to the body by a brass ring at either upper rear corner that was secured to the body with a sewn leather billet. The sewn bases of the billets are in place. One has a tear near the top and the top of the other is missing. The strap is now detached. Only a section remains, but it preserves one of the rings and displays well with the bag laid out flat.

The body is well-constructed with bound edges and seams and broad bottom for expansion. Body and flap are profusely punch-decorated with lines of asterisk stake marks and circles with radiating lines, the latter actually being two “eyelash” stamps back to back. The flap has a straight border below its top and lower edges. Two other broad concave lines connect the upper and lower borders on either side of the latch tab. The body of the bag is similarly decorated on its lower half, where it would below a fastened flap, with a line of the same markings along the sides and bottom edges. An upper line follows the contour of the edge of the flap, and from it descend an arc of those stamps on either side of the fastening buckle, spreading out and mixing with the bottom line. The bottom of the bag is decorated with the same stamps as the flap and face. The fastening tab has broken off at the third hole, but the rest of it is inside the bag. The horseshoe-shaped buckle is still in place. The fastening tab is sewn to the flap with a circle of stitching, something often associated with English leather goods and there is a very good chance this came into Eustis’s hands on board a blockade runner. The haversack displays like gangbusters when laid out flat with the flap open to show Eustis’s inscription on the inside of the flap.

James Biddle Eustis (1834-1899) came from a well-connected Louisiana family. When British officer Arthur Fremantle, touring the south in 1863, encountered Eustis he referred to him as a “Louisianan of wealth (formerly,)” who retained a French-speaking black servant in the army. Eustis’s father was a lawyer and Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, and J.B. Eustis, like an older brother, George, was a graduate of Harvard Law School (1854.) He was admitted to the Louisiana bar, and practiced law in New Orleans starting in 1856. At the beginning of the war George Eustis was military aide and secretary to former Louisiana Senator Slidell, and was captured with him aboard the RMS Trent, sparking an international crisis, and later followed him to Paris as part of the Confederate mission there. James B. Eustis may have had some similar early service to an official or even served in a state military unit, but he first shows up in Confederate military records as an Aide-de-Camp to General John B. Magruder on December 31, 1861, with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. His rank dated to November 28, with a note that he was on leave in January, likely dealing with affairs in New Orleans, captured soon after by Ben Butler. (Likely accounting for Fremantle’s mention of him as “formerly” wealthy.)

Eustis acceptance of the appointment dates to April, but that may be a matter of paperwork. Magruder favorably mentions him as aide-de-camp in his May 3, 1862, report on the siege of Yorktown and Eustis was likely involved in Magruder’s acclaimed delaying actions against McClellan at the Warwick River, Lee’s Mill, Dam No. 1, and Yorktown. Eustis would also have been with Magruder during his less well regarded performance in the Seven Days Battles, where he appeared overly cautious at Savage Station and showed a combination of slowness, disorganization and misapplied aggressiveness in the disastrous assaults at Malvern Hill.

Magruder was sent to take command of the District of Texas in October 1862 and obtained a promotion to Major for Eustis and appointment to his staff as Acting Assistant Adjutant General. Magruder praised not only Eustis’s experience and knowledge of the country, but also his “business habits,” a key element in an officer responsible for all the official business of headquarters including, “all orders of the General, and every matter of detail affecting the command,” in Kautz’s summary of that officer’s duty. Eustis’s abilities seem to have been respected and well known. A November 24, 1862, order details him to duty with Johnston, who later appointed him twice to his staff, but this first attempt seems to have been rescinded for Magruder appointed Eustis Acting Ordnance Officer on November 29 in the lead-up to his attack on Galveston, which he successfully recovered for the Confederacy on January 1, 1863, mentioning Eustis in his official report.

Eustis remained with Magruder until May 1863, when Johnston again sought him out. On May 9 Johnston was ordered to Mississippi to take “chief command of the forces in the field,” in an effort to counter Grant advances on Vicksburg. Johnston ordered Eustis the same day to the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, making him technically part of Pemberton’s command, which Johnston had hoped would combine forces with him. Perhaps Eustis was intended to aid that plan, but Pemberton remained and by June 22 Eustis was on Johnston’s staff as Assistant Adjutant General, a position he held later with Hood.

Eustis’s background in law played a part in Johnston’s eventual appointment as Judge Advocate on Johnston’s staff, a position he held by Jan. 20, 1864, but it earlier played a part in the order dated at Jackson, Miss., June 22, 1863, which pinpoints him on Johnston’s staff, and also placed him in the middle of a tragic and horrifying situation.  In that order Johnston announces Eustis “will have charge of the business connected with the Military Court and Courts Martial in this Command….” After the fall of Vicksburg in July, Johnston was still at Jackson, but being forced back by Sherman. A soldier who had deserted a regiment seeing no action at home in Georgia in order to join a cavalry regiment that was actually fighting at the front was caught, tried, convicted of desertion and sentenced to be shot. No one expected the sentence. Even the soldier’s old regimental commander took up a petition for clemency that Eustis twice tried to present to Johnston, who waved it off. The man, who had even returned himself to custody after separated from his guards in a storm, was executed, to the horror of many, and perhaps all. Eustis’s reaction is not recorded. He went on medical leave for several weeks in August, which was perhaps a coincidence. The incident must certainly have been on his mind in some fashion in January 1864 when he accepted appointed as Judge Advocate on Johnston’s staff, a post held until shortly before Johnston’s replacement by Hood in July 1864 near Atlanta.

Under Hood, Eustis continued to serve as A.A.G. at army headquarters, giving him a continued view of the army’s operations at the highest level and he appears again in Hood’s attempts draw the Union army north after the fall of Atlanta by attacking Sherman’s supply lines. In October 1864 Hood surrounded the small Union garrison at Dalton, mostly comprised of black troops of the 44th USCT and threatened to take no prisoners unless the place surrendered unconditionally. Eustis was one of the Confederate emissaries who met with the garrison commander to assure him of their overwhelming strength, just as Hood had also assured him that he would make no effort to restrain his troops if the garrison put up a fight.

Just as Dalton was surrendering, however, Eustis was ordered to transfer to the staff of Beauregard, who had been given command of the “Department of the West,” embracing the armies of Hood and Dick Taylor. As Assistant Inspector General Eustis vainly tried to help Beauregard organize opposition to the armies of Thomas and Sherman, until Johnston was returned to duty in February and once again called upon him. Rejoining Johnston’s staff as Aide-de-Camp in March, Eustis was with Johnston for his last efforts against Sherman and the surrender of the army and remaining troops in the eastern theatre in late April, taking a parole on April 28, 1865.

After the war Eustis returned to his legal practice in New Orleans and turned to politics, serving as a state representative and senator as well as two terms in the U.S. senate. He taught law at the University of Louisiana and practiced in Washington, DC, as well. From 1893 to 1897, he was “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to France.” He settled in New York City and died at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1899.

This is a wonderful piece of Confederate officers’ field gear carried an officer of wide service at the side of prominent historical figures.  [sr]









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