PRE-CIVIL WAR AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED — MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER HAYES

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Written as a USMA Cadet. Dated Camp Totten, West Point, N.Y., July 30th 1843. Addressed to Mrs. Eliza Henderson, Mercer County PA. Red sealing wax trace, post-marked “WEST-IGINT/JULY 31/ NY”, with red sealing wax. 3 pp. in ink, 8 x 9.75”. Exhibits fold-lines, & light soiling & yellowing, & small margin tear of portion folded for envelope address. Else VG.

Text: “Dear Madam………I never was good at apologies and although I have great need of one at present, to offer you for my long omission to write, I will not make the attempt, but throw myself entirely upon your clemency, hoping you will put the best construction upon my explanation, and then, if in your opinion I have erred remember “To err is human, to forgive in divine”. Your letter was received as I was preparing for what I suppose d was to be one of the strictest examinations ever held at this institution and the result showed I was not mistaken—Ten of my class were found deficient in studies, leaving but twenty-two out of ninety-six who entered with me three years ago.

Immediately after examination we marched into camp, since which time I have not had an hour’s leisure until to-day. When it commenced raining and prevented us from attending to all our ordinary duties—I never was so pleased to see rain—everything needs it—the grass upon the plain was so dry that we set it on fire several times yesterday firing the cannon and extinguished it wifh difficulty.

You have visited West Point during the encampment and probably know how we pass the time—We certainly the greatest variety of any place in the Union. And that of this summer so far has been more than usually interesting—cheap travelling, together with the local attractions has brought us a great number of visitors, among whom I wish I could number some of my friends—Mr Wier exhibited his National Picture of the ‘Embarcation of the Pilgrims” yesterday. It is the product of six years study and labor, and by far the most splendid thing I ever beheld. If you ever go within five hundred miles of Washington, go to see it, and it will repay you for your trouble. I believe I am not easily moved to tears, but I must confess I was weak enough to shed them as I gazed upon it. Any description I could give it would only detract from it merit. I will be placed in the Rotunda in a short time and the owner will pocket ten thousand dollars unless his competitors have engaged super-human aid.

A short time ago, I sent you one of our good Parsons addresses to the corps. I thought you would probably like to see the manner in which he continues to control us, and which does to a much greater extent than any of his predecessors He had been to the corps what father Mathew was to Ireland and left no grounds for the very grievous charge frequently preferred that the corps of Cadets were too fond of spirituous liquors.

If it is in my power, nothing would give me more pleasure than occasionally to write something that would interest you in return for any number of such epistles as the one I received from you. I am afraid however that it is not in my power to be anything but dry and interesting.

I received a letter some time ago from Mr. Pearson and he appears to think the children are happy and content. Your opinion however I valued more, because I know you would not fail to notice might possibly escape the observation of a partial husband. Disposed to put the best construction upon every action of a wife. I had no fears that Mrs. Pearson would act otherwise than should expected and now that I rely on it with certainty, I believe I have not no further care if I had found Mrs. Pearson’s acquaintance, independent of the relations in which we now stand, I could not avoid respecting her for qualities she possesses, and should she prove to Ellen’s children, what I have every reason to hope she will, my gratitude will be boundless.

Of one thing I am extremely sorry, and if the far___with me I would most gladly remove it. In the letters which I have received from Mr. Pearson, since his marriage I though I observe a want of that cordiality which characterized his letters in former times. They are also much more infrequent. He may, and I believe does think the same of mine. If there is any reality in what I state, it arises entirely from misunderstanding, at least as far as I am concerned. My felling towards Mr. Pearson were not altered one iota by his marriage. I approved it as the best step he could have taken, and approve his choice. I loved him like a brother, do so yet, and ever will.

You may tell Sam, I will write to him in a few days. As for Branton I believe I’ll cut his acquaintance. I see where ‘by the papers’ that the boy is getting along very well and we will make friends when I go home again/ Your sincere friend/ A. Hays. “

Born in 1819, Alexander Hays attended West Point, graduating with the class of 1844, a year behind U.S. Grant, one of his best West Point friends. During the Civil war Hayes divisional command and distinguished himself with his handling of the Third Corps / Second Division in the defending of the Union “Angle” during the Pickett’s charge. When the Third and Second Corps were merged prior to Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign, Hayes reverted to Brigade command. It was in this capacity that he was killed in the Wilderness, May 5, 1864 at the intersection of the Brock and Orange Plank Roads. He was later buried in Pittsburgh.

West Point letters of noted CW commanders are scarce. Solid ALS, fine collectible.

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