JOHN CALDWELL TIDBALL LETTER- WRITTEN FROM CAMP OPPOSITE FREDERICKSBURG, DECEMBER 12, 1862

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Letter was composed by John Caldwell Tidball (January 25, 1825 – May 15, 1906), a career military officer, noted for his service in the horse artillery in the cavalry in the Union Army during the Civil War. Letter is written on lined paper that measures 10” x 16” when fully open. Paper has yellowed with age, has fold creases, some of which are splitting. Totally legible. In this letter Tidball expresses his frustration of being overlooked for a well -deserved promotion.

Tidball was born near Wheeling, Virginia (present-day West Virginia). He grew up on a farm in eastern Ohio. He graduated tenth in the United States Military Academy Class of 1848, and entered the United States Army as a brevet second lieutenant in Company “E” of the 3rd Regiment of Artillery. Commissioned in March 1849, he transferred to Company “M” of the 2nd Regiment of Artillery. Promoted in March 1853, he transferred again, to Company “B” of the 2nd. He served in the Florida hostilities against the Seminoles, and accompanied an exploring expedition to California in 1853–54. In 1859 he was sent on the expedition to Harper's Ferry to suppress John Brown's raid.

Tidball served all through the Civil War, being brevetted five times for gallant and meritorious conduct on the field, and being complimented personally by President Abraham Lincoln for his work at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was in command of the Second Brigade Horse Artillery under Major General Alfred Pleasonton. He served in most of the major campaigns in the Eastern Theater, from the First Battle of Bull Run through the Siege of Petersburg.

At the outbreak of hostilities, he ranked as a First Lieutenant and Section Chief in Captain William F. Barry's Company “A”, 2nd Regiment of Artillery. After Barry's promotion, Tidball was promoted to Captain and became the company commander. Tidball served with his "flying" battery as part of the famed U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade from its inception in 1861 until June 1863. With slow advancement in the ranks of the regular United States Army (especially in the artillery branch), Tidball sought higher responsibilities elsewhere, by accepting a commission in the U.S. Volunteers. He was appointed Colonel of the 4th New York Artillery in August 1863, and commanded the artillery of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Overland Campaign, including the Battle of the Wilderness. He was commandant of cadets at West Point from July through September 1864, and then returned to the field, leading the artillery of the IX Corps from October 1864 until April 1865 in the Appomattox Campaign. He became a Brigadier General of volunteers and a brevet Major General in 1865.

After the war, Tidball was in active service in the Regular Army for forty more years, and was assigned to almost every army post from Alaska to Texas. He was the 3rd Commander of the Department of Alaska (which preceded the position of Governor of Alaska), and lived there for six years. He was Commandant at West Point for many years, and was Commandant at the Artillery School at Fort Monroe in Virginia, and reorganized and brought that institution to a high state of perfection. When he retired, he was regarded as the Army's premier artillerist. His 1879 instruction book, Manual of Heavy Artillery Service, served for decades as the army's guidebook to artillery strategy and operations. He also served on the staff of William T. Sherman during the latter's tenure as general-in-chief of the U.S. Army.

Text of letter reads, “Hon. John Sherman / M.S. Senate / Sir: Excuse me for trespassing on your time while I lay before you a matter which deeply concerns me—I have been a commissioned officer in the army for nearly fifteen years. Since I have held my present rank- that of captain, our military force has been increased by about nine hundred thousand men. Upon every hand I see my juniors advanced over me. I frequently have to report to and serve under those whom I rank in the regular service or who have not been in service as many months as I have years. I have not been out of sound of the guns of my battery for thirty months- an attention to duty that I am confident cannot be claimed by any other officer in service and it is probable that because I have thus attended more strictly to the interests of the service than to my own that I am left behind in promotion. I confidently assert that since this was commenced I have marched my battery more miles and taken it oftener under the enemys fire than any other battery has been in the whole United States army. When the army moved into the peninsula I was with the advance under Genl. Stoneman. When the army retired I constitute a portion of the rear guard under Avenell. Overtaking the army in Maryland I was again placed in the advance from South Mountain to within a dozen of miles of Culpepper. Almost the whole of the distance the enemy contested. When the army made it to flank movement to this place I was again placed in rear- the side upon which the enemy was. For the battles and other service I have been recommended for – I believe- four brevets. Thus far I have not been gratified with even one. Hencetofore I have-have borne it patiently and asked for nothing- as I hold that military honors and advancement should be earned and not be solicited. I find however that a contrary rule appears to prevail. Promotion is the life blood of an officer and he who disregards it is unworthy the name and he who does not resent being overslaughed- even by fictitious rank does not possess the true snap of the soldier and a service which permits such   as I complain of cannot hope to receive the smiles of Heaven upon its efforts. I therefore beg of you, as Senator from the state from which I was appointed to use your influence to see that I get my just dues and be relieved from the degradation of being constantly overslaughed- a degradation and neglect which has now become almost intolerable. Very Respectfully Your Obt. Svt. Jno. C. Tidball Capt. 2d Arty.”

Excellent campaign letter accompanied by soldier history.  [sm]

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