“MOTHER – KEEP THIS,” THE TEMPERANCE PLEDGE OF INGRAHAM SMITH, 121st NEW YORK“MOTHER – KEEP THIS,” THE TEMPERANCE PLEDGE OF INGRAHAM SMITH, 121st NEW YORK

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Item Code: 480-177

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A nicely lithographed membership certificate for the “U.S.A. Temperance Union,” sent home by a Union private to his mother, showing that he was behaving himself and avoiding the temptations of army life. The certificate has a patriotic eagle, U.S. flag, and ribbon reading, Union and Temperance” in full color at top, and is filled out and signed by Ingraham P. Smith, Co. G, 121st New York. Dated November 25, 1863, Smith took the pledge of total abstinence from alcohol the day before the national day of Thanksgiving proclaimed by President Lincoln after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Smith enlisted on 8/8/1862 at age 18 at Middlefield, NY, and mustered into Co. G of the 121st NY as a private. The regiment was an incredibly hard-fighting unit, nicknamed Upton’s Regulars. It suffered an astounding 14 officers and 212 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in battles ranging from Fredericksburg and Salem Church, Rappahannock Station, Wilderness and especially at Spottsylvania in the assaults of May 10 and May 12, followed by Petersburg, service in the Valley and fighting at Cedar Creek, Petersburg again and Sailor’s Creek, where it broke the Confederate line. When many of the routed Confederates were gathered up by the cavalry, a member of the corps remarked, “you have picked up the apples, but the Sixth Corps shook the tree for you.”

Smith survived to muster out on 6/25/65 at Halls Hill, Va. Some of Smith’s letters are at Binghamton University and indicate he was hospitalized for sickness from early 1863 to early 1864, but returned in time for Grant’s Overland Campaign. They also indicate he suffered a gunshot wound to the cheek in the regiment’s charge against the “Mule Shoe” Salient at Spottsylvania on May 10, when Emory Upton, the regiment’s old commander, led twelve massed regiments in a bayonet assault that breached the Confederate line. He was hospitalized again for that wound, but returned to the regiment in time for its service in the Shenandoah and its return to Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaign.

Smith’s father had died in 1847, leaving his mother with five children and him likely with a strong devotion to his family. His letters were written to his mother and sisters and contain frequent references to his religious convictions and also mention joining the temperance society. The document has folds, missing pieces to two corners and two holes at right, but displays well. At top Smith has written a small note, “mother – keep this.”  [sr]

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