UNION SOLDIER LETTER, w/COVER—CORPORAL SEELY CONOVER, CO. “B”, 115TH INFANTRY

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Item Code: 1094-52

Dated “U.S. General Hospital/ Annapolis, MD / Nov. 19th, 1864.” Addressed to “Miss Fannie Bingham/ Oneota /Otsego Co. / New York, postmarked “Annapolis, MD, Nov. 21”. 5 pp. in ink on lined paper, 5”x 8. Exhibits fold-marks, else VG.

Seely Conover was a 21 year-old private who mustered into Co. “B”, 115th New York Infantry, 8/11/1862. Promoted to Corporal, 10/11/1862,  Conover was wounded in action at Deep Bottom, Virginia, where he brother Frank, of !15th NY Co. “D”, was killed, 8/16/1864. He mustered out with his regiment, 6/17/1865.

Conover’s 115th New York was mustered in August 1862, and immediately on entering service found itself captured with the Harper’s Ferry garrison by forces of Stonewall Jackson in route to Antietam in mid-September 1862, and paroled to Camp Douglas, at Chicago. Returning to service in November, the unit was dispatched to the southeastern theater where it saw action at the Battle of Olustee [FL].  The spring of 1864 found the 115th attached to the Army of the James and engaged at Bermuda Hundred, Drury’s Bluff and Cold Harbor, before joining the Ft. Fisher expedition and eventually participating in Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign to the close of the war. During service it lost 135 killed and mortally wounded and 188 by disease for a total of 323, and was listed as one of “Fox’s Fighting 300” regiments.

In this letter, Conover writes from an Annapolis hospital to comfort his friend Fannie Bingham, the former girl friend of his best friend “Winne” who was earlier left wounded and captured by the rebels and who presumably since died in captivity. Since then Seely himself was wounded at Deep Bottom, VA., where his own 115th New York brother Frank was killed. Against this personal background he writes to Fannie Bingham—his “Respected Friend”--of his moods and thoughts concerning the loss of both “Winne” and “Frank.” Excerpts below:

“The last Sabbath  was home I went down across the field where brother Frank and I wrought together so many days, visited our old places of resort and the wild cherry trees from which we used to pluck the fruit, but how all seemed changed and I could not help reflecting how frail and unstable are all things earthly! How easily our earthly idols are crushed and scattered. I was very lonesome after I came back here and could have cried from a feeling almost desolation, but mine is not a nature to long remain sad or to hold fast to sorrow long. I have had much to think of and have bee sorely tried first in losing my dearest friend& comrade—[i.e.“Winne”, Fannie Bingham’ fiancé]—and then seeing other comrades dropping off one by one and finally seeing Frank suddenly cut down and myself rendered powerless and separated from all my friends. But the hand of providence has been with me through all and has been most merciful to me.

But others have had greater sorrows. Yours have been greater than mine for in the loss of your friend my love for him was as much as is possible for one man to feel for another, but nothing compared to your love for him…your photo was never looked upon but with reverence and affection...I know you must dissimulate much while your heart is breaking…Would that I could offer you better consolation…”

A poignant letter by every yardstick, expressing  on wartime grief and loss. In protective sleeve.    [JP]  [ph:L]

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