[Various locations, including Missouri, Iowa, and Arkansas]. 1860-1864, 1873. Twenty-two letters and one brief biographical sketch. Quarto and octavo sheets. Old folds. Some light wear and soiling. Very good. Item #WRCAM46766
Born in West Haven, Connecticut, Sheldon Treat emigrated to Missouri in 1859 to find work as a carpenter. Along with gainful employment, Treat soon found himself on the front lines of what would become the Civil War. This fine collection documents the transformation of a young easterner looking for work into a Civil War soldier. His service included marching with General Sherman from Atlanta to the sea. The archive is comprised of four letters written before Treat's enlistment; fifteen letters from the war, including one from Treat's commanding officer; three letters written in the years after the war; and a brief autobiographical sketch. In some ways the three pre-war letters are the most interesting of the lot. Written from Forest City, Missouri, a troubled outpost near the Kansas border, the letters provide a glimpse into the drama as war fever rose in an area already engulfed by violence. On Jan. 24, 1861, Treat described an incident with border ruffians: "You tell me to be careful about [getting] into scrapes like the one we had about the boat, no law of this state could molest them fellows at all for they had got my on the Kansas side and the onely way [to] get it was by force. A fellow from Ohio was with me on the river at the time of the fuss. There was 6 of them they all drawed their knives and one his revolver, we had no arms but one knife to defend ourself with but we got the boat and got back safe. When we got up town 30 men was redy to go after them. Had we had our revolvers there would have been some shooting done." He briefly toys with the idea of joining a wagon train headed up the Oregon Trail: "There is not much going on here at the present, I think of going across the plains this spring, to Oregon with a company of 50 families from Ioway to form a colony on Trinity Bay, we [shall] send one of our numbers up this week or next to make the arrangement for the trip...." Whatever the case, Treat was not headed back to the staid life of New England. "As for me coming back to the New England states there is no such thing in the book. I like this country to well for that, if I go anywhere from hear this summer it will be fa[r]ther west or up into Iowa. I have got a job there if I wish to go, if the Union stands there will be plenty of work here for all. The yong men of this place are having their hair cut short for the spring fights, they commenced election day to fight and have been at it ever scince [sic]." He moved on to Des Moines some months later, enlisting and enjoying the benefit of a steady paycheck. There, he wasted little time before enlisting in the 4th Iowa Infantry, where he proved himself a capable soldier, earning promotion to second lieutenant by October 1862 and to first lieutenant in January 1863. Serving mostly in the western theatre, Treat saw action in seventeen battles and took part in Sherman's March to the Sea, reenlisting after a furlough for the duration. His letters reveal a strong pro-unionist as he became accustomed to military life in Missouri, culminating in his first major battle, at Pea Ridge. On Aug. 18, 1862 he writes home to describe the devastation he experienced during one of the year's most decisive battles, and the way in which his commitment to the cause was growing stronger as he grew from new recruit into a veteran: "Martha says it almost makes her sick to see them poor fellows in the hospital at New Haven. She ought to go over one battle field and see the sights it would make her sick for certain. I should liked to had you seen the field at Pea Ridg for I know it would not made you sick but you would not have forgotten it very soon. Man is a curious thing in a fight. People will say fight for honor and glory but I tell you that they fight because they are mad and because they love to fight. You put a company into action and watch them the first 2 or 3 rounds they take it very cool but soon they begin to fall and this one looses a brother and that one a messmate and blood runs freely then jest listen and hear the deep curses of revenge and then see if they fight becaus they love it. Yes every shot is dearer than life to them, they don't think of honors then and how different is it with them the next time they come into action they go at it like a days work...." Interestingly, Treat's support for the war seems not to have been shared by his father, and he writes a passionate letter complaining that his father seems to offer nothing in his letters but sarcastic and discouraging comments (Aug. 28, 1862): "I have here some 80 men to associate with and all are getting letters from home cheering them on the good worck and although I have proved myself as brave as the bravest yet I get no encouragement from father...." Posted at Helena in the latter half of 1862, the 4th Iowa took part in the early maneuvers of the Vicksburg Campaign, and the archive includes a fine description of the fall of Fort Hindman, Jan. 18, 1863: "Our loss is 500 killed and wounded, Our Regiment lost but 4 men in all. The Battle lasted 3 hours when they surrendered the fort to us. They had 1 gun of 100 lbs and 3 of 68 lbs all casemated with Railroad iron and 6 feet of oak timber....we got 2 field Batteries and 2 splendid parrott guns and 4000 stand of Endfield Rifles some muskets plenty of shot guns revolvers and pistols of all sorts...." There are also two excellent letters from later in the Vicksburg Campaign, written after the regiment had been circled behind Vicksburg, to cut off any possible escape to the east, though at heavy cost to their own ranks. On May 24, 1863 he writes: "We have taken 8000 prisoners and 75 pieces of artillery. Our loss is hevy. My Reg has lost about 50 men. The 9 Iowa lost all but 130. Some Reg have lost all their field officers and some most all their line officers. Jackson the capital of this state is burned down. I am in camp on Walnut Hills 2 miles back of the town in front is a big Fort still in the hands of the rebels....We have got Warenton and Haines Bluffs both with all their guns and have got the rebels whare we can tend to them jest when it suits us...." Running through Treat's letters is his squabble with his father, and Treat takes every opportunity to lambaste the Copperheads. After the draft riots of 1863, he taunted his father: "How much has the Copperheads made by their riots in New York city. I think they will get their fill before long. I rather guess bullets will stop them, it was a pity they used blank cartridges as they had such a nice range for canister in the streets. I guess that Father Abraham who live in Washington is able to stop such proceedings and if necessary stop some of their winds...." An interesting record from the Western front.