Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know? (At least in the 116th NY Infantry!)

I recently added a Civil War-era letter to the "Schmidt Collection" (an auspicious name for my small - but growing! - collection of 19th- and 20th-century military correspondence). The letter was written by some esteemed citizens of Buffalo, NY, on behalf of a young man wanting to secure an officer's commission:

"Buffalo - July 23, 1864

To His Excellency, Hon. Horatio Seymour, Governor of the State of New York:

The undersigned citizens of Buffalo, Erie County, State of New York, most respectfully represent that they are acquainted with James Abill Bronson, now a Private in Company B, 116th Regiment of NY Volunteers, and we most cheerfully recommend him as a suitable young man to receive from your Excellency a commission for a 2d Lieutenancy and should feel truly grateful if he should receive such an appointment from you."

The second page of the two-page letter has the signatures of about ten different men…just through Google searches I've identified a couple as leading businessmen in Buffalo, but the best by far is: "William C. Fargo, Mayor, Buffalo." William C. Fargo was one of the principals of American Express and Wells, Fargo & Co., both of which are covered in my recent book, Lincoln's Labels: America's Best Known Brands and the Civil War (Edinborough Press, 2008).

The old saying goes: "It's not what you know, it's who you know"...But in this case, from what I can tell from the NPS Civil War Soldiers/Sailors System, this "suitable young man" wasn't promoted, although James A. Bronson is definitely listed in Co. B, 116th NY.

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