1862 Letter Archive - Abolitionist David Paul Brown to Major Robert A. Parrish, 71st Pennsylvania "California Regiment," Re: Court Martial

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1862 Letter Archive - Abolitionist David Paul Brown to Major Robert A. Parrish, 71st Pennsylvania "California Regiment," Re: Court Martial

449.99

Item No. SQ9989743

Offered here is an interesting archive of four manuscript letters, three of which were written and signed by Paul David Brown, the Philadelphia abolitionist and President of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Brown worked with other prominent attorneys to prosecute cases of wrongful enslavement. During the Civil War Brown represented fellow attorney Major Robert A. Parrish of the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteers (the California Regiment) in his court martial. The letters offered here are related to that case and include one written by Brown to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and the War Department's reply, written by Assistant Secretary of War Peter H. Watson.

In the first letter (1 page, 7 3/4" x 9 3/4"), dated March 17, 1862, Brown wrote to Major Parrish to inform him of a later departure from Philadelphia and asked to be remembered to several prominent Senators and Representatives:

Philadelphia
March 17 / 62

Dear Sir
I shall not be able to leave town to day. I have not yet received all the letters from Washington which are necessary preliminary. Enclosed you have one of the letters which is just review, but others are necessary. If you have determined to go on to day, I will follow you as soon as possible upon receiving a notice of your whereabouts in Washington. Make all necessary inquiries as to the mission, and give me your opinion as to what may be necessary to be done. You of course understand that I have not set my heart upon the post, but would not decline it if offered.

Will you present my best regards to Mr Crittenden, Mr Hale & Mr Sumner of the Senate, not forgetting the Secretary of State, for whose talents and character I have always entertained the most preferred respect. I am at present engaged in a history of the Executive and his Cabinet--Entitled "Cabinet Portraits"--in which I hope I shall be able to do justice to their worth. I have required that all practice, and now merged in the great Question of Union or no Union.

Truly yrs
David Paul Brown
March 17 1862

Robert A Parrish Esq

Do not forget to remember me to Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, and C. J Biddle, and Wm D Kelly

In the second letter (1 page, 6 1/2" x 8"), dated April 10, 1862, Brown wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on Major Parrish's behalf:

Philadelphia April 10 / 1862

To the Honorable
Edwin M Stanton
Secretary of War

Major Robert A. Parrish of the California Regiment informs me, that while passing from Fortress Monroe to Washington under your order or permit, he was placed under arrest by General Burns, and subjected to a Court Martial.

Major Parrish is a skillful, brave, & patriotic officer, and a most urbane and accomplished gentlemen, and is perfectly prepared to meet any charge that may regularly be preferred against him. He is not aware of any liability incurred by him unless, indeed, his delinquency to certify to the delivery of a quantity of wood, which he believed to be more than had been actually received, can be construed into such liability. I know him well, and appreciate him highly, and in respectfully submitting to you the enclosed abstract from his letter, I do so, in the certainty that you will afford him such relief (and that is all he requires) as your own sense of justice and duty will authorize.

Faithfully Yrs
David Paul Brown
April 10 1862

The third letter (1 page, 7 3/4" x 9 3/4"), dated June 8, 1862, is from Brown to Major Parrish. In it, Brown requests additional details on the case and hints at an upcoming meeting with Stanton:

Philad

Major Robert A Parrish

Dear Sir
I wish you to send to me a copy of the charges preferred against you before the Court Martial. The name of the officers constituting the Court. The Evidence as far as it has been submitted, and a statement of Your Defense. With the information there is no doubt but that you can be released from the painful state of suspense to which you have been subjected. I shall be in Washington shortly and will have an interview with the Secretary of War.

Always Truly
Yrs
David Paul Brown
June 8 1862

The final letter in the lot (1 page, 9 3/8" x 4"), dated April 17th, 1862, is the War Department's acknowledgement of receipt of Brown's April 10 letter. It was written by Peter H. Watson, Assistant Secretary of War:

War Department
Washington City, D.C.
April 17th 1862

Sir:
The secretary of war directs me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th Inst enclosing an extract from the letter of Major Robert A Parrish to you in reference to his arrest and trial, and to say that the matter has been referred to the Adjutant General with instructions to take such action as may be necessary and proper in the premises.

Very Respectfully
Your obedient servant
P. H. Watson
Asst Secy of War

David Paul Brown, Esqr
Philadelphia, Penna

 

Condition: All are in excellent condition with little wear to edges and corners, except along the left edge of two letters where Brown removed the page from its twin. Creases where originally folded.

Some additional information:

Major Parrish was mentioned in the letters of another 71st Pennsylvania officer, Captain Francis Adams Donaldson, during the time in which Parrish was under arrest. In Inside the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson (J. Gregory Acken, ed. Stackpole Books, 1998), Donaldson wrote:

I now started for the house indicated by the surgeon as the field hospital and had proceeded but a short distance when I saw Major Robb Parrish of our regiment coming up at a brisk trot, leading his pack horse. He halted at meeting me, dismounted, and taking his holster pistols, turned his horses over to a shelter seeking Zouave and ordered him to lead them out of danger. From the prompt manner with which the man obeyed, I could not but admire the thorough discipline of Col. Baxter's men. The Major now asked about my hurt and examined my arm, which I was holding across my body with my right hand. He expressed much sympathy and trusted I would not lose my arm. He said he had been denied the privilege of fighting with his own command, being under arrest, and was about to join the brave fellows who were so hotly engage at the fence. Bidding me good bye, I saw him walk boldly forward, with pistols in both hands, until lost to view in the smoke from the cannon. (91)

A brief biography of Parrish is also found in Inside the Army of the Potomac:

Robert A. Parrish, thirty-nine, had served as captain of Company B until his election as major in June 1861. He tendered his resignation on July 15, 1862, because of his desire to raise a new regiment and "because of the strong prejudice against me by Col. Wistar and [brigade commander] General Burns (which has barred all hope of promotion for me in this Regiment)." (442)

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