Confederate General Isaac R. Trimble – Wounded in Picket’s Charge at Gettysburg (Leg Amputated), Captured & Sent to Johnson’s Island Prison – Here He Writes Capt. McHenry Howard, A Fellow Marylander Imprisoned Fort Delaware – 1 Page in Ink with Fine “Examined” Cover
Isaac Ridgeway Trimble fought with distinction under Stonewall Jackson. At Gettysburg when Maj. Gen. William D. Pender was wounded, Trimble led his Division. Trimble was seriously wounded and like Union General Daniel Sickles, had his leg amputated. He was sent to the largest prison where Confederate Officers were held, Johnson’s Island near Sandusky, Ohio. Here is the content. Prisoners were only allowed 1 page and Trimble took full advantage:

• “Johnson's Island, July 14th 1864. My dear Mac, I have yours of July 8th received yesterday. Letters do go slow, a day or so is lost examining them here, and a day also with you, but I often write letters ahead that do not go for some days & this may account for delay.”

• “I am flattered that you evince a desire to remain on my staff, but shall feel sorry if it turns out that you made any sacrifices to do so, for which you may not hereafter be fully compensated by military rank. Certainly you were right to draw pay as one of my staff, for you were the only aid I had or have since McKim & Hoffman died.”

• “So set your mind at rest as far as this matter goes. I prefer you to any other, and would rather have you.”

• “Archer, Steuart & Johnson have gone on a "jolly" trip and may see some sport more pleasant to be shot by a big gun than a musket in prison.”

[General’s James J. Archer, George “Maryland” Steuart, & Edward “Allegheny” Johnson had been taken from prison and sent down to Charleston, S.C. Harbor where they were placed as “human shields” so that the Union would not shell the city. These men were called the “Immortal 600”.]

• “I am sorry that the change of your quarters has interrupted your very judicious plans for further study. Many officers here have become good French & German scholars & others are reviewing Latin, history, etc. It is a mistake & a wrong to lose the time in prison in vain regrets & idleness.”

• “The sense of making ourselves more useful is the only true antidote to the ills of confinement. I read, study, & work a great deal, and the time seems to pass swiftly.”

[Interestingly, on Johnson’s Island the prisoners were allowed to go fishing and have gardens! Trimble comments on this] “I shall raise at least two dozen radishes, as many head of lettuce & a bushel of tomatoes, if the frost don't kill them.”

• “I seldom hear from Alice & Molly now. I suppose they are busy with you & others. Write to me often & give me a page at a time any incidents of Genl. Winder's life which I am preparing for his wife & mother.
[Trimble had been on Winder’s staff when he led the Stonewall Brigade] Yours always truly, I. R. Trimble”

The cover is homemade, fashioned by Trimble from a letter that he had received from M. R. Hunter. There is a fine 3 cent Washington stamp and a “SANDUSKY, O. JUL. 18, 64” postmark. Written at the top in dark ink: “Examined D. S. Alexander”. Alexander was a member of the 128th Ohio Volunteer Infantry stationed there. It is addressed:

“Capt. McHenry Howard
Prisoner of War
Fort Delaware

On the left side of the envelope, Howard has written the date of the letter – July 14 and “Answered”.

One of the finest Trimble war date letters we have seen, especially nice mentioning his 3 friends sent South as part of the Immortal 600. After the war McHenry Howard wrote the book, “Recollections of a Maryland Confederate Soldier and Staff officer Under Johnston, Jackson and Lee”.

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