The winning bid on the Archive of Civil War paymaster Erastus Hibbard Phelps, Middlebury Class of 1861, was made at auction by Andy Wentink, Curator of Special Collections & Archives. The archive was one among nearly 350 lots of American History, including Civil War, materials offered by Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati, OH, last Friday morning, December 2. The Phelps Archive comprises 334 letters, 4 diaries (3 from Civil War years), 2 bound volumes including a photo album containing portraits of graduates of the Middlebury Class of 1861, many of which are inscribed to Phelps. The archive also includes two photos of Phelps previous to his years at Middlebury, his paymaster sidearm (a Colt 1851 Navy 36 caliber pistol), what is believed to be his sheepskin winter jacket worn on duty, and a leather documents trunk carried during his service.
Andy also made the winning bid on another Civil War archive, 54 Letters of 2nd Lieut. Ephraim L. Hackett, Wisconsin 1st Light Artillery. Born in Maine in 1837, Ephraim L. Hackett was living in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in August 1861, when he enlisted as a Sergeant in the 1st Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery. Small in number and mobile, the Battery recruited barely over 100 men before being sent into the field in Kentucky that Fall, then went on to fight up and down the Mississippi Valley until the end of the war.
These two important Civil War collections significantly enhance Middlebury’s already impressive Civil War era archival holdings including the Aldace Walker (Middlebury Class of 1862) Letters, the Calvin Parker Letters, the Civil War Archive of Professor Kit Wilson, and nearly 100 Civil War era letters from individual writers.
The purchase of the Phelps and Hackett archives was made possible through the generous partial funding from the Friends of the Davis Family Library, the Middlebury College Museum of Art, the Julian W. Abernethy Fund, and the Davis Family Library.