Published: October 9, 2007
Three letters written by Confederate General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War sold for $61,000 at Bill Mishoe’s Auction House on September 29.
The letters were part of a contested trove of more than 400 Civil War-era documents that were initially put up for auction in August 2004, but were sidelined during a lengthy legal battle with the State of South Carolina, which claimed it was the rightful owner of the documents that had been in the consignor’s family for years.
Many of the letters were either from or written to the office of South Carolina’s two Civil War governors. The three documents penned by Lee discussed in detail the state of the Confederate troops and the war effort. Because many of the letters were correspondence between generals and Governors Francis Wilkinson Pickens and Milledge Luke Bonham, South Carolina claimed that they were written as part of official state business and therefore government property.
The consignor, Thomas Willcox, contended that he had inherited the letters from his great-aunt, and a federal judge last year that ruled that Willcox indeed owned the collection that had been in his family for generations.
Two of the Lee letters went to a New York buyer, who was bidding on the phone. One went to a descendant of Governor Bonham, who was bidding on the floor of the auction gallery, according to Mishoe.
Another sale highlight was an 11-page account of the Battle of Manassas, which sold for $11,500 to a descendant of the writer.
In all, some 34 bidders bought the 444 documents that were offered, said Mishoe. The auction house owner said he was pleased with the outcome of the sale and the conclusion of the three-year legal ordeal surrounding the Civil War documents. “I like dealing with my bread-and-butter, ordinary sales,” Mishoe said, adding, however, that he has already taken a couple of calls from people interested in consigning more Civil War material.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 803-735-9945.
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