Voice from the past

Published 1:09 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

Annie E. Bogart’s gravestone near the Confederate monument in Oakdale Cemetery. On the day she died the headline in the newspaper read “An honored citizen died in her sleep.” (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

“Our dear home, once the abode of peace and plenty, is now laid in ashes…The flames rolled from street to street…The chimneys and burnt trees stand as monuments of the past …”
A voice from the past echoes in these eloquent words, written 147 years ago. In the description of the letter on the auction listing, the woman who wrote them is named Annie E. Bogart. But for some in Washington, in the stories they were told, she was always known as “Aunt Annie.”
On Jan. 31, Cohasco Inc., a dealer in and auctioneer of manuscripts, books, antiquarian materials and collectibles located in Yonkers, N.Y., will be holding an auction of historical documents, many from a extensive personal collection of Civil War and Confederate letters. Among the documents are three long letters written by Annie E. Bogart, sent from Washington, to an aunt in New Brunswick, N.J. — letters that crossed Confederate and Union lines and were stamped accordingly. In them, Bogart describes daily life in Washington during the Civil War, the privations, and the news from other relatives across the South. Most fascinating of all, she paints a powerful picture of the burning of Washington, first on May 1, 1864, then again on May 9 of that year.
“My beautiful flower garden that I had cultivated with so much care and bestowed so many years of labor upon was all destroyed and made desolate,” she writes in January, 1865. “We lost our valuable and handsome library containing so many interesting works which have been the companion of my own and my father’s life, this we estimate our most serious loss.”
In this same letter, she pens the story of meeting both President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in the then capitol of Greensboro, and tells of her brothers, news from the various Confederate posts at which they were stationed: “David, just 17, is a noble soldier boy.”
The David of whom she writes is David Nevius Bogart, who grew up to become a colonel in the Army, and later National Guard. After the war, he came home to Washington, settled into 206 E. Second St., built as a wedding gift from his parents for him and his wife, Mary Catherine Morton. The Bogarts had nine children, and Annie E. Bogart, 17 years her brother’s senior and never married, helped raise all the Bogart brood.
“I remember hearing all the stories about Aunt Annie,” said Cathleen Hinds Kennedy, Washington native and great-granddaughter of David Nevius Bogart. “She was quite a character, she always wore black. She ruled the roost. Everyone had to pass everything by Aunt Annie.”
Kennedy’s grandmother, who was the youngest of the nine children, described an austere woman: “She was pure Victorian.”
Kennedy did not know the name of the aunt to whom Annie E. Bogart wrote, but was unsurprised to hear of a New Jersey connection.
“Her father — they were all from New Jersey. Dutch Bogarts,” she explained. “They go back to the 1600s in New Jersey.”
“She became a member of her brother’s household,” Annie Bogart’s great-niece, Penny Rodman said. “Annie outlived all her family.”
The three letters are expected to fetch between $350 and $750 each in the upcoming auction and are part of a larger, private collection that contains copious detailed notes about each piece.
“He has traced the movements of individual military battalions, day by day, sometimes hour by hour. He’s given insight and interpretation into (the letters),” said Bob Snyder, owner of Cohasco Inc. “But like every collector, you have to sell parts of a collection in order to more collecting.”
Cohasco handles the sales of numerous prominent collections from medieval to modern, recently setting a world record price for a 20th-century Bible with the sale of Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother’s Bible.
Among the other items offered for sale in the Jan. 31 auction is a Rudolf Eickmeyer gun, lost during the Battle of Harrisonburg, Va., and unearthed over a century later. The owner, Confederate Pvt. J.J. Veeck, belonged to the North Carolina unit that claimed to have fired the last shot of the Civil War.
The expected sale price is between $4,500 and $6,500.
Cohasco’s auctions take place by email, mail, fax  or phone bid. For more information about the auction and Annie E. Bogart’s letters, visit www.cohascodpc.com or call 914-476-8500.