Civil War letter returns home

Published 8:25 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taking part in the donation of Annie Bogart’s letter to Joyner Library’s Manuscripts and Rare Books Department at East Carolina University on Tuesday are (from left) Eleanor Rollins, assistant director of special collections; Maury York, Penelope Rodman, Melody Hinds Moen and Kathleen Kinds Kennedy. Rodman is the great-niece of Annie Bogart, while Rollins, Moen and Kennedy are Bogart’s great-great-nieces. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

A Civil War-era letter written by a Washington woman has made the trip home to eastern North Carolina.

The letter, written by Annie E. Bogart, went to auction Jan. 31, part of a large, private collection of Civil War memorabilia being auctioned by Cohasco Inc., a dealer in and auctioneer of manuscripts, books, antiquarian materials and collectibles in Yonkers, N.Y.

While Annie Bogart had no direct descendants — she instead helped raise the family of her older brother, Col. David Nevius Bogart — it was her brother’s great-great-grandchildren, two sisters who grew up in Washington and now live in Virginia, who purchased the letter and donated it Tuesday to the Manuscripts and Rare Books Department of East Carolina University’s Joyner Library.

Kathleen Hinds Kennedy and Melody Hinds Moen remember stories of “Aunt Annie” from childhood, as told by their grandmother who was the youngest of Col. David Nevius Bogart’s brood.

“We felt compelled to buy the letter,” Moen and Kennedy agreed. “We wish that we could have bought all three.”

Moen and her husband met with Maury York, assistant director of Joyner Library’s special collections, hoping to find a home in eastern North Carolina for the letter.

“We wanted it to stay in North Carolina,” said Moen, of deciding to donate the letter to the library. “They very much wanted the letter. We viewed the facilities, and (York) assured us it would be available to students and international scholars.”

The letter comes at the right time for the special collections department, which is currently featuring a 150th-anniversary Civil War exhibit.

“This letter is an unusually descriptive and important letter that documents the burning of Washington in 1865,” said York.  “Given that we’re in the midst of sesquicentennial, it’s of particular interest right now.”

In the letter, Bogart speaks not only of meeting Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard on a trip to Greensboro, but of the trip by rail to the then-capitol of North Carolina, during which the railway was lined by the dispossessed, those who had lost their homes and livelihoods to war.

Not all was gloom in the Civil War era: Bogart also speaks of a summer trip to Tarboro prior to the burning of Washington, where she and others went riding and sailing on the river every day and enjoyed the company of the “fine young officers.”

“There was a lot of resiliency, along with the suffering,” said Kennedy.

York said the department is deeply grateful for Moen’s and Kennedy’s generosity, saying the library staff would “do all we can to take care of it and make it available for anyone doing research” in related fields.

Annie Bogart’s letter will be encapsulated, meaning each sheet will be pressed between two layers of Mylar, and stored in an acid-free folder and box in climate-controlled, secured stacks. The public does not have access to the secure area — materials are brought out to researchers under close supervision instead.

York made a point of saying that his department is always interested in talking with anyone in possession of family manuscripts in Washington and Beaufort County.

“We try very hard to document the history of eastern North Carolina,” he added.

Annie Bogart’s letter documents a pivotal point in Washington’s history, but for Moen and Kennedy, the letter does much more, allowing them a glimpse into the life and personality of a woman who previously existed only in childhood stories.

Said Moen, “It really does mean a lot to read something like this and that ancestor just comes alive to you.”