Friday, September 25, 2020

Memorabilia and Elusive Manuscripts: A Civil War Soldier's Letter Home (?), A Teacher’s Letters From A Baltimore Under Siege, 1814-1815

Memorabilia and Elusive Manuscripts:

A Civil War Soldier's Letter Home (?), A Teacher’s Letters From A Baltimore Under Siege, 1814-1815

Baltimore memorabilia and documents continue to be offered on Ebay. They represent, and in some cases, document, stories about Baltimore.

This cover, without contents, sold for $50 (although the estimate before auction was $100-150) to an unknown individual and probably has disappeared into a private collection. It contained a now lost letter written to a shoemaker in North Abington, Massachusetts, father of at least twelve children, and for a time, member of the Massachusetts legislature.[1] Who wrote the letter it contained and what it revealed is unknown, but it is quite likely that it was written by Jonathan Arnold’s son, Moses Noyes Arnold who was 16 in 1860, and volunteered to join the 12th Massachusetts Regiment, Volunteers (known as the Webster Regiment). Moses rose to the rank of Captain and was wounded in the neck at Antietam. He was mustered out in 1864 and had undoubtedly spent some time in Baltimore either recuperating from his wounds or leaving from there when he mustered out.[2] He may have had family there as well. There were a number of Arnolds living in Baltimore at the time.[3]

Another collection of letters that was offered on Ebay was written by a school teacher in Baltimore written between August 29, 1814 and January 19, 1815. Fortunately the offering included transcripts, as the originals have disappeared from the market where they were initially offered for $2,000.[4]

The then owner offered the following descriptions of the letters and transcripts:

Manuscript archive of three handwritten letters from Mr DH Beardsley of Baltimore Maryland to his friend and attorney Mr John Gardner of York Pennsylvania.

This grouping of letters have been in the Gardner family since they were written.

[The] author of [the] letters … David Hamlin Beardsley born in 1789. [He] came to Baltimore from Connecticut. He was unsuccessful in his attempt at running a school and moved to Ohio, where he became the Collector for the Ohio Canal. He held that position for 23 years. In 1840 he became Mayor of Cleveland [sic]. He died in 1870 and was married to Cassandra Hersh. His father was Squire Beardsley and mother was Hannah Hamlin.


Baltimore Aug 29, 1814

My Good Friend,

I send enclosed a ten dollar note (it is not present) on the York Bank which I wish you to get (?) for and send it to me the first safe opportunity. Nothing can be purchased here without (?) No person will take bank notes of any kind and silver has almost entirely disappeared. Please to send the money by some person of your acquaintance and one who will deliver it to me in person at Schaffir's tavern sign of the Buck, North Howard Street.

I have no news. The fortifications about Baltimore are progressing rapidly. An intrenchment nearly three quarters of a mile in length was thrown up yesterday (Sunday) on Hampstead Hill and it is said that 10,000 men are now in Baltimore under arms. The British will not attack this place in my opinion till reinforcements arrive. There present form (5000) will never succeed considering this very advantageous situation in which the Americans are posted(?)

I hardly believe that the British intend to attack Baltimore at all. What can be their object? They do not wish to destroy private property and and there is very little public property here. Not enough to pay for the sacrifices of men which it will cost to take the city. It appears that at Washington andAlexandria the British did not destroy any shipping but that which belonged to the U.S. It is not known for a certainty where the British are but it is believed that they have not returned to theChesapeake. It is said that there is a sharp contention between Genl Winder and Gnl Smith which (?) have the command and the executives have not influence enough to settle the dispute. It is also said that the command of the Artillery is to be taken from Col Harris & given to Com Rogers.if this should take place it would give very general dissatisfaction. Pray write to me immediately and send the money the first opportunity.

If ever the time shall come when you will need a friend I shall then prove myself

Yours truly,

DH Beardsley

[William Henry Winder 1775-1824 American soldier and Maryland lawyer was a controversial general in the War of 1812. General Samuel Smith 1752-1839 was a U.S. Senator, mayor of Baltimore and a general in the Maryland Militia. Letter written just weeks before Battle of Baltimore September 12-15, 1814 when Francis Scott Key composed The Star Spangled Banner]

Condition Browning foxing, hole from wax seal. Very Readable. A few ink smudges. A chunk of paper torn from blank- front cover top not affect text

Baltimore Oct 10, 1814

half past 10 o'clock pm

Dear Sir,

I have commenced my school and have scholars enough. They have not all returned yet from the country; but they are engaged.

You will have heard of the arrival of the Adams before this reaches you but you may not have heard the result of the negotiations of which is that there is no prospect of a peace that that the demands of the British are such as can not be (?) to; such as the giving up of the Fisheries, the ceding of Louisiana to the Spanish, the establishment of a new boundary line so as to give part of Massachusetts and New York to Canada etc.

This information may be relied on as it comes direct from Washington in a semi official form. At the sailing of the Adams the negotiations wanted nothing but the formalizing (?) of closing all hopes of an accommodation are at an end.

War! War!

I am in great haste and must bid you a good night!

Pray write soon and inform me how Miss H Capat (?) does and everything else which you think will be interesting

J Gardner Esq. DH Beardsley

[ship the John Adams? Returned to the USA 5 September 1814.]

Condition Foxing, browning, minor loss bottom edge. Loss from seal not affect text

Baltimore Jan 19, 1815

Dear sir

I have no news to communicate which you will not have received before this reaches you. I am anxiously watching the times for some prospect of peace. The hope that you have created of enabling me to serve you in the capacity of clerk in some mercantile business at the close of the war is my only support. I pray that this hope may in due time be realized.

I hear that you are "enjoying the moments as they fly"and that no one is more lively in the ballroom this winter than yourself. Pray how comes on your ------but I am perhaps intruding too much upon your generosity to ask. I hear with a great deal of pleasure that Miss Hannah Caprat(?) has entirely recovered. Do not I entreat you forget

Your friend, DH Beardsley


PS Saturday evening Jan 21 perhaps you may not have heard that intelligence has at length arrived from New Orleans but it is said that much later accounts may be expected tomorrow. The intelligence received is as late as Dec 23 at midnight. The British had landed a force differently estimated at from 3-6 thousand which had been met by the Americans under Jackson and a battle was fought in which it is said the Americans had the advantage. The action continued from 7 o'clock in the morning till a quarter past 9. A number of British prisoners were taken away which were two Majors. The British force engaged consisted only of the advance of their army which is said to amount to 1400 men. This battle it is not pretended, was any wise Decisive but a great battle was expected the next day.Jackson had been reinforced by Genl Coffee and Carroll with a force of 4000 men and greater reinforcements were expected every hour.

The Bill establishing a national Bank has passed both houses of congress and wants only the Presidents signature. The senate have recorded (?) from their amendments. The capital of course is 30 millions and there is no power granted to suspend (?) payments

Yours respectfully


Condition Browning foxing, hike from wax seal. Very Readable. Minor splits at creases.

[John Coffee 1772-1833, commanded troops under Jackson in the Creek Wars and in the Battle of New Orleans. William Carroll 1788-1844 governor of Tennessee joined the Tennessee militia in 1812 rose to Major General.]

David Hamlin Beardsley did indeed operate a school in Baltimore, advertising in the local newspaper:

Baltimore American & Commercial Advertiser, October 1, 1814

But Beardsley soon left Baltimore for Ohio to seek his fortune, arriving eventually in Cleveland where he became a well-known figure, but contrary to the owner of his 1814-1815 letters, never mayor.[5]


Having experienced the War of 1812 in Baltimore, Beardsley lived through the Civil War dying in 1870. The former school teacher from Baltimore was concerned about the economic costs of the war to both sides but also cautioned his friend, a firm supporter of the Union to not be too optimistic.

As our country is engaged in a civil war involving probably more serious consequences than any war in which mankind ever before engaged, you will, of course, pardon me for alluding to it. What is to be the result? Although I have a high opinion of your prescience and judgment, I do not think that even you, tho’ an ex-M. C. [military commander] can tell with certainty. You will probably say that the result will be most propitious—that our glorious Union is to be more firmly cemented than before—that the effort of this war will be to prove to the monarchs of Europe and to the civilized world that a Republican government is possible, and, in our case, no failure—and that the future of the United States is to be more prosperous and happy than ever. I pray God this may be the case.

But you know my ruling propensity notwithstanding your friendly efforts to correct it, to look on the dark side of things; and I fear ruin to both sections, to the North as well as the South. Like Kilkenny cats, we shall devour each other, leaving scarcely the tails behind....

But you will say we are better off than the South in this respect; the North is worth then times as much as they. True—we have the most money, but they the most patriotism and are the best financiers....

In one thing the secessionists have been greatly mistaken. Whatever opposition they might meet with from the Black Republicans, they were sure they could rely on their fast friends and brother democrats of the North. The Northern democracy would take care of the Black Republicans, leaving the secessionists to do as they pleased—to steal forts, arsenals, navy-yards, sub-treasuries, mines and ships at their pleasure—and finally to march on the federal city and take the Capitol without molestation. In this they have been grievously disappointed; and to me the unanimity at the North looks more like an interposition of Divine Providence than anything I have ever witnessed.[6]

[1] 1860 Census; Census Place: Abington, Plymouth, Massachusetts; Page: 280; Family History Library Film: 803518. Jonathan’s son Moses Noyes was 16 in 1860. He volunteered to serve in the 12th Massachusetts Regiment and served at Antietam and Gettysburg.

Another son, Thomas, died in 1923. In 1860 Thomas was listed as four years old in the Arnold household. Two of his sisters are mentioned in his obituary: North Abington, July 27—Thomas Arnold, a member of the firm of M. N. Arnold & Co., shoe manufacturers, died today on a train from Boston. His body was removed from the train at Quincy, and taken to his home. Mr Arnold was a native of Abington. He was 67 years old and a son of the late Mr and Mrs Jonathan Arnold, one of the oldest families in the town. He leaves a wife, two sons, Eugene of North Abington, and Harold of Bayonne, N J; a daughter, Miss Alice of North Abington; two brothers, John P. of Brockton, superintendent of the Huntington School District in Brockton, and Wallace E. W., of Wollaston, also a member of the firm of the Arnold Company, and two sisters, Miss Emily of Southbridge, and Miss Sarah Louise of Boston, former dean of Simmons College. He was a member of John Cutler Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Abington, and the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Co. of Boston, and a number of Masonic bodies. Funeral services will be held in the home, 372 Adams st, North Abington, Monday afternoon at 2 p m. [Source: The Boston Globe, Boston, MA, Saturday, July 28, 1923, p. 14]

[2] Historical Data Systems, Inc.; Duxbury, MA 02331; American Civil War Research Database on and

[4] described as War Of 1812 Manuscript Archive 3 Handwritten Letters From Baltimore, the link,, no longer works.


[5] According to one account,

David Hamlin Beardsley was one of the unique characters of Cleveland, and for 23 years perhaps the best known man in the city, for his public position as Collector of the Ohio Canal brought him into daily contact not only with the merchants of the town but with business men the whole length of the state. He was the son of Squire and Hannah Hamlin Beardsley of New Preston, Conn., and was 37 years old when he came here in 1826.

School-teaching, his first occupation, took him to Baltimore, Md., where he assumed charge of a select school and incidentally met Miss Cassandra Hersh, sister of David Hersh, who became a Cleveland pioneer. The following year, 1817, they were married. His next venture was at Sandusky, Ohio, where he bought 315 acres of land, became an associate judge, and was elected a state senator. To become auditor and recorder of Cuyahoga County would seem like a retrograde of honors, but probably Mr. Beardsley had other things to take into consideration when he accepted the office. He worked in the

old log-courthouse on the Public Square, and his beautiful penmanship is preserved in the early records of the city. When the Ohio canal was opened as far as Akron, his integrity and accuracy were recognized, and he was made collector of it, and for 23 years, through all administrations, he held his position, beginning at a salary of $300, and ending with one of $1200. He was a man of simple tastes and sterling qualities, and best known for scrupulous honesty even to the value of a cent. It is claimed that in all the years he served as collector of the canal, during which time he had handled over a million dollars, he could account to a cent of all money passing through his hands. Many amusing stories have been told of his exactness regarding small change. Judge James Cleveland quaintly refers to this trait in an address before the Old Settlers' Association in 1896:

‘‘The canal collector, D. H. Beardsley, regarded the statutes and canal regulations as the laws of the Medes and Persians, and sometimes reminded a canal-boat master that he owed the state of Ohio a half cent on tolls, and should remember it at the next settlement. Whereupon the canal-captain would, with great anger and profanity, chop a copper cent in two with the cook’s axe, on the canal-lock scale, and tender it to the old collector. Then the captain would be fined $5 for his violation of the law which forbade the axe on the state’s property, and he didn’t think the joke was much on the collector when he saw his face darken like the face of Jove, and knew that fine must be paid before he or his canal-boat could

leave the port.“ Collector Beardsley was the very type of integrity, honesty, and honor, and under his official mask there dwelt a gentle and scholarly nature that loved his fellow-men and was loved by all who esteem' purity, justice, and the gentle ways of wisdom and peace.” Mr. Beardsley died at the age of 82, and was buried in Erie street cemetery. Mrs. David Beardsley was an invalid for many years. She had three sisters, all charming women who resided near her, on the south side of St. Clair street between Seneca and Ontario, and their mother, a dear old lady, always quaintly and beautifully dressed, lived with them. They were all born house and home-keepers, and though they lived simply and in small houses, as all Cleveland people did in that day, they were very popular, and their society much sought for by the cultured element of the town. Their brother, John Hersh, was then a bachelor. In after years he removed to Chillicothe. Sarah Hersh was the second wife of Thomas Brown. He was the editor of the Ohio Farmer. Julia Hersh married Mr. Bolles. All three sisters were fine-looking, had dark eyes and dark brown Hair. from Wickham, Gertrude Van Rensselaer. The Pioneer Families of Cleveland, 1796-1840. Cleveland, Ohio: Evangelical Publishing House, 1914, pp. 330-331.

[6] The letter was written to Congressman John Carey from Ohio, written June 18, 1861 from Cleveland, Ohio.

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