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Adams Express Document, 1862, soldier in 20th Maine Infantry

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Product Description

This is another nice piece being offered, it is a filled in “Adams Express Company” document measuring 8” x 5”. It is dated “Oct 3, 1862” and “Baltimore” was crossed out and what appears to be written in is “Fredk”, probably for Frederick, Maryland. It states that a package containing fifteen dollars was received from Charles W. Nelson and was going to Edward W. Nelson in Augusta, Maine (the brother of Charles).

Twenty-one-year-old Charles W. Nelson enlisted in Company C of the 20th Maine Infantry on August 29, 1862. The 20th Maine was a three-year regiment that fought with the Army of the Potomac. It served between autumn 1862 and spring 1865, fighting at Shepherdstown Ford, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign, Peebles Farm, Hatcher’s Run, and Five Forks.

Altogether, 1,621 men served in the regiment, of whom 293 died (146 by disease or accident and another 147 by combat), making it one of the famed “Fox’s Fighting 300.” The 20th Maine lived a wartime existence without an inordinate amount of fame or fanfare, but today it stands out as an exceptional unit due to its widespread popularity. The regiment’s participation with Colonel Chamberlain on Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg has lofted it into legendary status.

When Charles sent this money, the 20th Maine was encamped near the Antietam Ironworks. Here, it joined Colonel Thomas B. W. Stockton’s 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps. A sudden dip in the temperature caused a wave of measles and typhoid fever to spread, a consequence of the regiment having left Maine without proper provisions. Private Theodore Gerrish complained, “We had no tents, and for a number of weeks were without overcoats”.

Altogether, the 20th Maine lost more than 300 men from its ranks due to illness incurred during its first two months in the field. The dramatic losses prompted Captain Ellis Spear to write later, “This was, in some respects, the most trying period in the history of the regiment.” In such terrible conditions, Charles still felt his responsibilities at home.

Adams Express became a household (and battlefield) name during the Civil War (see period photo). In 1845 the government ruled that only the U.S. post office could carry letters for a fee, but Adams shipped just about anything else through its offices. Both armies expressed money to pay the soldiers. Arms, uniforms and flags were shipped from factories and supply depots. Soldiers sent packets of money home for family upkeep, and bodies of fallen soldiers were even expressed home.

There appears to be a small burn mark in the center of this document, but overall it is very legible. Charles probably carried this receipt in his wallet during many battles, including Little Round Top at Gettysburg, where Company C suffered many casualties.

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