A Partial List of Important and Newly Uncovered Historical Documents That We Placed With Private Collectors Last Month
Among the many historical discoveries at Raab over the past month are three letters: an 1865 letter of General William T. Sherman, an unpublished and previously unknown Civil War letter of General U.S. Grant, and a letter written by Albert Einstein about creationism. All of these items quickly found homes with private collectors.
A Rare Letter of Sherman from Conquered Savannah
On military letterhead, Union General William T. Sherman penned this letter on January 15, 1865, from Savannah, Georgia, less than a month after he completed his March to the Sea and elicited the surrender of that city. In it, he thanks shipbuilder Edward Mintura, who had sent Sherman a case of wine. It is one of just a small number of letters of Sherman from Savannah ever to reach the market.
Mintura kept the letter and attached to it a fragment of a Confederate flag that had flown over Fort Fisher, given to him by Secretary of State Edwin Stanton, making it a very personal memento of the war. We have never seen another such artifact from this famous flag and gift to the Union Secretary.
The letter had been in a private collection for more than three decades before we acquired it.
The Earliest Letter of Grant in a Century
On the very day that Ulysses S. Grant offered his services to the United States, May 24, 1861, he wrote another letter, explaining to a potential commander how to gain an officer’s command. It is the earliest Civil War letter of Grant’s that we have ever seen.
“I write this to keep you posted how to get into the service,” he writes, offering valuable advice to his correspondent. He also asks him to “keep this letter to yourself….”
The letter did indeed stay out of the public eye. Apparently unpublished and previously unknown, the letter had been in a private collection for generations. It is the earliest letter of Grant we have ever seen and the earliest public records show in a century.
Einstein’s Great Letter on the Bible and the Creation Story
In the spring of 1950, a religious teacher in Brooklyn sent a letter to Albert Einstein on behalf of her students, asking him whether he thought it was possible “for a modern scientist to reconcile the idea of the creation of the world by God, a higher power, with his scientific knowledge.”
In his typed and signed reply, the renowned physicist advised that people of science could not believe in the story of creation as depicted in the Bible and that science “replaces and supersedes” such religious concepts.
We acquired the letter directly from descendants of that teacher. We had never seen an Einstein letter on this topic before, and we found it utterly compelling. When we offered the letter for sale publicly for the first time, it garnered global media attention.
Making historical discoveries is a thrilling part of the work we do, and one that Nathan Raab chronicled in his book, The Hunt for History.