Abraham Lincoln Military Appointment With a Smithsonian Institution Connection

He appoints the famed pioneering ornithologist Charles Bendire an officer in the Union Army.

Charles Bendire served in the Civil War successively as a private, corporal, sergeant, and a hospital steward until he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Infantry in May 1864. He transferred to the 1st U.S. Cavalry on September 9, 1864, and was eventually promoted to 1st Lieutenant for...

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Abraham Lincoln Military Appointment With a Smithsonian Institution Connection

He appoints the famed pioneering ornithologist Charles Bendire an officer in the Union Army.

Charles Bendire served in the Civil War successively as a private, corporal, sergeant, and a hospital steward until he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Infantry in May 1864. He transferred to the 1st U.S. Cavalry on September 9, 1864, and was eventually promoted to 1st Lieutenant for “gallant and meritorious services” at the Battle of Trevilian Station. Remaining in the army after the war, he was later a captain, and then major. He retired on April 24, 1886.

During Bendire’s service in the army he was sent to many locations, often isolated, across America, including Arizona, Washington and California. It was during these travels that he developed a fondness for all things wild, and particularly birds. He became a noted ornithologist and oologist (studying bird eggs), corresponded with other naturalists, and published articles. He made new discoveries about the migration habits of various birds and discovered several new species, including the Bendire’s Thrasher.

Bendire amassed an important private collection of 8,000 bird eggs, which he donated to the U.S. National Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institution). The Smithsonian’s website states of Bendire: “Collected eggs extensively throughout military career. Private collection of 8,000 eggs formed the basis of the egg collection at USNM. Honorary Curator in the Department of Oology under Spencer F. Baird. Prepared two volumes of “Life Histories of North American Birds.” Founding member of the American Ornithologists’ Union.”

Document signed as President, on vellum, complete with engravings of an eagle, flags, and military accoutrements, Washington, May 21, 1864, appointing Charles “Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment of Infantry.” The document is countersigned by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. We obtained it direct from the Bendire family descendants, and it has never before been offered for sale.

It is unusual find a Lincoln military appointment with a significant scientific connection such as this one, and extraordinary to find one with a connection to the Smithsonian Institution.

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