Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

West, Lewis H. (b. 1829) to R. West

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03836.30 Author/Creator: West, Lewis H. (b. 1829) Place Written: Aboard USS "Alabama" off Charleston, South Carolina Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 20 January 1862 Pagination: 9 p. : docket ; 24.7 x 19.4 cm.

References his mother and sister's letters of 19 and 20 December and another from 6 January. Mentions remembering his father riding on a pig's back down Seventh Street along the Schuylkill River. Says the fog has been bad lately, which helps ships run out of the harbor, but makes running in hard. Says 2 nights ago a boat with 3 contrabands came to their ship. Says 1 of the 3 was very intelligent and gave them valuable information about the harbor, as he had been in a pilot boat. Describes their escape. Says one was "a full blooded darky," another "a mulatto," and the other "so nearly white that I should never have suspected that there was a drop of black blood in his veins had I met him under ordinary circumstances." Expresses anger about some inefficiencies with the blockade, especially with signalling. Expresses dismay that the Union is sinking ships to block the harbor, saying true sailors despair the destruction of a good harbor. Continues letter on 22, 24, and 27 January and 4 February. Says the weather has been rough. They eventually went to Port Royal to recoal. Note on the 27th says they spent the last few days searching for missing ships. Also says one of the ships they recently destroyed had a Catholic bishop on board and that he took the bishop's Sevres porcelain. Hopes "it doesn't come under the head of robbing a church."

Order a CopyCitation Guidelines for Online Resources