7:40 AM

Welcome Back!

I spent a good two hours yesterday sorting ephemera into acid-free boxes. My consignees' are not rooted like a tree to the landing and in lots of cases they have branches of their firm's operation in other places than Arabia was planned to stop on its final trip up the Missouri River. It was a challenge for me  (for years) because I don't know if it is better to sort the material by:
  • Type ( Billhead, CDV, catalogue)
  • Arabia's Landings (St Joseph, Omaha)
  • Story (Mail contract, SB Building)
  • Consignee (Tootles & Armstrong, Rogers)
  • Place- (Pittsburgh St Louis)
There is no way I can keep all these stories in my head and I worry I will forget connections between landing and places. Finally, I thought it doesn't matter. I thought if I write up an index card for each piece and sorted some boxes by place, occupation (lawyer's- ie. land deeds, letters and insurance) and story (mail contract).
So- how would you sort these? I'd love to know! Remember, there is no wrong answer. CONTACT ME

While sorting, I came across this letter you see I found at the National Archives.
RG 393 (US Army Continental Commend 1821-1920) PT 1 Dept of the West 1853-1861 Letters recorded 1854 (w) 1855 (A-R)
It's the only letter I found (without an envelope) written on the Steamboat Arabia. David Bell, 1st Lt. 1st Cav.writes to Br. Major Page at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The letter was dated April 29, 1855 and above he notes, "On Board the Steamer Arabia, Liberty Landing". The reading room at the NARA had a newly installed polaroid machine, so I coughed up the $10 to have a photo made.I have only paid for a photo like this twice- the second time was because I found a swatch of wool in an envelope from a manufacturer for possible use for uniforms or blankets. Anyway, back to my posting- I couldn't understand his concern why this man was so concerned about being present if Surgeon Madison has a court marshall hearing. Something happened four days earlier that must have alarmed 1st Lt. Bell.

Due to my personal schedule today which consists of getting a hair cut, stopping at the bank and another appointment, I can't dwell on this- however, this letter sparked my interest so while reading box after box of papers at the NARA in the 1990s, I kept my eye out for any related material and found some.


Apparently, Bell had been sick and unable to leave the fort with his troops and I guess Madison thought he was faking it. Assistant Surgeon Madison was a character.He had Arabia's Capt Shaw hand deliver a letter to QM Vinton in St Louis requesting a bath tub be sent to him at Ft Pierre and if I recall by memory his request was not looked upon as favorable by Vinton. Also, the word was he was not a good surgeon because while extracting a barbed arrow from a soldier's face, he caused more damage than the arrow caused. Finally when the civil war breaks out, another man sent a letter to the Confederacy saying Madison will go AWOL once he can get close to the border. I would have to look it up, but Madison was attached to a Confederate General as a surgeon and does survive, living out his life in Lynchburg, Virgina. (sorry I didn't post these other letters, but I copies of them in my files).

This is a great story about how officer's took sides- and Jefferson Davis was the Sec of War at this time- so it is easy to see why he was selected to led the south. Here's the complete letter for your review.