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Sale 38 Lot 346

CONFEDERATE BALLOON CORPS COMMANDER SIGNED POEM A great antebellum student's poem, 1p. 8vo., written by the Confederacy's first and only commander of their Balloon Corps, JOHN RANDOLPH BRYAN, JR. (1841-1917), a volunteer aide de camp to Gen. Magruder. The poem was written from Bloomfield Academy, May 1860, to fellow student and friend John J. Williams, VMI class of 1864. In part: "...Oh grant him heaven...whether life of ease or care. Be the one to him assigned; that each coming year may find. Noble thoughts and loving words twined within his bosoms chord...riper freshness to his heart'. Them's my sentiments, J. Randolph Bryan, Gloucester, Co., Va.". Bryan was born in Gloucester County, Virginia on January 9, 1841. At the outbreak of the war he volunteered as clerk on Magruder's staff. During McClellan's Peninsular campaign, rebel general Joseph E. Johnston called for a soldier who was acquainted with the region and asked for a volunteer would be able to correctly estimate the enemy's strength. Bryan answered the call, but he fretted about being "suspended in mid-air by what appeared to me as a mere thread under a hot air balloon". Local women donated their dresses to make the balloon and Richmond's city gas supply was used to fill the apparatus. His ardor for the job earned him the nickname "Balloon Bryan", but after being under fire at Yorktown he sought to resign. His request was immediately denied and was reminded that he was the South's only aeronaut. During its short time in service his corps lofted only two balloons. On July 4, 1862 the first balloon was captured by the Yankees after its transport, the CSS Teaser, ran aground in the James River and the other was lost during the siege of Charleston in the summer of 1863. Certainly one of the rarest of all Confederate signatures to be obtained. Near fine.
Estimate $ 600-700

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