Today I learned the subject manuscript of yesterday’s post still exists and sold at a Christie’s auction five years ago for $122,500. The single document has the signatures of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, which both signed in their presidential capacities.
As may be recalled, in the final weeks of the Civil War a Baptist minister personally acquainted with Lincoln approached the president seeking permission to sell cotton owned by a Mississippi orphanage in order to buy supplies for the children. He had a petition from the orphanage’s board of trustees describing the destitute conditions.
President Davis endorsed the back of the petition with a note permitting the minister to pass through enemy lines in order to meet with Lincoln. After initial reluctance, Lincoln wrote a note below Davis’s authorizing the Union occupation commander in New Orleans, Major General Edward Canby, to assist the minister.
Prior to the latest Christie’s auction the document had three owners. First was the applicable Baptist minister, Thomas C. Teasdale. The next owner was Gilbert Colgate of the Colgate-Palmolive and Colgate University family. He apparently wrote a Civil War Times Illustrated article about the incident shortly before he died in 1965. The most recent seller was evidently a Colgate family descendent.
Prior to discovering the auction, I would have guessed that Teasdale’s petition would have brought a higher price because I don’t think there is another document having both the Lincoln and Davis signatures, particularly in their presidential capacities. Moreover, the petition itself partly tells the interesting background story. Finally, according to the Christie notes, it also has General Canby’s signature and endorsement.
My Civil War Books