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Rarest’ U.S Civil war book sells for $45,000 at Heritage

A remarkably rare book recounting the experiences of the American Civil War took the top spot at Heritage Auctions’ latest sale of Texana.

‘Fourteen Hundred and 91 Days, in the Confederate Army’ features the journal of Confederate soldier William Williston Heartsill, who served as a member of W.P. Lane’s Texas Rangers.

Heartsill’s unit was captured by Union forces in Arkansas, and spent a year in a prisoner of war camp near Springfield, Illinois before being released in exchange for Federal troops captured by the Confederacy.

They then fought under General Braxton Bragg’s army at the bloody battle of Chickamauga, before abandoning the appalling conditions in Tennessee and walking back to Texas, to serve out the war in charge of Camp Ford, a prison for Federal troops.

Heartsill recorded his entire four year military service in a series of notebooks, which he sent home from the front line. Following the end of the war, he privately published his journal and printed 100 copies himself using an Octavo Novelty Press.

The book is regarded as one of the most vivid and intimate accounts of Civil War life ever written, and with just a handful of those 100 copies surviving to this day, it has since been described as “the rarest and most coveted book on the American Civil War”. The copy offered at Heritage eventually sold for $45,000.

Further notable lots included a group of letters written in 1847-48 by William Chapman of the 5th Infantry, detailing his experiences during the Mexican-American War, which sold for $20,000; an 1834 land grant signed by William Barret Travis as secretary to the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin, which sold for $11,875; and a rare early map of Texas, discovered hidden inside a box of antique sheet music bought for $10 at an estate auction, which sold for $10,000.

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