December 14-17, 2021 Collectible Firearms & Militaria
Search By:
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/14/2021
John Brown is perhaps one of the most recognizable and controversial figures of the American Civil War Era. He was both famous and notorious as he made a name for himself with his infamous raids which added to the unrest of the time, and was often regarded as a martyr in the North and a villain in the South. This small brown leather wallet or pocket book comes with a 1901 letter of provenance signed by Norris Montgomery. Born in 1823, Montgomery was a Maryland militia officer and later a Confederate officer, and wrote this letter at the time of its sale to Benjamin Walter, a prominent autograph dealer who also purchased Civil War manuscript material from Montgomery and signed the letter as well. Montgomery’s letter reads as follows: “On October 16, 1859 the Independent Grays, a military company of Baltimore Md. of which I was Captain, was suddenly ordered out by Gov. Thom H Hicks, to assist in the oppressing [oppressing] John Brown’s Raid at Harper’s Ferry. We joined Lieut. Col. R.E. Lee on his way from Washington with the Marines, and arrived at Harper’s Ferry late at night. When it was daylight Col. Lee demanded surrender. Brown refused unless he was allowed to escape to the mountains. Lee said his orders were to take him alive or dead, and the attack began. A long ladder being used as a battering ram. All the firing on our side was done by the Marines, my company not taking part. Brown surrendered about noon. He had a cut on his head but was not severely injured and was able to walk. He was put into my custody. I asked him why he had made the raid + [and] he said it was from a sense of duty + [and] that he would do it again under the same circumstances. He said he had been promised aid at Harper’s Ferry and took a paper from his pocketbook to prove it. I said, “Mr. Brown I have a better pocket book than yours. Are you willing to trade. All right he replied. I’ll trade. The accompanying small brown pocket book is the one I got from John Brown.” Signed by Captain “Norris Montgomery Independent Grays of Baltimore & Walter Benjamin. May 19, 1901.” The Independent Greys, organized in 1833, were 1 of 5 Baltimore militia companies sent to Harpers Ferry, where they joined three companies from Frederick, already on the scene with the Virginia militia. The total strength of the Baltimore contingent is given as 201 enlisted men, plus company officers, field officers, staff officers, and doctors. As with the Frederick companies, some officers may have been serving in the ranks as privates in the emergency. Initially posted on the Maryland side of the river, the Baltimore companies joined the Frederick companies on Armory grounds in front to the engine house just before the final assault, Lee’s intention being to use the militia forces both to prevent escapes and prevent indiscriminate firing during the bayonet assault for the safety of Brown’s hostages. Montgomery was appointed 1st Lieutenant Independent Greys 53rd Regiment Maryland Volunteer Infantry by the Governor in 1853 and confirmed in 1854. By May 1861 he was a Major when elected Lieutenant Colonel of the First Rifle Regiment. We have not found dates of his intermediate ranks, but the chronology fits. Robert E. Lee’s account of the affair mentions that after the taking of the engine house the Independent Greys were sent under command of “Lt. B.L. Simpson,” to search the Maryland countryside, which could imply that Montgomery had remained on the Armory grounds, as his narrative implies, though we have not seen his name in newspaper reports. It is also possible that Montgomery was serving in a staff position for the composite battalion. He did misremember two chronological details, not unlikely almost fifty years later: the Baltimore companies left the city around 5:00 p.m. on October 17, and the assault on the fire engine house and capture of Brown took place early the next morning, not at noon. Montgomery joined the Confederate army during the Civil War, serving as captain and for at time commanding the prisoner of war camp at Belle Island in Richmond. He was reportedly relieved from his post for his leniency to the prisoners. Montgomery sold the wallet in 1901 and died just two years later in 1903. The wallet is accompanied by a binder of research which includes an unbroken written chain of ownership and Montgomery’s military records. Also included are copies of “The Collector: A Monthly Magazine for Autograph and Historical Collectors” from November 1901-October 1902 which lists the wallet for sale as “John Brown’s pocket-book taken from his pocket when captured at Harper’s Ferry. Also included is a two-page signed certificate of Capt. Norris Montgomery, Commandant of Belle Isle Prison, and Captain of the Independent Greys at Harper’s Ferry.” The wallet was listed with the price of 25 dollars. The original certificate which was previously quoted and mentioned in this advertisement is also included. Benjamin Walter’s sale listings also include some other material from Montgomery, indicating the wallet was purchased as part of a larger transaction. The wallet was purchased from Walter’s “The Collector” in 1901 by Bill White, and at a later date purchased from him by noted collector Bill Kulick who sold it to the consigner in 2011. CONDITION: The wallet, or “pocket book,” is unmarked, dark brown, 2 1/2”x 4”, with 5 compartments on the inside. The wallet reflects considerable age through its fragility. This is evident by the dry leather, and the significant wear along the edges. The bottom of the wallet exhibits considerable deterioration through both period use and age. The closure strap is missing and the corners have compressed with scattered cracking noticeable throughout the wallet’s construction. Overall fair. SBR/JLD
Binder of Research
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $4,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $17,640.00
Estimate: $8,000 - $12,000
Number Bids: 20
Auction closed on Friday, December 17, 2021.
Email A Friend
Ask a Question
Have One To Sell

Auction Notepad


You may add/edit a note for this item or view the notepad:  

Submit    Delete     View all notepad items