Contested Civil War Letters Released For Auction

If you do not believe auctioneer Bill Mishoe has the patience of Job, consider the tug of war he has endured over a trove of Civil War letters that were first due to be auctioned three years ago and are now set to cross the block September 29.

Back in August 2004, Mishoe had scheduled an auction of more than 400 Civil War letters, when to his shock and dismay — as well as to the many collectors who had traveled to Columbia for the sale and the consignor himself — representatives of South Carolina strode into Mishoe's gallery and stopped the auction, laying claim to the documents and slapping a restraining order on the auctioneer. The officials contended that the letters belonged to the people of South Carolina as official state documents.

Many of the letters were either from or written to the office of South Carolina's two Civil War governors. Other important letters seized included three documents penned by General Robert E. Lee that discussed in detail the state of the Confederate troops and the war effort.

After nearly three years of legal twists and turns, culminating in the 4th District Court of Appeals in Virginia upholding the consignor's right to possess and sell the letters, Mishoe was set to reschedule the auction on June 6 this year. The intervening period of time had not diminished the keen interest in the letters....

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