Too late for the Battle of Little Bighorn: Dead soldier's cover brings $28,000

Spink Shreves' August 2011 Collector's Series Sale has concluded with two fascinating pieces of American history going under the hammer.

One of these was a letter addressed to a soldier who fought at Custer's Last Stand - also known as The Battle of Little Bighorn - which was returned to its author as the soldier, John Hiley, had lost his life in the battle which was a renowned Indian victory.

Manuscript notation in red tells the intended reader "John S. Hiley was Killed in Battle on Little Big Horn River M.T. June 25 76" and matching text "Dead letter Office" all appears on the reverse of the cover from England.

The cover is franked by a left wing margin single of the 1873 3d Rose, Plate 19, tied by "Margate/Jy 30, 76" duplex postmark.

John Hiley cover battle Little Bighorn Custer
John Hiley's cover which arrived too late to reach him
before the Battle of Little Bighorn

It is addressed to"John S. Hiley, 'E Troop' 7 Cavalry, Fort Abe Lincoln, Dakotah, United States of America" and in another hand "Bighorn Expedition," then marked "Dead" and in red "Dead" and "over".

A faint red circular date stamp also ties the stamp. On the reverse there is a partial "Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dak/Oct 8" postmark and a blue triangular "Dead Letter Office/U.S.A./Oct 13, 76" handstamp, which is very fine.

Listed at $15,000-20,000, the fascinating piece of American history excited bidders sufficiently to bring $28,000.

John Hiley cover back battle Little Bighorn Custer
The reverse of John Hiley's cover with its tragic message

From nearly a century earlier, there was also a Thomas Jefferson cover featuring a 'free' frank marked by him as President on the folded cover addressed in his hand to Mr. James Dinsmore at Monticello, near Milton.

There is a red "Washn. City/June 26" datestamp and matching straightline 'FREE' handstamp, with just a few light scattered toned spots well away from the signature. It is very fine, and the most desirable form of the Thomas Jefferson frank.

This too beat its high estimate of $3,000 to bring $3,750.


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