A new display at the Brooklyn Historical Society, includes a particularly moving letter from Capt. Samuel Sims of Brooklyn that was almost lost to history. He was writing from the Petersburg lines in July, 1864, as he awaited the detonation of explosives below Confederate offenses that would become known as the Battle of the Crater. He was to lead the charge and he seemed to anticipate death in a letter to his mother.
“I wish to assure you all that I’m fully conscious of what might happen to me and believe that I can meet any event as you would have me,” he wrote, closing with, “Having faith in God, who doeth all things well, I remain your affectionate son, Samuel.”
Three days later, he was dead.
A stash of letters written by Simms was already in a trash can in Santa Barbara, Calif., when a passerby rescued them several years ago, according to a story by WBYC news. A cleaning crew had thrown them in with general household trash following the deaths of Sims’s grandson Kenneth and his wife Dorothy, who had no children or other relatives to look after such precious family heirlooms.
The letters eventually were sent to the Historic Fund Collection at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn where Sims is buried. His grave is marked by a granite monument, paid for by his men, and inscribed, “To the gallant Sims, who died for America.”
The cemetery has loaned the letters to the Brooklyn Historical Society for an exhibit commemorating the end of the Civil War. The show is titled “Personal Correspondents: Photography and Letter Writing in Civil War Brooklyn.”
The exhibit opened April 9 and will close in the spring, 2016.