Archive of Colonel Joseph C. Audenried – provenance note

Archive of Colonel Joseph C. Audenried

Born into a well to do Philadelphia family, Joseph C. Audenried (1839-1880) enjoyed a privileged seat at the table of history. Handsome, intelligent, and supremely efficient, he made the most of his innate talents and good fortune as he built a truly unique career, becoming one of the most trusted members of the staff of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman.

A career military man, Audenried graduated 17th in his class at West Point in 1861, and was immediately commissioned 1st Lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, however his talents soon attracted the interest of his superiors, and for two years, he served on the staff of one division commander after another. His first staff position was as aide de camp to Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler, one of the Division commanders at the First Battle of Bull Run, and despite the ignominious defeat there — for which Tyler was substantially held to blame — Audenried remained a valued officer. In the late summer, he transferred onto the staff of the 2nd U.S. Artillery in the defenses of Washington, D.C., and then in March 1862, he transferred again to the staff of the 1st Cavalry Brigade of the Army of the Potomac under Brig. Gen. William H. Emory, and four months later to the staff of the 2nd Army Corps under Maj. Gen Edwin V. “Bull” Sumner, earning a promotion to Captain.

Under Sumner, Audenried witnessed the shocking combat of the late summer months and the unfolding of the Maryland Campaign. In the hellish West Woods at Antietam, he was seriously wounded and obliged to leave the field, but was cited by Sumner for his gallantry. He returned to the 2nd Corps to take part at Fredericksburg, but when Sumner was voluntarily relieved of duty in March 1863, Audenried moved on. After a brief stint under John Wool, he traveled to the western theatre to serve under Ulysses S. Grant, and took part in the fall of Vicksburg and pursuit through Tennessee. Finally, in October 1863, Audenried was transferred under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, never again leaving his staff for the remainder of his life. With Sherman, Audenried took part in the Chattanooga and Knoxville Campaigns, the Atlanta Campaign, and the famous March to the Sea and March through the Carolinas.

During the course of the Civil War, Audenried had the distinction of serving under the most illustrious officers in the Union army and was recognized three times for gallant and meritorious service with brevet promotions to Captain, Major (Atlanta) and Lieutenant Colonel (War service). Although he married 18-year old Mary Colket in 1863 and had a daughter, Florence, in 1867, he apparently never considered settling down to a civilian life, nor did he leave Sherman’s side for long. Promoted to Captain of the 6th Cavalry in July 1866, headquartered in St. Louis, he participated in the Indian wars in the west under Sherman’s command, earning a promotion to Colonel in March 1869, and when Sherman was promoted to Lieutenant General when Grant was elected President, Audenried went along, moving to Washington, D.C.

A sophisticated, polished figure, handsome and popular, Audenried was well known and well respected in the capitol. He accompanied Sherman and Grant’s son, Fred, on a diplomatic and military tour of Europe in 1871-1872 to build ties with foreign governments and review their armies. As early as 1876, however, Audenried began to display the signs of serious, but unknown illness, and at the age of 41, on June 3, 1880, he died in Washington.

The historian Michael Fellman has hypothesized that the relationship between Sherman and Audenried had an unusual wrinkle. Although Mary Jane Audenried was well off financially due to her inheritance and her own family wealth, she was taken under Sherman’s affectionate wing. Although the evidence is not overwhelming, Fellman believes that Sherman and Mary Jane Audenried — 25 years his junior — had a long-lasting affair that began only a few weeks after Joseph’s death.

Poised at the heart of American military power, the Audenried Archive is a large and historically important assemblage offering insight into the mind and personality of the top brass in the army during the post-Civil War years, with particular insight into the enigmatic William T. Sherman. Audenried’s long and intimate association with Sherman (perhaps too intimate, if Fellman is to be believed) gave him unusual access.

Whether touring Europe examining foreign military establishments, traversing the west during the Indian Wars, or traipsing through a tumultuous Mexico or Cuba, Audenried’s letters and diaries are long, well informed, and gloriously well written. The collection is enhanced by the presence of several letters written by Sherman and a chapter from the original manuscript of Sherman’s autobiography. An exceptional survival from the most trusted staff member of one of the most distinguished officers in the nineteenth century U.S. Army.

Information courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions

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