This collection is made up of a diary, 18 letters, 13 receipts, and other materials relating to John Egan Rapp during and after his service in Swett's Battery of the Mississippi Light Artillery. His diary spans just over year of his service in the Confederate Army and the bulk of the remainder of the collection pertains to his postwar life in Conyers and Atlanta, Georgia.
This John Egan Rapp collection is made up of a diary; 18 letters and a telegram; a group of receipts, a recipe, three newspaper clippings, two short lists of genealogical material, three empty envelopes, an advertising flyer, three blank voter oath forms; and a published history of the Battle of Chickamauga. These materials pertain to Rapp's life during and after his service in Swett's Battery of the Mississippi Light Artillery. His diary spans just over year of his service in the Confederate Army and the bulk of the remainder of the collection pertains to his postwar life in Conyers and Atlanta, Georgia.
Diary. John Egan Rapp kept his 96-page pocket diary between October 2, 1862, and November 23, 1863, during his service in Swett's Battery, Mississippi Light Artillery. He wrote in pencil, which has since become smudged and is at times so faded that it is difficult to read. At least one page of the diary has been torn out. Rapp routinely recorded where his unit camped each night, the number of miles they marched each day, rations issued, and enemy locations. He wrote some of his longest entries when his artillery unit was engaged in the battles of Murfreesboro (December 1862 and January 1863) and Chickamauga (September 19-25, 1863). He described harsh living conditions near Tazewell, Tennessee in October 1862, "we have had but half rations for the last week and tonight none is to be had." A week later, they camped in the woods near Knoxville in cold weather with no tents, with some men lacking shoes or adequate clothing. This contrasts with Christmas of 1862 when they were at College Grove, Tennessee, "General Liddell has prepared a barbecue for the Brigade--is expected to be a brilliant affair--number of ladies are expected and every preparations are made to receive them." Wet and weary after five days and nights "on the field" at the battle of Mufreesboro, he wrote, "our horses have not had anything to eat in thirty-six hours and have traveled 26 miles since midnight" (January 4, 1863). He mentioned seeing Gen. Joe E. Johnson reviewing the troops (December 10, 1862), and Jefferson Davis riding along the line (October 11, 1863). Although "elected" to become Lieutenant after the death of the serving officer, he wrote, "But declined." (October 11, 1863). On page 44 of the diary (December 22, 1863), Rapp wrote a farewell letter to one of his sisters (probably Elizabeth, Mrs. Thomas Postlewait) saying that if he died he hoped his diary would make its way to her, and that he owed the "onley few moments of happiness I ever new" to her. Much of the second half of the diary notebook consists of notes, addresses, accounts, etc. -- some refer to amts. of ammunition (Round Shot, Canister, Shell)--under the heading "List--Gun Napolean" are records of type of ammunition used, weight of ammo, distance in yards, and remarks about gun performance.
The collection's Correspondence (18 letters, a telegram, and three loose envelopes) spans April 13, 1864-October 30, 1891. John E. Rapp wrote four of the letters; his sister Elizabeth C. [Rapp] Postlewait (1833-1922) wrote two; his brother-in-law Thomas H. Postlewait (1826/28-1903) wrote two; his sister Emily [Rapp] Hair (1844-1915) wrote one; his cousin Dr. William E. Rapp (1819-1880) sent one; his cousin Enoch Thompson (1808-1898) wrote one; and P. K. Montgomery sent one. Most of the remaining letters are business related.
John E. Rapp wrote the two earliest letters in this collection during the Civil War. On April 13, 1864, he informed his wife that he was awaiting the arrival of his second "Certificate of Disability." About three weeks later, P. K. Montgomery advised Rapp how he could safely cross the Mississippi River at St. Joseph, Louisiana, despite Yankee gunboats, "Crossing is done in Canoes and mostly by Night. The horses have to Swim the River . . . The charges are pretty high as the Boats have to be kept some distance in the Country and hauled in when needed." (May 8, 1864). Dr. William E. Rapp's Reconstruction Era letters from Franklin Parish, Louisiana, described difficulties resulting from the disruption of mail and railroad service. "We have not mails here yet & consequently, scarcely ever get a letter except by the boats in the winter by way of New Orleans. No Rail Road in operation from here to Miss. River & no navigation now, so that we are cut off from the world." (Oct. 11, 1867). He also commented several times on the use of freedmen as a labor force, "We have been trying the planting with the Freed men, but not to any great success . . . Labour is much wanting in this country as not more than half of the Freedmen are of any account & none very valuable." (October 11, 1867). "I am striving as usual to make a fortune with free Negroes, which is rather a slow business . . . I am working, or feeding about 35 hands & their families & sometimes they pay for it, and sometimes they don't." (March 30, 1879).
A November 18, 1881, letter from Emily (Rapp) Hair in Ohio expressed her wish to make peace with her brother, John E. Rapp. She was unaware that he had a wife and family, so the brother and sister must have been out of touch since at least 1863, and it is possible that they quarreled over his decision to fight for the Confederacy. A single letter dated October 10, 1886, written by a railroad official, described a raid that John E. Rapp was ordered to make on thieves poaching fish from railroad property. "...two men who fished the pond every day or night during the past week & that these parties had taken over 500 fish, the most of them they had put in their own private pond for future use." Also of interest is a letter from Rapp's 83-year-old cousin Enoch Thompson, who claimed to have written the first accurate description of the creation of the Universe. "Moses wrote a run and jump darklantern description of the Creation of this world . . . This historic account of the structure of the Universe I have written for your perusal is, in all probability, the first Historic description of the Universe ever written by man in any age of the world and therefore may be considered something new under the Sun, and might serve as a relic in the future." (October 30, 1891).
The Documents, Receipts, Newspaper Clippings, and Other Manuscripts include 13 receipts, a recipe for "copaiba," two short lists of genealogical material, three undated newspaper clippings, one advertising flyer, and three blank Fulton County, Georgia, voter oath forms from 1891.
The receipts include four for quarterly tuition at The Gordon School in Atlanta, Georgia, for Rapp's son Fred in 1891, and one for tuition at the Atlanta Classical School in 1892. Also among the receipts is one dated May 8, 1876, acknowledging that Station House Keeper W. A. Bonnell received "the body of one Henry Redding, alias Wm. Christopher." On the back of the receipt is a penciled note, "$4.00 Guard House fee." This is a reference to a "colored" convict who escaped from the convict camp near Marietta, Georgia, with five other prisoners, March 23-24, 1876. Despite searching an 8-mile radius with dogs, the men made a clean escape, and a $25 reward was offered for each man. Redding was recaptured about six weeks later, and for a time was confined in the Station House mentioned in the receipt of May 8, 1876. As the May 5, 1876 issue of the Atlanta Constitution wryly put it, "Henry Redding, who has been sentenced to the penitentiary for lifetime and 20 years additional, is now a guest at the Hotel de Bonnell." Henry Redding's serious problems with the law began in 1869. He and two other "negroes" were convicted of arson for starting a fire in a jail where they had been detained, in an attempt to escape. They received a sentence of hard labor for life after being convicted of arson. While serving this sentence Redding escaped from a convict camp near Marietta, Georgia, in 1876 and was recaptured six weeks later. Eleven years later, in 1887, he applied to Governor Gordon to reduce his life sentence to 20 years. Based on an earlier court decision that "an attempt to burn a jail in order to effect an escape is not arson," and in consideration of the long term Redding had already served, the Governor ordered him "forthwith discharged from confinement" (The Atlanta Constitution, Aug. 6, 1887, p. 7).
The newspaper clippings include one entitled "The Gallant Charge" about Cheatham's Division at Franklin, Tennessee, one about a reunion of Confederate veterans, and the last an obituary for John E. Rapp's son Joseph W. Rapp
The collection includes a 16-page Confederate imprint entitled GREAT BATTLE OF CHICAMAUGA: A concise History of Events from the Evacuation of Chattanooga to the Defeat of the Enemy (Mobile, 1863) by S. C. Reid of the Mobile Tribune, with John E. Rapp's penciled annotation on the margin of page six correcting the account of Swett's Battery's part in the battle.