Lincoln letter to be on display during Historical Society Ice Cream Social

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Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2018 10:43 am | Updated: 11:18 am, Tue Aug 7, 2018.

A 50-year-old dream came true for Gene "Wink" McCoskey in 2016, when he purchased a letter signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

McCoskey will have the Lincoln letter on display at the annual Ice Cream Social, hosted by the Washington Historical Society from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 at 105 Zinser Place, Washington.

Free ice cream will be served to all attendees at the gathering. The ice cream will be supplied by Tim and Jan Whiteside of Mason-White Funeral Home.

During the Ice Cream Social, the Dement-Zinser house will be open to the public, featuring historic exhibits, including McCoskey’s Lincoln letter.

“I saw my first Lincoln letter in a gift shop in downtown Springfield near the old State Capitol in 1966,” said McCoskey, a resident of O’Fallon, a former resident of Washington and a 1973 graduate of Washington Community High School.

“In 2016, I contacted the retired curator of the Lincoln collection at the State Library and asked him about the acquisition process,” said McCoskey. “He helped educate me on historical letters and investment values. He offered to help and I told him what I wanted. In the matter of a few short weeks, he found a document for sale through one of the most reputable dealers of historic letters and books in the world.”

McCoskey’s Lincoln correspondence is a letter written by President Lincoln to Gen. Henry Halleck, secretary of war and signed by the president using his working signature, A. Lincoln.

The letter was written and dated Sep. 27, 1862, which was a Saturday, said McCoskey.

“It was a standard piece of Civil War correspondence between the president and the war department, recommending the review of the personal records for promotion of two soldiers, for their brave service in the Battle of Cross Keys in June of 1862,” said McCoskey.

Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy and Col. Gustave Paul Cluseret distinguished themselves in leading their Union brigades against Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's forces. Desperate for good news, Secretary of State William H. Seward recommended to Lincoln their promotions. 

Cluseret was brevetted Brigadier General of Volunteers on Oct. 14, 1862 and the Senate approved Milroy's promotion to Major General on March 10, 1863.

McCoskey will also be displaying a letter from Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William H. Seward.

Written on executive mansion stationary, addressed to Halleck, Seward’s letter endorses the promotion of Milroy and Cluseret.

Also, on display will be an example of Washington, Illinois’ own currency from 1858.

Rob Bell will have on exhibit the currency purchased by his late son, Benjamin Bell, who was a currency and stamp dealer before his death in 2017.

Like McCoskey, owning a piece of history was a dream of Benjamin’s since he was a boy, when he decided he wanted to purchase a circulated bill of the Washington currency.

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