[St. Louis]: A. McLean, [ca. 1862]. Full-page lithograph on a bifolium, with pp. manuscript letter. Previously folded; both leaves of bifolium nearly separated along central horizontal fold. Otherwise, light dust soiling and minor wear. Manuscript letter accomplished in relatively neat, legible script. About very good. Item #1917
Apparently unrecorded St. Louis pictorial lettersheet that depicts a Civil War view of the arena at the St. Louis Fairgrounds. First opened in 1856, the grounds boasted an ornate arena, with a multi-tiered gazebo at its center that played host to outdoor expositions, horse races and other riding events. In the present view, the arena is being utilized as Union troop review, and several units are being put through their paces on the circular track before throngs of onlookers. The remainder of the fairgrounds had been commandeered by John C. Frémont as a training camp and barracks at the outset of the Civil War, and could house up to 30,000 Union troops. This view was lithographed by Alexander McLean, a Scottish immigrant who published views, prints, and music in St. Louis during the 1850s and 1860s, but whose work survives in very few examples.
The letter itself is rather interesting as well, written by H.W. Wallace to his sister from Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee, on March 24, 1862, less than two weeks before the Battle of Shiloh. He reports that Grant has just moved his unit south from Kentucky for the coming confrontation:
"I am at this time cooking for our mess and get along fine with my work. There has been a great deal of sickness in our Reg since it left Smithland Kentucky but it is a great deal better now for we have a nice place to encamp in. It is on the top of a high dry hill and there is at least ten nice springs within a half of a mile of it.... We are within twenty or twenty five miles of the enemy and are closing in on them very fast. Our brigade is a reserve brigade and I do not think we will leave camp for some time...."
A good example of a scarce, Civil War-era St. Louis pictorial lettersheet being used for its original purpose.
Peters, America on Stone, p.277.