Abraham Lincoln Signs Rare Commission for Marine Officer - One of Only About 50 That Can Exist!

President Abraham Lincoln signed this commission for John C. Harris as an officer in the United States Marine Corps on April 1, 1862, with Harris's rank to date from November 26, 1861. The Senate had consented to the appointment on the previous day. Harris's uncle, Colonel Commandant John Harris, had led the Marine Corps since 1859. This commission is one of only a few dozen that existed for new officers of the Marine Corps during the Civil War.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Partially Printed Document Signed, Commission of John C. Harris as 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, April 1, 1862. 1 p., sight size: 14" x 17.25." Also signed by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. Blind embossed paper seal. Very slight cockling; matted and framed to an overall size of 18.875" x 24.75" x 1.125."

"Know Ye, that reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Patriotism, Valour, Fidelity and Abilities of John C. Harris, I have nominated and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint him a Second Lieutenant, in the Marine Corps from the 26th November 1861 in the service of the United States. He is therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the Duties of a Second Lieutenant in said corps by doing and performing all Manner of Things thereto belonging."

Historical Background
In early 1861, the United States Marine Corps had 48 officers and 2,338 men. The commissioned officers included Colonel Commandant John Harris (1790-1864) of Pennsylvania, one lieutenant colonel, four majors, a few captains, and several dozen first and second lieutenants. Most Marines were scattered about the world on U.S. Navy ships and shore stations. Nineteen U.S. Marine Corps officers resigned and joined the Confederacy. Commandant Harris had to rebuild the weakened Corps and recommend new officers. By the end of September 1861, the Marine Corps had 81 officers. In addition to Commandant Harris, there was a lieutenant colonel, seven majors, thirteen captains, and dozens of first and second lieutenants, including 25 second lieutenants with the note, "Letters of appointment; positions not decided upon." Most were from the loyal states, but a few were from border slave states. The one notable exception was Second Lieutenant Horatio B. Lowry, born in South Carolina, but commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1861.

Colonel Commandant Harris had joined the Marine Corps during the War of 1812 and served during the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War. Rising through the ranks, Harris was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1859, the oldest officer to be appointed to that post and the one with the most service to the Corps before being appointed. When contraband traffic flowed from Maryland to the Confederacy early in the Civil War, Harris detailed an entire battalion of Marines to serve as Secret Service operators in the area, quickly putting a stop to the movement of contraband.

In late April 1862, a battalion of 250 Marines took possession of New Orleans facilities, including the U.S. Customs House. Second Lieutenant John C. Harris was ordered to occupy City Hall in the center of the city and haul down the Confederate flag. When General Benjamin F. Butler's forces arrived two days later, the Marines turned the city over to the U.S. Army.

John Campbell Harris (1840-1916) was born in Pennsylvania, the fourth of eight children of Dr. Stephen H. Harris and Marianne Smith Harris. His uncle was U.S. Marine Corps officer John Harris. He had studied law at West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., when the Civil War broke out. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw action under Admiral David Farragut in Louisiana and Mississippi and with Rear Admiral Dahlgren at Charleston, South Carolina. He resigned from the Marines in 1869 and married Mary Powers, the daughter of a chemist and owner of a drug manufacturing company in Philadelphia. They had at least three sons. He settled in Philadelphia as a partner in the manufacturing firm of Smith and Harris (J. Campbell Harris & Co. after 1874), which specialized in manufacturing plaster for walls and fertilizer.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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