University Archives


Civil War Union Pass Dating Just after 1st Battle of Bull Run

A Civil War pass featuring the enormous signature of Joseph Rodman Drake DeKay (1836-1886), the acting aide-de-camp of Union General Joseph K.F. Mansfield, as "Drake De Kay" at bottom recto. Issued from Headquarters, Military Department of Washington [D.C.] on July 29, 1861. (DeKay's dark and elegant signature measures approximately 6.375" x 1.75" alone!) The pass is matted but enables a view of the recto. The partly printed and partly handwritten pass shows expected paper folds. An isolated pencil inscription verso, and mounting traces at top verso. Else very good to near fine. Overall measures 10.5" x 8.25."

This pass was issued to an "Adjutant Duryer" of the 3rd Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, permitting him to travel freely "over the Bridges + within the lines of the Army" following the First Battle of Bull Run. Printed verso: "It is understood that the within named and subscriber accepts this pass on his word of honor that he is and will be ever loyal to the United States; and if hereafter found in arms against the Union or in any way aiding her enemies, the penalty will be death." Adjutant Duryer the pass-bearer has signed verso.

The First Battle of Bull Run took place on July 21, 1861 about 30 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.; it was the first significant engagement of the Civil War, and a Confederate victory.

Drake DeKay served on the staff of a succession of major Civil War generals, including General Joseph K.F. Mansfield (mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam just a year later, in September 1862); General John Pope; and General Joseph Hooker. DeKay was promoted numerous times for gallantry and participated in the Battles of Spotsylvania and the Wilderness (1864).

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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