This letter was written by William J. Syms (1819-1889), a munitions supplier in New York City in business with his brother, Samuel R. Syms. The content of the letter pertains to the supply of cartridges for Navy and Army pistols as well as Sharps Rifles.
Sage wrote the letter to DeWitt Clinton Sage (1836-1902), a cartridge manufacturer during the Civil War who resided in Middletown, Middlesex County, Connecticut. DeWitt was the son of Barzilla Doud Sage (1806-1853) and Elizabeth P. Yale (1812-1861). About 1864 he married Emma C. Ives (1842-Bef1900).
DeWitt was only 16 when his father died but he carried on the brick-making business of his father for six years before selling it to pursue a career in manufacturing cartridges. The business was initially profitable but the short supply of raw materials during the war resulted in the production of cartridges that could no longer be produced for the price he quoted in his contracts. By the time he got out of the business, he was $30,000 in debt. Somehow he managed to follow this business with one of manufacturing headstones for the new national cemeteries. He eventually got into the brick manufacturing business on Long Island and became quite successful.
300 Broadway, New York, [New York]
January 19th 1863
Mr. D. C. Sage
Yours of 17th is at hand saying that you had sent the 50 Sharp’s Rifles the day before. They are not yet arrived here. Our telegraph ordering you to complete the Army first should not have prevented the shipment of the 100 Navy if they were already made. If they are now on the road with the 50 Sharps’ we think they will be accepted although we have orders this morning to send no more Navy until further orders, but to hurry up the Army. They say make them but do not send them down. We will ascertain exactly whether and when they will take them as soon as you are near completion of the Army.
We should not be surprised if orders had been given for some millions of cartridge and we could have obtained them if you had at all met previous engagements. Your failures on small orders has prevented our getting the large ones. We advised you to crowd on hands to make 35 or 50 daily when you had orders for 800, but you did not do it. As soon as some Army size come down, we will try again for orders, but dare not go to the office before. Send us a list of all the cartridges you now have on hand. We may sell some and also the account of caps short.
Yours respectfully, — W. J. Syms & Bro.