Lot 2020Sitka, Alaska T. Dec 3, discernable cds with matching blurry target cancel ties 3¢ ultramarine (114) on cover to Millersport, Ohio, original "Head Quarters, Sitka Alaska Territory, December 2nd 1870" letterhead enclosure from 2nd Lt. David Alexander Lyle of the 2nd Artillery with some interesting content "…I am on a General Court Martial on one of the gravest crimes in the criminal calendar - Murder - but this court had to adjourn to meet below - at Ft. Vancouver - but Borrow's being ordered to Washington D.C. leaves me in Command of the Company…" and goes on to remark he was "Officer of the Day" every other day; Post Adjutant and Post Treasurer; Company Commander and "Officer in Charge of Destitute Russians", etc.; accompanied by two other 3¢ #114 covers addressed to Lt. Lyle while at Alcatraz Island from Fort Leavenworth Feb. 14th 1870 and from Arizona City, Ariz. Terr. Feb. 19th 1870; also a further 3¢ #U59 entire to Alcatraz, Very Fine.
Estimate $10,000 - 15,000.
Russian Alaska was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1867 and designated as the Department of Alaska until its organization as the District of Alaska in 1884. During the department era, Alaska was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army until 1877, the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury (from 1877 until 1879) and the U.S. Navy (from 1879 until 1884). The area later became the District of Alaska (1884), then the Territory of Alaska (1912), then the State of Alaska (1959).
Lyle graduated from the military academy on October 17, 1865, being 41st in his class at a time when even the top five graduates had difficulty in securing appointments in a regular army being reduced to a peacetime establishment. Lyle was appointed a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery on 15 June 1869. He became a 1st Lieutenant of Ordnance in November 1874, a Captain 23 August 1881 and a Major on 7 April 1899.
The trial referenced was an ex-Army soldier William B. Bird who held a grudge for his earlier court marshal and dishonorable discharged. He got into an altercation with some Army Officers and fired shots through the saloon door killing a Revenue Marine Service officer who accompanied the Army Officers. He was treated as if he was still in the military, since there was no civilian court competent to investigate and dispose of the case.
Reference: "A Military Correspondence of 1869 Covers" by Richard B. Graham, Chronicle 119, Aug. 1983 (Vol. 35. No.3).