Question of the Week 11/2 – 11/8


This week’s QotW comes from Dave Powell who asks:

Many Civil War people have a physical connection to the war, either via an artifact they once came in contact with, a set of letters or a diary passed down from family, etc. What is the most interesting or personally rewarding “piece of history” you’ve touched?

16 Responses to Question of the Week 11/2 – 11/8

  1. Bill, Are you back from your trip? I hope you have a good time — and did encounter any of the troubles plaguing the Middle East. Check this out. You should comment on this. I will, too. Time for that beer. Also, I had coffee with Phil Oakley on Saturday. Larry On 11/2/2015 10:00 AM, Emerging Civ

  2. I had the honor of assisting Stephen Hood in transcribing many of the original documents recently made available by a descendant of General John Bell Hood while Stephen was writing the two recent publications related to General Hood by Savas Beatie. Seeing these documents for the first time (in over 150 years in most cases), written by leading Confederate and Union principles was a privilege and an honor; frankly one I never expected to experience. In my opinion, these are among the most interesting Civil War records recently brought to light.

  3. In 1976 myself and another first year law student went to the North Carolina Division of Archives in Raleigh where we were allowed to unwrap and examine the Civil War flags in their collection. It was in the basement. These included numerous battle flags captured in Pickett’s Charge and later returned to NC during the Teddy Roosevelt administration. They had the War Department numbers stenciled on them. There were also some US flags and regimentals, including a beautiful swallowtail 1st Rhode Island Cavalry flag. Anyway we were left alone for hours and in retrospect should never been allowed that kind of access. However, years later Paul went on to lead fund-raising for the flags preservation and restoration, so it worked out. NC has the best preserved collection next to Pennsylvania.

  4. One of my ancestors is Alonzo Quint, chaplain of the famous 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. I have an original letter than an officer of the 2nd MA wrote to Alonzo after the war, requesting a testimony that would go towards a pension file, because the officer had lost an arm during the war. The officer included a carte de visite, showing his missing limb.

  5. I was doing some research on Vermont in the Civil War and was allowed to thumb through the diary of Colonel Wheelock Veazy commanding the 16th Vermont and winning the Medal of honor for helping repulse Pickett’s Charge.; The entry for July 4, 1863 was barely legible as so many had touched it before, but it sent shivers up and down my spine reading someone telling what his eyes were seeing looking across the fields to Seminary Ridge on that day.

  6. I have held a couple of war-used rifles, which was nice, but the item that meant the most to me was a shot Minnie ball I purchased online. Holding it in my hand snd thinking that it wS likely fired in an attempt to kill someone was, for some reason, very powerful to me. I have also been lucky to hold a couple of letters from soldiers written from the area where I live, but that one small, beat-up bullet affected me more than I could believe.

  7. My most important connection to the Civil War is not a thing really, but a space. In December, 2007 my wife and I moved into an 1855 house on Lower Caroline Street in Fredericksburg. We came from northern California where I seldom thought of the Civil War. With no ancestors who fought for either side it was an interesting historical event, but distant and abstract, with no emotion or passion attached. The fact that my great-great grandparents arrived in New York in April of 1865 from Germany and saw Lincoln’s funeral procession hardly tinted my life in a shade of blue or gray. Then we moved into this house. I had seen James Gardner’s May, 1864 photo of the house with shell holes in the siding and soldiers in the windows. I found blood stains on the living room floor and a shell fragment in an attic rafter. The yard yielded musket balls, pieces of Borman fuses, knapsack hooks and other artifacts. However, these are things that you can buy at any relic show. The real connection comes from sleeping every night in a room where soldiers North and South took shelter and Confederates fired and were fired upon as Federals crossed the Rappahannock. It is sitting on a cold evening before the same fireplace that warmed those anxious and weary men in the prelude or aftermath of battle. It is half expecting an apparition that never comes. But the historic house has become a home and the connection has become less conscious as I go about the tasks of daily life. . . . .except for certain nights in early December and May when I wander through the fire-lit rooms and call to mind the warriors, the wounded and the dying who filled this place.

    1. Let me add my appreciation for your post Ed…beautifully written indeed. Your reference to blood stains reminds me of an account shared by my good friend David Fraley. During his years as historian at the Carter House in Franklin, TN local law enforcement officers agreed to come to the Carter House and use luminal (sp?) to determine if blood proteins were still visible in the parlor area. The effort occurred during darkness and the results were so dramatic that at least one lady was so overcome with what she saw that she left the room. Evidence of the suffering of the wounded and dying was everywhere, including full handprints. Your closing words of your post…”call to mind the warriors, the wounded and the dying who filled this place”, really struck a chord. I suspect there are many buildings throughout Civil War battle fields bearing similar evidence.

  8. I am one of the few to touch the manuscript of the bill Elmer Ellsworth presented to the Illinois State Legislature concerning the use of the state militia. I am still in awe–plus it had fly specks!!!

  9. My Great grand father Vaughan”s Remington revolver and tintype. Both are beat up, but precious.

  10. When I was 5-years-old, I put my finger in the hole in the door at Gettysburg where the bullet entered that killed a young woman who was, I believe, the only civilian killed there. She had come to town because she thought it was safer there. It made such an impression that the Civil War became very important to me. Later on, in school, we didn’t study about it much, and I was disappointed. Now, I soak up all that I can and try to get others more interested. To me, this is a classic case of “If you don’t know history, you are bound to repeat it.”

  11. My own connection is not from a family member or something I own. I was researching at the Indianapolis Historical Society, and reading through the original diary of an Indiana man who fought at Shiloh. In the pages of the diary, between the entries for April 7 and 8 (the day after the battle) I found where the soldier had pressed a leaf from a tree or bush at Pittsburgh Landing. It was small, but still perfectly preserved. The soldier identified it as to time and place. The library staff had no idea it was there. Seeing it was like seeing a direct connection to the battle of Shiloh.

  12. Having worked in museums and historic sites, I remain awed by what are in some of their collections. For the Civil War, I stood in the MONITOR’S turret and was blown away by the sense of place and authenticity. I’d been reading about that action for years, and never dreamed I’d be able to be anywhere near or in any part of the ships.

    Outside the Civil War, three items have struck me over time: Patton’s pistols, MacArthur’s hat, symbols and iconic items from two important American leaders. Third is the headquarters map from Corregidor showing the battles and eventual fall of Bataan. The laconic notation “Out 9 April 42” was the epitaph of a brave army.

  13. First, probably, is my ancestor Isaac Foskett’s three years of diaries from his service in the Army of the Potomac. A close second would be the two Georgia bank notes he appears to have plucked from a deceased Rebel on the field at Antietam. And third would be a spent/flattened minie ball he had from the Wilderness, I can’t imagine being struck by that hefty hunk of lead.

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