A Souvenir of the First Death

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin preserves, interprets, and affirms the role of Wisconsin Veterans in all wars from 1861 to the present. Founded in 1901 as the GAR Memorial Hall in the Wisconsin State Capitol, the Veterans Museum opened in its current location in 1993.

Just before Veterans Day 2021, the museum opened its next special exhibit, titled Souvenirs of Service: The Things They Kept.  Of the many souvenirs on display is a notable artifact from the Civil War.

Pictured above is an Archer Bolt, fired at the 2d Wisconsin Infantry during the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford in July 1861. It killed Myron Gardner of La Crosse, the first man of Company B killed in the war. Gardner’s comrades retrieved the shell, carried it back to Washington, and shipped it to Wisconsin for display in La Crosse. It was given to the state in 1888.

Collecting souvenirs is an ancient and very human impulse. Those objects recall events and preserve memories. When one considers the effort it took to find, carry, and save this shell, the more one understands the impact of Gardner’s death on his comrades.

Souvenirs of Service will be up until mid-2023.


1 Response to A Souvenir of the First Death

  1. A somber souvenir and symbol of all the dead and wounded in the Civil War. Thanks for this photo and article.

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