The Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863, saw two huge armies meet and clash over the three days. After the battle was over, the gruesome task of burying the dead on both sides and taking care of …
The Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863, saw two huge armies meet and clash over the three days. After the battle was over, the gruesome task of burying the dead on both sides and taking care of the wounded began. The Pennsylvania town was devastated by the fighting that took place and the civilian population did what they could to get back to some sense of normalcy.
Not only had the battlefield been strewn with dead soldiers and horses, but also the objects of war. Muskets, bayonets, equipment, and clothing. One of the books that has come out in recent years is called Gettysburg Battlefield Relics & Souvenirs by Mike O’Donnell. It is laid out by objects found on the battlefields of each day of the fight. I have some of the cherished artifacts in the book here and I’ll talk about a few of them.
The first object is a canteen. Every soldier needs to be hydrated and it’s an important piece of equipment. This one is a Confederate tin drum canteen with a coarse brown cotton covering. On one side is an old paper label which states “Confederate Canteen/picked up on/Gettysburg/Battlefield/1887/In a closet/under the/stairs in old/seminary”. The Lutheran Seminary was used as a hospital for captured Confederates, and it isn’t surprising that this canteen was found there 24 years after the battle.
A piece of headgear is the next item, a slouch hat purported to have been picked up on the battlefield by a New York soldier and brought home. It’s a wool felt slouch hat in “beehive” style with a string mark around the crown where it was held to the block when it was being formed. It has some holes and wear and is missing the liner that must have been in it originally but is an extremely rare survivor.
Another piece of headgear is a Confederate captain’s kepi with two rows of braid. It’s made from a butternut satinet cloth with a black band around the base. It has a bound edge visor with a painted cloth sweatband and blue silk liner. One of the interesting parts of the cap is the layered pasteboard discs in the crown with a Confederate newspaper sewn on the bottom. According to its provenance it was also picked up somewhere on the Gettysburg battlefield.
The last piece of gear is a Confederate cap box found on Seminary Hill. It’s very crude compared to Union examples and has a lead finial. There is a note that was folded up inside marked “Rebel Cap box; picked up/inside the Rebel intrenchments/(Seminary Hill) Gettysburg after/the first days fight”.
Reading about the Battle of Gettysburg and walking the ground can really give you an understanding of how the battle transpired, but seeing and holding these revered objects truly gives it dimension.
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