For such a young country, the United States has a lot of history. Just taking into account the American Revolution and the Civil War, we also have a lot of battlefields in the east. Many of these battlefields are still full of relics that enterprising people will go out and find. Sometimes they do it to sell what hey find, sometimes they do it to try to persevere history. For the most part, relic hunting on government-owned land is illegal and some may even question the morality of it. These battlefields are mass grave yards where many hundreds even thousands of people have died.
For collectors there is a draw to these relics. Holding a piece of history in your hand is something beyond words. Stories become real and a sense of magnitude takes over. Guessing how the pieces got to where they were found, who may have touched them, what stories do they hold. Sure, you can go to a museum and see them behind glass, in cases, up on walls, but you can’t touch them or feel them.
Now of course besides the legal issue, you also have the issue of authenticity. Generally of the price is too good to be true, it is. Sometimes though that doesn’t really matter if you need a certain piece for your collection. Price and value are relative in many ways.
Above is a picture of some pieces from my personal collection. They were supposedly dug from the Seven Pines battlefield in Henrico County Virginia. The battle took place May 31st to June 1st 1862 as part of the Peninsula Campaign during the Civil War.
As you can see they are not cleaned up and only a few pieces are easily recognizable. In the upper left you the broken pieces of an artillery shell (round hollow ball with a fuse that explodes into shrapnel). The Lower left you have a prick, which was used with cannons, once the tube was loaded you would shove the prick into the touch hole to expose the powder. In the upper right is a nail. The rest appears to be iron banding and other scraps.
Are these really artifacts from a Civil War battlefield? I can not say for certain, but I think they are and that makes it pretty cool to have.
We all know the story. April 14th, 1865 the Civil War was all but over and President Lincoln decides (OK, Mary decides) that they need so enjoy a night at the theater. Originally General Grant and his wife we supposed to accompany them, but using many skills I assume he learned on the battle field, Grant was able to get out of going. Instead it would be Henry Rathbone and his fiance that would accompany the Lincolns to the Ford Theater and “Our American Cousin.”
Joining that night would also be John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and Southern sympathizer that wanted Lincoln dead. His story goes well beyond the scope of this brief article, but the important thing is that during the play he found himself with unfettered access to the President’s box and the man himself. A small pistol in one hand and a dagger in the other he looked to “avenge” the Confederacy.
Sneaking into the box he moved behind Lincoln and fired his pistol, jumped onto the ledge of the box and by most accounts yelled, “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” and leaps from the box to the stage. It would have been perfect if he had not caught his spur on one of the bunting flags that hung on the outside of the box. That snag of his boot caused him to land awkwardly and severely injury his leg. From that point on the story is well-known.
In the photo above is the flag from the box that Booth snagged his spur on. If not for that flag and the injury that Booth sustained, it is very possible that he may have avoided capture. That makes that relic pretty darn cool.
The New World was rich with resources which drew the interest of those in the Old World. For the Spanish Central and South America gave them gold, more gold than anyone ever thought existed. This gold fueled the Spanish Empire and caused the other nations in Europe to take notice.
France, England and The Netherlands looked upon North America with interest, some hoping to find the same gold that the Spanish found in the south, some hopping to find something even more valuable. One that they found, were beavers.
Yes, beaver, or more accurately their fur, spurred a gold rush of a different kind in North America and became a flash point for generations as France and England wrestled for control of the resource. The key though was relations with the Native Americans whose land this trade crisscrossed.
France looked upon the natives as partners in the endeavor, they did their best to treat them fairly and not subjugate them. Of course this was not purely altruistic. The French never colonized in the numbers that the British did and keeping on good terms with the natives was truly in their own self-interest,
The British took a slightly different view on the fur trade. They looked upon the natives as subjects and where the French were fairly free wheeling in their dealings, the English looked for a much more regimented structure and as their population grew, conflict with the natives and the French was inevitable.
And this all came on the back of the beaver and the incredible military uses that the little buggers provided. What? No military value? OK, then it must have been because of the beaver has a special gland that provides eternal life? No? Not that either huh? Yes, their fur was prized, and most of it went to the creation of hats. Yes, hats. The photo above shows a beaver pelt and the end product, a beaver pelt hat. A pelt and hat that would eventually lead to the founding of the United States of America.
The desk above was one of the nerve centers of the Union Army. From here the officers would write their orders to their men, read the correspondence from men above and below their ranks and basically conduct the war. These simple boxes would be carried on a wagon and placed on a table when the unit stopped for the night and the commander was ready to work until all hours.
When the Civil War started the entire United State Army was about 15,000 men, most of which were posted out west. Of those were about 1,000 officers. Out of those about 140 would actually become generals during the course of the war. These officers were considered “regular army” and often found themselves in conflict with another group of officers.
When President Lincoln put out his call for troops from the States in 1861 the states that remained in the Union called up their militia units and put them at he disposal of the Federal government. Officers at the regimental level and above were appointed by the governor. These men and officers of the militia were considered separate from the regular army and carried the designation “volunteers”.
Interestingly enough some officers would actually hold two ranks. One if the regular US Army and one in the Volunteer Army. This was due to the use of the “brevet” system, basically a temporary or honorary promotion to a superior rank. For example, you may be a captain of a regular regiment, but for a specific campaign and due to good service you are “breveted” to colonel of volunteers so that you could command more men. The regular army rank is always considered the superior of the two.
Interesting enough a number of Union officers were foreign nationals that came to fight in the war and even several Native Americans joined the officer corps. So when you look at that desk above you never know who may have sat there all you can say for sure is that the army was led by a wide variety of men from every walk of life,
On March 5, 1770 the streets in Boston were boiling. For a number of years British soldiers had been occupying the city to enforce the Parliamentary taxes that tweaked just about every citizen in the colonies. On this night a group of young men took to taunting a British soldier standing guard in front of the Custom house on King Street. The crowd grew with other British soldiers standing in line with their comrade. Eventually verbal assaults turned to rocks and ice and other projectiles being hurled at the soldiers, the crowd yelling for the men to fire their muskets the entire time. Suddenly the soldiers did with no orders actually being given. Immediately three colonists were dead, several wounded and the events of what would eventually be called The Boston Massacre gave succor to the nascent rebellion against Great Britain.
One of the colonists killed outright was Crispus Attucks. Attucks was mixed race, African and Native American and may have been either a runaway slave or a freedman, that question has support on all sides. He was a sailor who apparently was in port after his ship had arrived from the Bahamas. Little is known about him and some of what is known has been changed and mutated over time. He holds a special place in the story of the American Revolution being one of the first colonial casualties of the conflict. History remembers him for being the first African-American (his father was from Africa, his mother a Native American, Crispus himself was born in Massachusetts) as well as the first Native American to give their life to the cause.
The teapot in the picture belonged to Crispus Attucks. A small personal item that should hopefully serve to show that no matter what history tells you about the man he was just that, a man. Albeit a man who ended up on the wrong side of a musket and helped advance the cause. The cause of the American Revolution.
In the original version of this article we focused on the chow line. I have been d asked if we had any pictures of what a C-Ration Looked like, above is pretty much it.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “An Army travels on its stomach.” If any one would know it should be him. During war, sometimes finding time to eat is one of the biggest challenges. The body is an engine and the engine needs fuel.
C Rations were what the individual soldiers would prepare for themselves. Often from a package, and of dubious quality and taste. The kit in the picture above consists of a Chocolate Nut Roll, a can containing Crackers and Cocoa Beverage Powder, a can opener (P38) and waterproof matches. Just a light snack full of calories to give the soldier a pick me up.
“We ate when we could and what we could,” Bill Hatfield, who took the picture above, reminisced. “Sometimes we would be out on patrols that lasted longer than we planned and we never had enough of anything. After a couple of days of C-Rats, we didn’t really care how the food at the fire base tasted, just that there was plenty of it.”
B Rations were the next best scenario. These sorts of meals were usually prepared in a field kitchen from non-fresh ingredients, then shipped to the units where they were heated up and served. Not needing to be frozen or refrigerated means that even the guys far from the supply center would have the chance for a hot meal on occasion.
A Rations were the goal though. A warm meal, made in a real kitchen, served in a nice safe dining hall.
Feeding an army is never easy, but from the all round looks of things, being the army that needed fed left much to be desired.