Civil War road show stops in Rogersville
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Un programme de collecte photographique des objets de la Guerre de Sécession (1861-1865) conservés dans les familles a été lancé en 2010. Les chasseurs de trésor en profitent pour faire identifier et dater leurs trouvailles, extraites de ci de là sans méthode scientifique de terrain. La collecte mêle donc souvenirs transmis entre générations et un pillage des sites de la mémoire combattante.
ROGERSVILLE — Matt Clark and his son Josh call themselves dirt fishermen, and Wednesday afternoon they brought some of their Civil War era "catches" to a group of state archivists who were visiting Rogersville in search of artifacts.
Tennessee State Library and Archive (TSLA) officials and other state historians set up shop at the Hawkins County Archive in Rogersville on Wednesday afternoon collecting Civil War era artifacts to be photographed and documented as part of the statewide Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee project.
Clark enjoys searching historic areas around Rogersville with a metal detector.
On Wednesday, he brought in two cases containing his Rogersville finds, including a nearly pristine Confederate enlisted soldier's brass belt buckle and a zinc "crow's foot" battery that was used to generate electricity for telegraph machines.
Both of those items were uncovered in an area near Crockett Creek in Rogersville where enlisted men were camped during the Civil War while officers stayed at the Hale Springs Inn.
Clark's visit to the archive Wednesday turned into an impromptu episode of "Antique Roadshow" because he wasn't sure what some of his artifacts are. For example, some of his friends had told him the battery piece was a stove leg.
But Ronald Westphal, who is curator of science and technology at the Tennessee State Museum confirmed that is was a Civil War era battery, much to Clark's delight.
"This was put into a dilute acid solution, and you get an electro-chemical reaction that generates electricity," Westphal said.
TSLA archivist Myers Brown described the brass belt buckle that Clark found behind the Rogersville First Baptist Church as "a very nice piece."
In fact, it was so nice that Clark almost included it in a pile of brass he was taking to be recycled.
"I thought it looked like a 1970s buckle," Clark said. "I posted it on Facebook, and a buddy of mine called me up and said, 'Clark, what are you going to do with that buckle?' I said, 'Well, Jonathan, it's brass. I think I'm going to recycle it. He said, 'Ok, you'll get about 25 cents for it. It's worth about $600.'"
The buckle was then quickly rescued from the recycle bucket. Clark said it's a big thrill finding a historic artifact like the buckle buried in the dirt.
"I tell people I dirt fish," he added. "My dad is a big fisherman, and he has a Ranger boat and all this fishing equipment. Well, I invest all my money in metal detectors."
However, it wasn't all good news for Clark on Wednesday. A bullet that he found near the buckle turned out to be post-Civil War, as was a metal tag he thought might have come off a soldier's saddle. Westphal said the tag looked like it might have fallen off some luggage.
Aside from Clark's items, during their first two hours in Rogersville the TSLA archivists photographed and documented several items, including some vintage photographs, a Spencer rifle, an Ames cavalry sword, a cannon ball and some minie balls.
Ira Davis of Rogersville brought in an 1863 Ames cavalry sword in almost perfect condition.
Davis said the man who sold him the sword said it had belonged to a descendant who was a lieutenant in the Virginia Militia.
"Toward the end of the war they made raid into Maryland," Davis said. "The Confederates were looking for arms and they found these four crates. They thought they were rifles, but it was four crates of swords. His sword was broken, so he got this sword and carried it until the end of the war. It was pretty late. He didn't carry it very long."
Regina Koger of Surgoinsville brought in a cannonball and several minie balls that her late father-in-law found in a field in Bulls Gap. She said her father-in-law used it as a door stop.
A Hawkins County couple who wished to remain unidentified brought in a Union Army issue Spencer rifle that actually belonged to a Confederate soldier named W.Y. Larkin, who is buried in Carters Valley.
The current owners don't know the story behind the rifle except that it belonged to a Confederate soldier.
"The strange thing about this rifle is it was primarily issued to Union troops, but this one has got the name of a Confederate soldier carved into the stock," Brown said. "He might have picked it up on the battlefield, or he may have even purchased it after the war. Confederates did capture them. The problem was Confederates didn't make any ammunition for them. Unless they captured a bunch of ammunition they were out of luck."
The purpose of the Looking Back at the Civil War in Tennessee project is to document Civil War material that is still in the hands of Tennesseans in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the war.
"A lot of this material has not been seen or shared with the public, and in many cases not been shared outside the families for the last 150 years," Brown said. "Every piece we bring in, you don't know what piece of the puzzle that's going to fill in to the greater story of the American Civil War."
This project has been underway since 2010, and Wednesday's visit to Rogersville will probably be the TSLA's last stop in Northeast Tennessee before the project is completed next year.
In just the past two years, the TSLA's Civil War archive search has made 19 stops across the state accessing 30 different counties, and they have photographed and logged thousands of artifacts.
"In the past two years we've done 1,500, but it's been going since 2010, so we have recorded thousands of objects — documents, photographs, swords, artillery shells," Brown said. "You name it and we've seen it."
The "Holy Grail" of Civil War artifacts is a military uniform, and so far they've found only two that were used during the war in the entire state.
But Brown believes the most unique item they've recorded was a Union soldier's shoe that was "re-cobbled" for a Confederate prisoner who'd had half of his foot shot off in the Battle of Franklin.
"It was re-cobbled on his way to the prison on some stop," Brown said. "A descendant brought it to us. The family held on to it all these years. The guy walked in and told us the story, and as soon as I looked at it I knew it was a legitimate Civil War era shoe that had been reworked."
Brown added "After that the descendant started doing some family research, and lo and behold, in his (the soldier's) Confederate veteran's pension application he mentions having this shoe made for him by a Union soldier who re-cobbled the shoe."
by Jeff Bobo