Ten Things You Didn’t Know: The Civil War

Compiled by Karen Knapstein, Antique Trader Print Editor

1 April 12, 2016, marks the 155th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, when Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard signaled his troops to open fire on Ft. Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina after Federal garrison commander Major Robert Anderson refused to surrender the fort. After the Confederates bombarded the fort with an estimated 4,000 shells, and the

Confederate hand-sewn battle flag of General Lloyd Tilghman of Maryland and Kentucky (killed at Vicksburg), one of only four such flags known with a 15-star count/configuration, 37 inches by 39 inches (flag), offered for $325,000 by Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques. Courtesy of Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques; www.jeffbridgman.com.

Confederate hand-sewn battle flag of General Lloyd Tilghman of Maryland and Kentucky (killed at Vicksburg), one of only four such flags known with a 15-star count/configuration, 37 inches by 39 inches (flag), offered for $325,000 by Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques. Courtesy of Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques; www.jeffbridgman.com.

garrison returned roughly 1,000 rounds the white flag was raised and the fort surrendered. After the smoke settled, the death toll was tallied; it amounted to one mule. (The only human death was caused by an accidental explosion.) Although no man wearing blue or gray lost his life that day, the Battle of Fort Sumter was of great import. As historian Mark Collins Jenkins explains, “The Battle of Fort Sumter was a call to arms for both sides.”

2 According to Jeff R. Bridgman, one of the largest sellers of historic flags and textiles in the United States, “The Confederate flag is the most faked flag in the world. Nearly nine out of ten that you see are fakes – if not more.” At his York County antiques business, Jeff Bridgman American Antiques, he offers an exceptional Confederate flag from the Civil War, one of four of its kind, priced at $325,000. It is a 15-star Confederate battle flag of General Lloyd Tilghman, who was killed at Vicksburg.

3 The most expensive Confederate flag ever sold was the battle flag carried by J.E.B. Stuart, which sold at Heritage Auctions for $956,000. The flag was hand-sewn by General Stuart’s wife, Flora, who, after his death, wore black mourning attire for the rest of her life. She became the principal of a girl‘s school at Staunton, Virginia called Virginia Female Institute. It was later renamed Stuart Hall in their honor. This battle flag was also displayed at Stuart Hall and later loaned to The Museum of the Confederacy. Flora Stuart died on May 10, 1923 – almost 59 years to the day after her beloved‘s death.

4 Direct marketer Time Life published the first printings of its illustrated narrative history of The Civil War from 1983 through 1987. The 28-volume series, with handsomely embossed leatherette covers, cost $14.95 (plus shipping) per book, bringing the total retail of the series to more than $400 (excluding shipping). It is one of Time Life’s most successful series, and was still selling well in 1998. Today, since millions of copies were printed, the entire series can be found online for $125 (plus $3.99 shipping), and individual volumes can be had for $5 or less in excellent condition. If you have the series, look closely; there are reports of photos being printed backwards. Around 1992, The Civil War series was followed by Echoes of Glory, a two-volume set that focused on the arms and equipment of the Civil War, as well as an illustrated atlas. [Learn about the Time Life book process by watching interviews with Time Life editors at cs.pn/1UKam58.]

5 The 153rd Gettysburg Battle Anniversary Reenactment is taking place July 1-3, 2016; this year’s

An important piece of Civil War militaria, this presentation sword was given to Colonel William B. Sipes of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry in 1864. Housed in its original case, this sword features a carved handle bound by a gilt bronze cross guard and highlighted by a large faceted amethyst on the hilt. The silvered scabbard displays fine gilt accents, a diamond studded “S” and an inscription that reads “Presented to / Col W.B. Sipes / 7th Regiment Penn Veteran Cavalry / By the Friends of the Regiment / 1864.” This incredible piece is offered by M.S. Rau Antiques for $250,000. Courtesy of M.S. Rau Antiques, www.rauantiques.com

An important piece of Civil War militaria, this presentation sword was given to Colonel William B. Sipes of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry in 1864. Housed in its original case, this sword features a carved handle bound by a gilt bronze cross guard and highlighted by a large faceted amethyst on the hilt. The silvered scabbard displays fine gilt accents, a diamond studded “S” and an inscription that reads “Presented to / Col W.B. Sipes / 7th Regiment Penn Veteran Cavalry / By the Friends of the Regiment / 1864.” This incredible piece is offered by M.S. Rau Antiques for $250,000. Courtesy of M.S. Rau Antiques, www.rauantiques.com

event coincides with the actual days of the Battle of Gettysburg – July 1-3, 1863 – and will be held at the Gettysburg movie site overlooking the Round Tops and historic Sachs Mill Covered Bridge adjoining Gettysburg National Military Park (www.gettysburgreenactment.com). Based on registration records of larger events, in 1986 Time magazine estimated there were as many as 50,000 Civil War re-enactors in the United States; by 2014, however, it was estimated there were half that many.

6 PBA Galleries of San Francisco, California, sold a large-scale, 37 1/4-inch by 51 1/2-inch mapping of the Lower Mississippi River From St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico by publisher James T. Lloyd, dated 1863, for $11,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) on March 10, 2016. The hand-colored lithographed map, which is the second edition (the first was published in 1862), was Compiled from Government Surveys in the Topographical Bureau, Washington, D.C. Formerly folding, the map is now flattened and backed with rice paper; the original gilt-lettered blindstamped cloth folder (7 1/4 inches by 5 inches) was included with the lot. The large scaling allows for details such as forts and military installations, cities and towns, plantations and farms, riverboat landings, river mileage, high-water and low-water channels, islands and bayous.

7 The 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act is meant to protect historical sites from looting by criminalizing the disturbance and removal of all natural, cultural, and archaeological resources. In fact, federal law prohibits the possession and use of metal detectors on federal property. In July 2015, two Tennessee relic hunters, Kenneth Stephen Fagin Jr. and Terry Bruce Tate, were each sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for excavating Civil War artifacts from public lands in Tennessee and Alabama. They were also ordered to pay restitution (Fagin $22,463 and Tate $21,619) to the Tennessee Valley Authority and the National Park Service to cover the cost of repairs. The National Park Service provides the following tips when metal detecting:
• Educate yourself before you dig. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
• Seek permission from the property owner.
• Dig only where it‘s legal.
• Don‘t leave behind a mine field of holes. Always fill your holes.

8 Civil War-era weapons are highly coveted. M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans has an exquisite U.S. Cavalry officer’s presentation sword, which was given to 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry member Colonial William Sipes. Sipes, from Brooklyn, New York, was given the sword in 1864 by Friends of the Regiment. With good provenance, M.S. Rau Antiques has the sword priced at $250,000.

The personal battle flag of Confederate General James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart, perhaps the most famous, daring and flamboyant cavalry commander in the Civil War, who fell in battle on May 11, 1864. Sold through Heritage Auctions December 2006, $956,000. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.ha.com

The personal battle flag of Confederate General James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart, perhaps the most famous, daring and flamboyant cavalry commander in the Civil War, who fell in battle on May 11, 1864. Sold through Heritage Auctions December 2006, $956,000. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.ha.com

9 Senior captain Abner Doubleday is credited with firing the first Union shot, which was a miss. He later declared, “I had no feeling of self-reproach, for I fully believed that the contest was inevitable, and was not of our seeking.” During his military career, Doubleday rose to the rank of major general. During his stay in San Francisco, where he served as a recruitment officer, Doubleday was involved in establishing the city’s first cable car company.

10 Bibles and prayer books that show evidence of saving a soldier’s life by stopping a bullet rarely come up for auction, so when they do, bidders stand up and take notice. One such example, a 3-inch by 4-inch Book of Common Prayer, was in the pocket of Pvt. Edwin C. Hall of the 10th Vermont Vol. Inf. when it was struck by a Confederate “minnie ball” at the battle of Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865. The book sold for $15,535 in 2012 at Heritage Auctions, Dallas, to a floor bidder.

Sources: civilwar.org; news.nationalgeographic.com; Brother Against Brother – The War Begins, Time Life Books; www.timesfreepress.com; www.ps.gov; www.history.com.

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