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Ten Things You Didn't Know: Civil War

It's been 153 years since the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, in the Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, marking the start of the Civil War. Yet, interest in the historical aspects and artifacts of this war carries on.

It's the war that divided the country, claimed the lives of 620,000+ people, and changed the culture of the nation forever, and this April (2014) marks 153 years since the start of the Civil War. In this Ten Things You Didn't Know column we share a few Civil War-related facts.

Civil War sword

This Civil War presentation sword, given to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, sold for a cool $1.67 million at auction in 2007. Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions

1 United States Civil War artifacts frequently appear at auction, and on occasion an entire auction, or a large portion of an auction is devoted to the items of this culture-changing event. On April 29, 2014, Cowan’s Auctions Inc. will host a Civil War Uniforms and Cartes de Visite auction; Rock Island Auction Company will feature several lots of Civil War-era firearms during its May 2-4, 2014, auction, and Heritage Auctions is offering a Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction on June 7, 2014.
2Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War presentation sword commanded a cool $1.67 million (with buyer’s premium) in 2007 during an auction at Heritage Auctions. The silver and gold sword includes Grant’s monogram “U.S.G” spelled out in mine cut diamonds, features the image of an American eagle with its wings spread and was presented to Grant by the citizens of Kentucky in 1864.
3 Two journals kept by Ward B. Frothingham, a solider in the Union Army, documenting the various Civil War engagements and battles, during which he took part from 1864 to 1865, fetched $3,500 (with buyer’s premium) at auction April 3, 2014, through Heritage Auctions. The journal also includes commentary about the surrender of Gen. Lee and news of President Lincoln’s assassination.

Civil War journals

Two personal journals of a union soldier, with entries written between 1864 and 1865, sold for $3,500 on April 3, 2014. Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions

4 The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. Although the Confederate Army surrendered April 9, 1865, at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, it wasn’t until May 26, 1865, that fighting officially ceased.
5 Civil War accoutrements are popular items among collectors. Did you know most Confederate and Union soldiers were given the following items upon joining the ranks: a haversack (small pack with a single shoulder strap), canteen, cartridge box, cap pouch, belt, knapsack, blanket, shelter half and rubber blanket.
6 More than 4,000 battlefield surgical sets were produced during the war. However, the Confederate Army did not contract for any sets, opting to use existing sets and to purchase sets from Europe.
7Reproductions and fakes are found in various segments of Civil War artifacts, with belt plates, buttons, insignia and medals, and rare high-end pistols, representing the most reproduced and faked categories.
8 According to the Civil War Traveler site, there are no less than 630 Civil War-related events scheduled to occur across the country between May and December 2014. Events include tours (walking, car, bus, boat), panel discussions, storytelling sessions, luminary events, lectures and, of course, re-enactments.

Forage cap

Civil War U.S. infantry officer’s forage cap, featuring the letter H signifying use by an enlisted man, is made of fine quality blue wool, measures 5 inches at the front, sold for $2,750 at auction December 7, 2013. Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions

9 Although it may seem like a long shot that you’d ever find a treasure trove of Civil War artifacts, keep in mind such items are often passed down from generation to generation, and sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Until, one day a trunk filled with more than 500 albumen prints from the Civil War and the American West is discovered in the attic of a Vermont family. Learn more about this story here:
10It’s estimated that more than 3 million men and roughly 300 women disguised as men fought in the Civil War, and more than 620,000 people (2 percent of the U.S. population) died during the war.
Sources: Heritage Auctions (, Warman’s Civil War Collectibles, 3rd Ed. by Russell E. Lewis,,


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