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A Close Call

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

The Civil War is chock-full of tales of tragedy narrowly averted, often in the form of a bullet being stopped by a bible residing in the chest pocket of some fortunate soldier.  However, such occurrences aren’t always accompanied by documentation to substantiate their authenticity, making this sword belt worn by Lt. William Paist of the Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry an especially intriguing artifact.

A native of Ohio, Paist moved to Saint Paul in 1855 and started a real estate business, which prospered until the financial panic of 1857.  In 1862 he enlisted as a private in Company H of the Eighth Minnesota, which served nearly two years in the U.S.-Dakota War until the unit was transferred to the Civil War’s Western Theater.

In December, 1864 the Eighth Minnesota Regiment participated in the Third Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where they fought against Southern troops for the first time.  On December 7, William Paist, now a lieutenant, was leading his company in battle when he was wounded.  Like many Civil War soldiers, Paist was a prolific writer and penned this account two days later in a letter to his family:

“I was struck once with a grape shot – it is a cast iron ball about as large as a small walnut.  My belt plate saved my life as it struck it & bent & mashed it all up…could not speak for 10 minutes & when I did come too supposed the ball was in my belly but a faithful corporal by the name of Josiah Lothrop was beside me with the ball in his hand. I have it now & intend to string it to my sword.”

Lt. Paist survived the war and returned to Minnesota where he became a successful farmer and a founding member of the North Star Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.  The Minnesota historical Society holds the papers of William Paist and his family, and now the ball and sword belt from that fateful day in 1864.

Adam Scher, senior curator

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Commemorative Quilt

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

A cotton quilt made to resemble a United States flag with one star on a blue field in the top left corner. Within the red and white stripes are dates and campaigns that document the Civil War service of Joseph W. Britton, a member of the 3rd Minnesota, Company E. A reproduction of his Civil War Corps badge is embroidered on the quilt. The pieced border is set on point and alternates stars and bars, and there is red cotton backing. It features diamond quilting with decorative Union shields on the border. Contained within the border stars are inked names and dates of the Hanse family members as the corps badge was passed down within the family. 1998.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this quilt in our collections database.

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Hand Carved Ring

Monday, October 24th, 2016

A women’s finger ring carved out of briar root. The ring was found in Georgia by Dr. George L. Gates of the 2nd Minnesota Infantry Regiment, Company A during the Civil War. Click on the below collections database link to see the other five rings in this group.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this ring in our collections database.

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Josiah Keene

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

A small carte-de-visite of Josiah Keene, Company H, Second Minnesota Regiment. Keene came to Minnesota in 1852 and owned a sawmill in Mankato. After the war he was employed with the U. S. Treasury Department in Washington and then later moved to California.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this card in our collections database.

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Hand Grenade

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

A Ketchum hand grenade of the type used during the Civil War. The grenade consists of a plunger and casing, which would have held the main charge. A wooden tailpiece with fins (not present) was designed to stabilize flight when thrown. Ketchum grenades were largely inefficient because they had to land directly on their nose in order to detonate. Donated by the wife of Captain Mortimer M. Wheeler of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, Company E.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this grenade in our collections database.

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Civil War Drum

Monday, March 14th, 2016

A 1st Minnesota Regiment Civil War snare drum. The painted wooden drum was made by W. R. Thompkins in Yonkers, New York. This drum was presented to musician Peter Hoffman in Alexandria, Virginia on July 15, 1861 by Henry Mower Rice and the Regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Gorman. Peter Hoffman was mustered into the 1st Minnesota Regiment on May 31, 1861, as a musician first class. Hoffman served at the First Battle of Bull Run, Edwards Ferry, Fair Oaks, and the Seven Days Battles. The regiment’s band was dismissed on August 31, 1861, but Hoffman stayed on, serving with the regiment until he was discharged at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, on August 8, 1862.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this drum in our collections database.

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Ironclad Souvenir

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

A miniature souvenir anchor made of iron salvaged from the frigate USS Merrimack, which had been rebuilt by the Confederates as the ironclad warship CSS Virginia during the Civil War. The CSS Virginia was engaged at the Battle of Hampton Roads, sinking or grounding three Union ships before being engaged by another ironclad, the USS Monitor. The world’s first battle between ironclad warships ended in a draw. The Virginia was later destroyed to avoid being captured by Union forces. 1907.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this souvenir in our collections database.

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Alexander Ramsey

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

A Civil War era tintype photograph of Alexander Ramsey (front left) seated with Major Baxter (front right), Lt. Benjamin F. Butler (back left), William B. McGrorty (back center), and an unidentified man (back right). 1863
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For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.

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General’s Spurs

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

A pair of United States Army spurs worn during the Civil War by General Charles Powell Adams of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Adams was mustered into service on April 30, 1861, and elected Captain of Company H. General Adams was wounded many times during the course of the war; at Bull Run, Antietam, Malvern Hill, and at Gettysburg, where he served as lieutenant colonel and was hit at least three times. Adams re-enlisted in Hatch’s Battalion of Independent Cavalry and was mustered out of service on June 5, 1866, and was given a promotion to brevet brigadier general for meritorious service.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view these spurs in our collections database.

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G.A.R. Flag

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

A Civil War era G.A.R. flag. Made of silk with 38 stars, crossed cannons and a G.A.R. medal.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this flag in our collections database.

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An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs