Rinker's Opinion: Do you collect Civil War items? If so, what you do have in your collection?

The 150th anniversary celebrations of the Civil War, identified as the War of Northern Aggression by some of my Southern readers, are about to begin. South Carolina succeeded from the United States on December 24, 1860. I was a sophomore at Lehigh University when the 100th anniversary celebrations began. As a history major, I read dozens of new books generated by the anniversary. One of my research papers focused on the role of the Confederate cavalry in the week prior to and during the Battle of Gettysburg.

I visited Gettysburg on several occasions during my high school and college days. My grandfather James was one of eleven boys. Nine of his older siblings fought for the Union Army and several participated in the Gettysburg engagement. The Remington revolver carried by one of James’s brothers is among my prized possessions.

What constitutes a collection? While I own many Civil War items, I do not necessarily consider them a collection. I do not deliberately collect Civil War items, but I do acquire Civil War memorabilia if it comes my way, piques my interest, and is affordable.

I own several Civil War lithograph prints that depict battle scenes, most done in the twenty year period immediately following the end of the war. I have several U. S. uniform accouterments, for example belts and bullet cartridges. Prisoner of War (POW) art fascinates me. When I had a chance to acquire two pieces of Union prisoner art, I did. My large miscellaneous paper ephemera collection includes several Civil War era broadsides, soldiers’ correspondence, and military documents. If you add my modest library of books written during and about the Civil War, my Civil War material numbers over 100 items. On the surface, it is hard to say this is not a collection.

But, it is not. A collection is a grouping of like items displayed or stored together. My Civil War items are scattered. The Remington revolver rests on a fireplace mantel beside the gingerbread kitchen clock that sat on a shelf at the home of Grandpa and Grandma Prosser, my mother’s parents. The Civil War accoutrements are in an Archival file box marked “Civil War,” but in storage. The paper ephemera items are in Hollinger boxes with other paper items dating from the Renaissance through the mid-20th century. The Civil War books are part of my American history library.

My interest in the history of the American mule-drawn canal era also creates a connection with the Civil War. Several major Civil War battles such as Antietam took place along the banks of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Canals played a critical role in moving supplies in the South as well as the North. My canal reference library contains many reports issued during this period by states and private canal companies.

Finally, my son Harry, Jr., is an active Civil War reenactor. Although a descendant of several ancestors who fought for the North, he is a member of the Second South Carolina. Harry, Jr. was always a rebel. His gear is a combination of historical and reproduction pieces. Harry, Jr., is scheduled to inherit the Remington revolver, but not if he does not get his regional loyalties properly prioritized.

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I love writing about antiques and collectibles and developments within the trade. I welcome your comments and suggestions as to topics you would like me to cover. E-mail your suggestions to harrylrinker@aol.com.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2010


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