Part of the USA Today Network

1902: Civil War relics donated to York Historical Society

Late 1800s CDV of a young boy in York PA (Scott Mingus collection)
Compelling Civil War-era CDV of a young boy taken by photographer Charles E. Wallin in York, Pennsylvania (Scott Mingus collection)

Many children growing up in the late 1800’s could listen to their father’s or other relatives’ firsthand stories of the American Civil War. Likely, they could also see, touch, and handle authentic relics and souvenirs brought back from the army by their family members. As time went on and the Civil War generation began passing away, efforts grew to safeguard some of these artifacts for future generations to ponder and remember.

Often, the veterans themselves donated their personal collections to local organizations such as county historical societies, museums, veterans’ organizations, etc.

On September 19, 1902, the York Daily newspaper mentioned several such generous donations to the York County Historical Society. They ranged from Confederate money to canteens, and are representative of the diverse collection now held by the successor organization, the York County History Center, in their fine museum at 250 E. Market Street in downtown York, Pa.

CDVs issued during the last years of the Civil War can often be dated by the prsence of a canceled tax stamp on the reverse side

The reverse of the above image of the well-dressed young boy in York has the distinctive tax stamp that dates the CDV from the last years of the Civil War. (Scott Mingus collection)

Here is the text of the part of the lengthy article that dealt specifically with Civil War artifacts:

Donations to the Historical Society

“Milton Lehman, of Hellam township, who served in Battery B, First [Pennsylvania] Artillery during the Civil War, was one of the soldiers who entered Petersburg, Virginia, immediately after that city was abandoned by the Confederates in the spring of 1865. On that date that he entered the city he obtained several specimens of Confederate money, which he has given to the historical society. They include Confederate money, notes on banks of South Carolina and Georgia and samples of the fractional currency of different Southern States. They are interesting because they were obtained during the War, immediately after the success of the Union army in capturing the best fortified city in the South. Mr. Lehman served three years in the regular army after the war ended.

R. H. Buttorff, the photographer, presented a Confederate shell that passed through the barn of Jacob Sener, the grandfather of Mrs. Buttorff, at Carlisle, Pa., on the evening of July 1, 1863. Part of Ewell’s Corps had occupied the town a few days earlier, and then went to Gettysburg. Later another force [J.E.B. Stuart’s three brigades of Confederate cavalry] threatened Carlisle, then occupied by Union troops [state militia under General William “Baldy” Smith]. They burned the Government barracks north of the town, and then threw shells, demanding its surrender. Many of these missiles of war were exchanged between the opposing forces, and fifteen Federal troops, but no citizens, were wounded.

George Miller, of South Queen street, has placed in the museum four canteens, each of which has a story of its own. The one was found by himself southeast of York, on June 30, 1863, the day after Early’s division of Confederates left this town for Gettysburg [Early left York at dawn on June 30]. Another was carried by a member of the 87th Pennsylvania Regiment during the year 1864. The third belonged to a Confederate soldier and the fourth to a Union soldier in the Civil War. Mr. Miller has a fine collection of birds and birds’ nests from this country. He also has a vast array of insects and butterflies, all mounted and classified. His labors deserve the highest commendation.”

Do you have any Civil War letters, relics, artifacts, or souvenirs that you no longer need or want? Why not consider donating them, like Misters Lehman, Buttorff, and Miller, to your local historical society or museum for preservation? And, please consider visiting those museums as patrons to view their existing collections and displays. This can be a very educational and inexpensive family activity.

Here in York County, Pennsylvania, we are blessed with numerous local and regional historical societies, as well as an outstanding county-wide organization and museum, the York County History Center. Take a long look at their impressive website and plan your next (or first!) visit. You will not be disappointed!

YCHC logo