US marshal seized young York soldier’s smuggled war relic
Edward W. Spangler managed to make it into the Union army because of a sympathetic recruiting officer who, after a measurement showed that the teen-aged Spangler was less than the minimum height requirement for the service, smiled as the lad stretched on his tiptoes and passed him. Spangler was only 5′ 2″ tall, a full two inches less than regulation.
Spangler’s 1904 book My Little War Experience is perhaps the best first-person account from a Civil War soldier from this area and I quoted him a few times in the upcoming book from co-author Jim McClure and me, Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.: Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign.
Here is one little story from Spangler’s book.
After the battle of Antietam, he decided to appropriate a souvenir for himself, one that belonged to the Federal government.
“I brought my shattered rifle with Enfield ramrod from the battle-field to our barn hospital, and prevailed upon Peter Loucks, now deceased, and Albert Smyser, to take it home to my mother. It escaped detection by rolling it in the wagon curtains of their team.
After the rifle reached York there was a good deal of publicity about it and of my narrow escape. This came to the ears of an officious and unscrupulous assistant provost marshal of York County, who immediately demanded it from my mother, claiming it was government property and seized it. As the rifle, shattered as it was, was of no further use to the United States, the seizure was entirely unwarranted, and the person responsible for the dastardly act, I only forgave when he died, so that Saint Peter would be relieved from putting embarrassing questions. Upon my return from the army I made strenuous efforts to recover it, but without success. If I now had it money could not buy it.”
Authentic relics from Antietam today often command a premium. One wonders what happened to the relic when the “unscrupulous” marshal used his authority and badge to confiscate the souvenir for himself. Could it still be somewhere in the York area, the pride of someone’s family heirlooms, who does not realize a) it was stolen by Spangler from the US army and b} stolen a second time by the marshal from Spangler?