A FAMILY DIVIDED: THE INSCRIBED COLT 1849 POCKET PISTOL OF CONFEDERATE LT. WILLIAM J. BROADFOOT, MARYLAND INFANTRY, MORTALLY WOUNDED AT GETTYSBURG

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Item Code: 766-1079

Maryland is often cited as an example of divided loyalties. In this case the state also furnishes an example of a family divided. Joseph O. Broadfoot served as an officer in the Maryland Infantry, U.S., while his younger brother, William J. Broadfoot, served as an officer in the Maryland Infantry, C.S., and was mortally wounded at Gettysburg carrying this revolver.

Broadfoot’s pistol is a Colt 1849 pocket revolver with a six-inch barrel, serial number 139530, manufactured in 1857. These .31 caliber revolvers were a favorite of infantry officers: effective, but light enough to easily carry on the march. The metal is smooth overall, showing a dull silver mixed with dark gray spots, with scattered handling dings from field use, but no pitting. Though its bluing is long gone its markings are sharp and the cylinder still preserves much of its stagecoach robbery scene. The brass preserves about 15 percent of so of its silvering on the triggerguard and upper sides of the back strap, but shows a medium aged brass patina on the center and lower sections of the backstrap, as is natural from handling. The grips are dark, shows handling marks and slightly shrinkage gaps from exposure, but are in good condition.

The backstrap is inscribed, “Lieut. W.J. Broadfoot Co. E 2nd Md. Inft[...CS]A.” The upper portion of the inscription has been filed to obliterate the “CSA,” though a portion of the “A” is still visible. After being wounded at Gettysburg Lt. Broadfoot was transported with thousands of other Confederate casualties across the Potomac at Williamsport and died at Martinsburg on August 4. His death was announced soon after in Baltimore and family eventually retrieved his body. It is likely his pistol was returned to the family and the filing was the work of a relative who did want the Confederate association evident or did not like it. Suspicion falls on Joseph O. Broadfoot, William’s older brother, who served in the 8th Maryland Infantry, U.S., and may have arranged for his brother’s burial Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, where he and his wife were themselves eventually interred.

The designation of Broadfoot’s unit as the “2nd Maryland Infantry” is telling. Its official designation in Confederate records from October 1862 to January 1864 was the “1st Maryland Battalion,” but the unit had recruited past its initial battalion strength of six companies not long after its formation and the official change looks to have been a belated recognition of that fact and the desire of its members to distinguish it from the 1861 regiment by changing their numerical designation. Interestingly, by the time of the regiment’s successful effort to place a monument on the Gettysburg battlefield the situation was different. The battlefield monument committee insisted on designating them the “2nd Maryland” to distinguish them from the two Maryland Union regiments on the field: the 1st MD Potomac Home Brigade, and the 1st MD Eastern Shore. As a point of pride, stubbornness, or reluctance to cede precedence to another “first” Maryland, the veterans added an inscription to their monument indicating their official title at the battle was the First Maryland Battalion.

William Johnson Broadfoot, was born November 1, 1838, the son of William J. Broadfoot and Mary Louisa (Stouffer) Broadfoot, married in Batlimore 2/18/1833. City directories identify William, Sr., as a bookseller in Baltimore in 1835, but by 1837 he was simply a “store keeper.” He died at age 29 on 4/26/1838, leaving Mary with two infants: Joseph O. (born 1834) and Ann Louisa (born 1836,) and pregnant with William (born 11/1/1838.) Mary took over the business, or started one herself, selling “dry goods” and “dry and fancy goods.” In 1842 her residence is listed as 57 Liberty St. By 1847 she resided at 44 Liberty St., the household of Cassandra O’Brien, who seems to have been the widow of Dr. Hugh O’Brien. Mary L. Broadfoot died that same year, and O’Brien seems to have taken over care of the children. In 1850 Ann and William were still in the household. Joseph is not listed there, but by 1860 he had become an iron moulder and was living in the Sanners household of Baltimore, one of whose boys was also an iron moulder and likely a friend, and one whose girls Joseph Broadfoot would marry that year.

William in the meantime furthered his education. In 1853 he was in the “third preparatory class” at “St. James College” in Hagerstown, and seems to have attended the Institute for Mechanical Arts in Baltimore in 1857. By 1860, however, he was back in Baltimore, employed as a clerk, and again in the household of Cassandra O’Brien, along with his sister, by then married. The relationship of the Broadfoot children to Cassandra O’Brien was obviously a close one. When she died in 1866, Joseph Broadfoot was one of the administrators of her estate.

In 1861 William Broadfoot made his way to Richmond to join the Confederate army and enlisted as a private in Co. D, Weston’s Maryland Battalion. This unit was dissolved and Broadfoot’s company was one of three added the 1st Maryland Regiment to bring it up to strength. After some consolidation and reorganization, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant of the newly constituted Company F in the regiment, mustering in for one year’s service as of 6/18/61. The regiment reached Manassas in July in time to take part in the fighting. On the September/October 1861 muster roll Broadfoot is reported sick at Centreville. On the November/December roll he is listed as one of two 2nd Lieutenants under arrest on unspecified charges, but nothing seems to come of it and he remains in the service as a 2nd Lieutenant. In May and June 1862 the regiment took part in Jackson’s Valley Campaign, seeing action at Front Royal, Winchester and Cross Keys, and then moved to the Peninsula, where they fought at Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill.

With one-year enlistments expiring, the regiment was officially disbanded 8/11/62, some of the men entering other units, but many remained to be reorganized as a regiment and Broadfoot is officially discharged as a 2nd Lieutenant for appointment as First Lieutenant of Co. D in the reconstituted unit on 9/13/62, signing up for, “three years or the war.” It took some time to reorganize the unit, which was finally designated the First Maryland Battalion on 10/1/62. Broadfoot was apparently absent without leave during part of the process, returning to duty 10/19/62. During the winter of 1862/63 the regiment remained in the Shenandoah Valley until its assignment to Steuart’s Brigade, Johnson’s Division of Ewell’s Corps, just before the Gettysburg Campaign.

As part of Ewell’s corps the regiment was in the Lee’s vanguard in the Gettysburg campaign, fighting at Second Winchester and pushing north toward Chambersburg and Carlisle before turning to Gettysburg. There they took part in Ewell’s attack on the Union right, gaining a foothold on Culps Hill on July 2. On the morning of July 3 they were subjected to Federal artillery fire and fought in the division’s renewed attempt to seize the hill. In the severe fighting that followed, Steuart’s brigade swung its left flank over a stone wall and the regiment made an open charge across Pardee Field, suffering heavy casualties. Whether Broadfoot was hit in this charge or the earlier fighting, he was brought back to Confederate lines and was in the large train of wounded sent south on the night of July 4. He survived to reach Martinsburg, Virginia, before succumbing to his wound and the rigors of the trip. He died August 4, 1863, and the Baltimore Sun carried a notice of his death:

 

Death of a Baltimore Confederate. - Information was received in this city that William J. Broadfoot, first lieutenant in Capt. John W. Torsch’s company in the first Maryland Confederate battalion, died yesterday morning at Martinsburg, aged twenty-one years. The deceased was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, and while removing him across the Potomac the ambulance capsized, and he narrowly escaped drowning. He took cold and was attacked with dysentery at Martinsburg, of which he died. Deceased was a native of Baltimore, and left in the early stage of the war.

 

Broadfoot is interred Baltimore’s Greenmount Cemetery, as is his brother, Joseph, who died in 1900, and was likely responsible for retrieving his body. Despite William joining the Confederacy, as did at least one member of his wife’s family, Joseph enrolled in the 8th MD, U.S., at Baltimore in August 1862, serving as a private, sergeant, commissary sergeant, quartermaster sergeant, and 1st Lieutenant. Like William he seems to have enjoyed taking an absence without leave, but paid a price for it. As an NCO he was reduced to the ranks once for it and on 3/21/65 was cashiered on the same charge, though it was later revoked and changed to a discharge for illness when it was revealed he had been hospitalized for a spinal injury while returning to his regiment.

The mechanics work, but the pistol as preserved literally represents a moment at Gettysburg frozen in time.  [SR]

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