WONDERFUL, IDENTIFIED FOLK ART FLAG PIN MADE BY GEORGE W. MOWERS AND PRESENTED TO JOHN McALLISTER, WARTIME COMRADE IN THE 87th PA, AND FIRST SUPERINTENDENT OF THE GETTYSBURG NATIONAL CEMETERY

$750.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 2020-01

This folk-art flag pin measures about two inches by one and has a tinned iron frame and back with a two-pronged wire soldered to the reverse that would enable it to be worn on a cartridge box, belt, hatband, lapel, or perhaps even as a neckerchief slide. It is referred to simply as a “pin” in an 1894 letter from McAllister returning it to Mowers. The frame is faced with old glass that has several cracks, but is stable and which, frankly, add to its charm. The flag is painted. Ten stripes show clearly, parts of others are visible along the top and bottom. The stars are rendered as small white dots, slightly splotchy, that are more representative of a number of white stars on a blue canton than a precise count. Partially visible on the reverse of the pin are two areas where something is inscribed. One seems read, “[…]Mowers / […]tteville Pennsylvania,” which would be “George W. Mowers / Fayetteville Pennsylvania,” in whose family this pin descended along with a large group of material we recently purchased. (Please see our other listings for more material from this wonderful trove.)

The other section of writing on the reverse is difficult to make out, but fortunately the story of the pin is preserved in wonderful letter written to Mowers by an old comrade in returning the pin in 1894:

 

Green Mount Oct. 6th 94

Sergt. Geo. W. Mowers

Dear Comrade and Friend I hereby return to you an old and valued relic of times that if  they did not try our Souls they at least tried what we were made of I regret to part with it and assure you that if you had not been a good Soldier and a much respected Comrade in arms and still remain a man who deserves to be esteemed as a friend I would not have parted with (it) while I lived At the same time the fact that the former owner was and is a good friend and Companion gave the old pin all the more value as a keepsake and makes it harder to part with it but it will give me some satisfaction to learn that the repossession of it by you will have given as much pleasure to you as it has given to me to hold it so long Good Bye old Relic

Give my regaurds (sic) to Capt. Greenawalt Sergt Ritter and all the old comrades of the 87th and to [to] my esteemed friend John Boggs of 165th Excuse my shaky writing my nerves are not steady as of old and my sight is dim Accept for yourself my earnest wishes for your health and prosperity and that you may long be spared to your lovely and interesting Family and believe me to remain your

Sincere Friend John McAllister.

 

McAllister, like Mowers, was one of the late-war recruits in five new companies that were attached to the 87th Pennsylvania to bring it back up to strength. Mowers was from Fayetteville, just west of Gettysburg, and at the time of the letter McAllister was in Green Mount, just outside Gettysburg. Both men had prior service in Pennsylvania units called up for short terms: Mowers for six months as a private in the 21st PA Cavalry and McAllister for nine months as a sergeant in the 165th Pennsylvania Infantry. In 1865 both men were mustered into Company K of the 87th on March 17 while the regiment was at Petersburg. Their prior experience must have counted. Mowers was appointed a sergeant and McAllister, the company’s First Sergeant (its senior NCO.) Two weeks later the regiment took part in the final assault Petersburg on April 2, taking part in the capturing a large number of prisoners and several cannon, while losing 8 officers and enlisted men killed, 22 enlisted men wounded, and 5 missing. It then joined the pursuit of Lee and saw action again at Sailor’s Creek. After Appomattox the regiment moved to Danville and then, with the surrender of Johnston, marched back to Richmond and Washington. Both men were mustered out June 29, but Mowers had been in the hospital with jaundice since May 23. The pin may have been a hospital project, though its exact dating is not given. It could even have been something Mowers made before enlisting, he then gave to his comrade. In any case, McAllister’s letter makes clear that he had owned it for a long time.

McAllister’s postwar history is as interesting as his wartime service. In November 1865 he was appointed the first Superintendent of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, then under state control. He served in that post until 1872, when the national government took over, and even after that worked on the grounds until 1874. While Superintendent, he and his wife lived in the Cemetery gatehouse. His obituary reads in part: “With his own hands he planted most of the trees and shrubbery and also assisted in laying out the walks and drives of this last resting place of many of the heroes of the battle.”

The facing glass of the pin has cracks, but is stable. The letter has some holes and separation lines along the folds, but it is very displayable and fully legible. Mowers died in January 1895, just a few months after receiving the pin back from McAllister, who passed away in January 1903 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. This is very nice piece of folk art, likely made by Mowers himself, with a telling Gettysburg local and National Park history, and is a testimony to the lasting friendships developed by soldiers called to serve together.    [SR]

Accompanied by military & pension records from the National Archives. 

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