GOLD PRESENTATION MINNESOTA G.A.R. DEPARTMENT COMMANDER’S BADGE OF LAFAYETTE E. CARPENTER, 31st MAINE, MINNESOTA DEPT. COMMANDER 1938

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For a high-numbered Maine regiment the 31st saw a lot of action. Mustered in during March and April 1864, the regiment was rushed south and placed in the Second Division of the Ninth Army Corps in time for Grant’s 1864 campaign and by the time it was mustered out in July 1865 had lost 18 officers and 165 enlisted men in killed or mortally wounded alone, plus scores wounded, died of disease, etc. This was a record of loss that would be startling even in a three-year regiment. They suffered heavily at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Bethesda Church, right up through Sailor’s Creek. CWData lists 54 points at which they took casualties.

Lafayette Carpenter enlisted in the outfit at Patten, Maine, on 3/11/64. He served with them to the end of the war, mustering out with the regiment on 7/15/65. At enlistment he was recorded as 18 years of age. This was just a book-keeping matter. He was actually just 16, born in 1848, son of Albion and Lydia Carpenter. In 1870 he was still living in Patten, ME, with his family. By 1880 he was working as a sawyer in a saw mill in Minneapolis with wife Rhoda and two sons. In his later years he was prominent in G.A.R. affairs in Minnesota and was known as the “youngster of the G.A.R.” from his age at enlistment. He served as Department Commander from 1937 to 1939 (stepping into office first when the serving Department Commander did in office.) He died in 1939. His obituary credits him with being a guard at Lincoln’s funeral bier (perhaps at one of the several ceremonies held for him,) and with warning Lincoln to take cover while observing Confederate troops, though this is likely a confused memory of a well-known story of Lincoln being told to keep down in rather emphatic language while observing Early’s Confederates from Fort Stevens at Washington in 1864.

This gold badge consists of the G.A.R. eagle with pinback at top, suspending the miniature shoulder strap of a Civil War Major General with two silver stars, indicating here a Department Commander. From that is suspended a small set of crossed rifles for service in the infantry and a Ninth Corps badge in white, indicating service in the Second Division of the Ninth Corps. Two other chains descending from the rank bar hold a G.A.R. star at bottom. These elements are backed with a woven silk ribbon of thirteen red and white stripes with a red border indicating a Department level badge.

On the reverse of the G.A.R. star is a jeweler’s mark at top, a 10K gold mark at bottom, and in the middle a very nice inscription reading, “PRESENTED / TO L.E. CARPENTER / Commander / Dept. of Minnesota / G.A.R./ 1938.” He had already served as Commander of G.A.R. Post 4 in Minneapolis and in a number of other responsible positions in the G.A.R.  He is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. This is a very nice badge from the sunset of the Grand Army of the Republic.  [SR]

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