IDENTIFIED EAGLE BREAST PLATE OF GEORGE W. MOWERS, Co. K, 87th PENNSYLVANIA INFANTRY

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Item Code: M26507

A nicely identified Civil War infantry cartridge box sling plate belonging to Sergeant George W. Mowers, who served in Co. K 87th Pennsylvania from 2/25/65 to 6/26/65. This is the regulation round plate of stamped brass bearing the arms of the US- an eagle with arrows and olive branch clutched in its talons. The solder-filled back is fitted with two loops to fit on the sling of the soldier’s cartridge box. Soldiers disliked polishing their brass fittings, and this one provided enough of a target on one’s chest to provoke some thought, but was worn throughout the war by most troops.

This one preserves some of the original gilt finish in recesses, but mostly shows as nice, muted, aged brass with a few dark spots at right. The reverse has the solder fill and both loops in place. The edge is good, with a few minor dings visible from the back, but not the front. Mowers seems to have gotten bored with a pocket knife at some point. There is a narrow line scratched in the back of the plate around the perimeter and some other small marks. We offer Mowers’ cartridge box plate in a separate listing, and it, too, shows carving on the reverse. He spent about a month in the hospital from late May to late June 1865, and may have had some time on his hands. He was charged by the army for his NCO belt, which he brought home. We guess that his cartridge box plates were easier to keep as souvenirs than the entire rig.

This is part of a large group of material from Mowers that had been preserved by his family since his death in 1895. He lived in Fayetteville, PA, just west of here and did two tours of duty: six months in the 21st PA Cavalry in 1863-1864, and a litte over three months at the end of war in the 87th PA Infantry, with whom he saw action at Petersburg and Sailor’s Creek. This obviously dates from his infantry service.

Mowers had returned home to the wagon making business run by his father after his first tour of duty in February 1864 and reenlisted a year later, on 2/25/65, mustering in as a sergeant in Co. K of the 87th Pennsylvania on 3/17/65. The regiment had originally recruited in York and Adams County, so Mowers likely knew some its members. Organized originally in September 1861, the oufit had done railroad guard duty and then moved to the Middle Department where it took part in some expeditions. Things got serious for it starting in June 1863 with fighting at Winchester and then a transfer to the 3rd Corps, Army of the Potomac, in July. It took some casualties at Bristoe Station and Mine Run in late 1863 and then joined the 6th Corps in Spring 1864. As part of the 6th Corps it saw service and took casualties at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Monocacy, Winchester (again,) and Fishers Hill. By the end of 1864, from casualties and discharges, it fielded just a battalion of five companies.

Mowers’ prior service must have played a part in gaining a warrant as sergeant in one of the five new companies recruited in early 1865 to bring the regiment up to strength. Myers was mustered in on March 17 while the regiment was at Petersburg, where it took part in the final assault two weeks later, on April 2, taking part in the capture of a large number prisoners and several cannon, though losing 8 officers and enlisted men killed, 22 enlisted men wounded, and 5 missing. It then took part in 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. Mowers is listed as present in the company from March 16 until May 23, when he was hospitalized for jaundice and eventually mustered out on June 26. He returned to Franklin County and his trade as wagon maker, married, fathered four children and died there 28 January 1895, aged 50. He is buried in the Union Cemetery in Fayetteville.

This is a good example of a regulation accoutrement plate that would fit with other pieces from Mowers or in a collection of regulation plates.  [SR]

Accompanied by military & pension records from the National Archives. 

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