IDENTIFIED GROUPING OF ARTIFACTS BELONGING TO PRIVATE JABEZ B. OLES 144th NY INFANTRY AND 1st NY ENGINEERS

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Item Code: 480-178

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This grouping comes from a respected central New York collection with an identification that is verbal, but trustworthy and includes the soldier’s regulation issue canteen with his initials stenciled on the cover, his .58 caliber cartridge box, his cap box, his G.A.R. membership badge, and a piece of blue uniform cloth, perhaps from his fatigue blouse.

The canteen is a New York depot pattern with full gray-brown cover, strap and stopper retained by a jack chain to one of the sling brackets. The cover has the soldier’s initials “J.B.O.” stenciled in white on one side. The cover shows just one short seam opening on one edge, a little light wear along the upper portion of the face below the spout, and minor stains. The strap is full length and very good, knotted about half way up, likely to hang on the veteran’s wall.

The cartridge box is an 1861 pattern .58 caliber box with its original box plate and both magazine tins. The leather has a good surface and color with a few scuffs, scratches and wear, but nothing horrible and has not been treated with any leather dressing. The box plate retains about 10 percent of its gilt finish in scattered places. It is held on by a small piece of wood through one of the loops. All buckles and tabs are in place and secure (the latch tab shows a partial crack near the hole,) the inner flap, implement pouch and flap are there. The tins have their upper tray dividers. The rear belt loops show some stretching, indicating it was worn fully loaded on a waist belt for some time.

The cap box is nicely marked by C.S. Storms on the inner flap and an oval US Ordnance sub-inspector stamp on the cover. The cover shows some scuff marks from use. Both belt loops are in place. The tab is broken off from the bottom of the outer flap, but the box does retain its inner strip of fleece, meant to keep the percussion caps from being jostled out.

The G.A.R. medal is complete. The ribbon shows some fading and wear, but is solid. The upper eagle pin has 1886 patent dates. It was pinned to a blue velvet pad for display.

With this is a small square of loosely woven blue cloth, measuring 3.25 by 3.25 inches at its longest and widest points, with a button hole near one edge. The button hole was obviously giving way and was crudely reinforced with thread (now brown.) Our best guess is that this is a piece of the veteran’s fatigue blouse, perhaps a privately purchased commercial version since the multiple layers would be unusual.

These artifacts came from the family of Jabez B. Oles, a private of the 144th NY and 1st NY Engineers with service in South Carolina. Oles enlisted at Franklin, NY, as a private on 9/1/64 for one year of service at age 43, according to the records, and mustered into Co. D of the 144th NY on 9/20/64. Just as men under 18 might lie about their ages to enlist or simply be listed as 18 as a matter of bookkeeping, so too older men might lie about their ages or be listed as younger since age 44 was the upper age limit. A private enlisting at age “43” invites suspicion. He was in fact born in 1818 and in the 1860 census appears in Franklin, NY, as a wagon maker, age 42, making him 46 when he signed up, likely for a bounty.

The 144th was stationed at Hilton Head, S.C., at the time and on 10/6/64 Oles transferred to the 1st NY Engineers, four companies of which were also posted at Hilton Head. He was assigned to Co. C on 10/14/64 and mustered in on 10/27/64. His transfer to the engineers makes sense in light of his profession as wagon maker. One of the titles of the 1st NY Engineers was 1st NY “Engineers and Artisans.” Before Oles joined them the regiment had been engaged in siege operations against Charleston, attacks on Battery Wagner, Fort Sumter, etc. Four companies remained in South Carolina when the rest joined the Army of the James in May 1864, and during Oles’s time with them elements of the unit saw action at Honey Hill, Deveaux Neck, and Tillifinny Station in late November and early December. Oles is listed as present on all bimonthly muster rolls until his muster out 7/3/65 at Hilton Head, though the Nov/Dec 1864 roll states he had been sick in hospital. He returned home after discharge, was a member of C.C. Siver Post 124 G.A.R., and died at age 76 in 1894. A CDV of Oles exists in the collections of the Gilder Lehman Institute, #GLC03523.33.028 and copies can be obtained from them for “private study, scholarship or research.”

Identified material belonging to engineers does not come along often. This displays very well, especially with the soldier’s initials very visible on the canteen.  [sr]

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