CSA RECTANGULAR PLATE ON BELT WITH WORLD-CLASS NOTE, TAKEN FROM THE BODY OF A DEAD CONFEDERATE AT PETERSBURG

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Item Code: 1106-02

This rectangular C.S.A. belt plate on its belt was brought back, or sent home, from the war by a member of the 118th New York and includes a superb, if somewhat grim, account of its recovery on the battlefield. The plate has a medium patina and all three fastening hooks in place on the back. It also retains its full-length bridle leather waist belt. These sand-cast brass plates are associated primarily with the Atlanta arsenal and western theatre troops, though some have been found in Virginia. It may be no coincidence that this one was recovered from the body of a Georgia soldier in front of Petersburg.

Belt and buckle were brought home by Corporal Jefferson T. Warner of the 118th New York and is accompanied his note in beautiful period ink on a card a little over 3.25 by 5 inches wide. The card reads:

This belt taken from / a 2nd Georgia cavalry man in front  / of Petersburg after the Lines  / were established by the Yanks.  / The boy must have been dead 2 / weeks. Grass was fully 8 inches / high around him when I took  / the belt. J.T. Warner Late of / Co. K 118th N.Y.V. Inf.”

Warner was a tinsmith when he enlisted at age 19 in Peru, N.Y., on 8/9/1862 and mustered into Co. K of the 118th New York as private on 8/30/62. He made corporal 5/6/64 and was severely wounded in the leg on 9/29/64 in the fighting at Chaffin’s Farm, Va. The leg had to be amputated and Warner’s recovery took a long time. He was not discharged until 9/12/65 from DeCamp U.S. Hosptal on David’s Island in NY harbor.

The 118th was fighting unit, losing 99 officers and men killed or mortally wounded during its service. Known as the "Adirondack Regiment," it mustered into US service for three years in August 1862, served in the defenses of Washington until April, 1863, and was then ordered to Suffolk, Va., where it was in the 7th and 4th Corps. It was present at Antioch Church and Baker's cross-roads, and was engaged at South Anna Bridge, losing 11 killed, wounded and missing.  It then on garrison and guard duty for several months before joining the18th Corps and taking part in the  campaign against Richmond with Butler's Army of the James. It was engaged at Port Walthall Junction, Chester Station, Swift Creek, Proctor's Creek, and Drewry's bluff, where it lost 199 in killed, wounded and missing.  At Cold Harbor in June it  lost 32 killed and wounded, and was in the first assaults on Petersburg where it lost 21 killed and wounded.

Warner was wounded at a two-day battle known variously as Chaffin’s Farm. Chaffin’s Bluff, New Market Heights, Laurel Hill, and Fort Harrison. The 118th was rearmed with Spencer rifles on the night of September 28 and took part in both the taking of Fort Harrison on September 29 and its defense against repeated Confederate counterattacks on September 30, losing 67 men in the process, including Warner. After his discharge from the hospital, Warner returned to New York. We find him back in Peru and also in the town of Chazy, both in Clinton county, working still as a tinsmith in 1880 and as a plumber as late as 1910, living with his wife, Fanny. He moved to New Jersey at some point after that, joining Ulrich Dahlgren Post 25 in Elizabeth, NJ, and was its junior vice commander when he died March 15, 1926, while visiting a niece in Hillside, New Jersey. and is buried there in Evergreen Cemetery.

Warner’s note that the belt and buckle came from a member of the 2nd Georgia Cavalry, but that regiment served in the western theatre. The note is very specific in the state designation and branch of service, however, and is likely based on some piece of evidence he saw at the time. Very possibly the unit was, in fact, the 20th Georgia Cavalry Battalion, which was in the Army of Northern Virginia for the Petersburg campaign. The 118th arrived at the Petersburg front for the failed attacks of June 15-18, after which the fighting settled into trench warfare, likely what Warner likely refers in saying that he found it after the lines had been, “established by the Yanks.” If the wearer had been dead two weeks, Warner may have retrieved it some time around July 1 and sent it home.

In any case, this is a very telling relic. Warner’s recollection about the growing grass is a poignant contrast the soldier who had been lying dead in it for two weeks, and Warner’s characterization of him as a “boy,” though the two weeks exposure must have taken a toll, must have been a matter for reflection for him as grew to an old man.  [sr]

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