BY-LAWS OF THE JEFFERSON GUARDS, 55th REGIMENT, VIRGINIA MILITIA, A WAR SOUVENIR OF GEORGE W. MOWERS 21st PA CAVALRY

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Mowers enlisted for six months in the 21st PA Cavalry about a week after the Battle of Gettysburg, which ravaged his town and the surrounding area. Fayetteville, where he worked in his father’s wagon shop, was right in the area of Lee’s concentration of his army before the battle and right on the Chambersburg Pike, the main line of Lee’s advance on July 1.  Mowers enlisted on July 11, mustered on July 15, trained in Chambersburg until August, and was then posted with his company to Harpers Ferry until February 1864. This is a very good condition copy of the “By-laws, order of business, &c. of the Jefferson Guards, 55th Regiment, 3d Division Va. Militia,” printed in Baltimore by John F. Wiley in 1860. It is pocket-sized and bound in a pale green card cover, and contains 12 pages of rules governing the company: election of officers, recruiting, drills, etc. The booklet is intact and the pages securely in place. There is a light stain to the title page and two very small burn marks that create pinholes in the first couple of pages, but no significant damage to paper or text.

This booklet was found in the large group of material preserved by Mowers and by his family since his death in 1895. Mowers lived in Fayetteville his entire life and much of the material was picked up by him at Gettysburg and environs, but this is likely a souvenir from his brief stint in the cavalry. The Jefferson Guards and the 55th Virginia were based in Jefferson County, now West Virginia. Mowers was posted at Harpers Ferry during his cavalry service and we even have a prayer book noted as coming from Charlestown, the county seat of Jefferson County, so this book is likely a souvenir he picked up there. The 55th was called out on June 13, 1861, by the State of Virginia to rendezvous at Winchester and served into 1862. Many of its members enlisted in other Confederate units, but it is hard to imagine one of them carrying the volume north for leisure reading during the Gettysburg campaign.

This is an interesting reminder of the resurgence of the militia in Virginia before the war during the secession crisis and in the wake of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859.  [sr]

Accompanied by military & pension records.

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