SILVER IDENTIFICATION SHIELD OF WILLIAM MARSHALL 18th MASS. 1862-1864

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Item Code: 766-1437

A very nice condition silver identification shield belonging to a member of the 18th Massachusetts, present for all its major engagements. The government did not supply means of identification for soldiers killed or wounded on the battlefield and private concerns, some charitable and most commercial, stepped in to fill the need with paper identification tags, brass and white metal disks, stamped rings, and shield pins like this one that were available by mail order. This has a nice, undisturbed patina, with delicate border and is stamped “War of 1861” at the bottom. The base of the T-bar pin and the catch-hook are present on the reverse. The pin itself is missing. This in excellent undisturbed condition. It has an old ink collection number on the reverse.

The face of the badge is professionally and neatly engraved at center with flourishes and the soldier’s identification: “Wm. H. Marshall / Co. D / 18th Reg. Mass. V.”

William Harlow Marshall was a 35-year-old farmer in Middleborough, Mass, when he enlisted and mustered in as a private in Co. D of the 18th Massachusetts on August 4 or August 7, 1862 (handwritten sources confuse the two Arabic numerals.) He was described as 5’ 8” tall, with blue eyes brown hair and a light complexion. He had married twice, losing his first wife in 1856 after less than a year of marriage. In July 1860 he married again. His second wife died in February 1862, leaving him with an eight-month-old son. We presume he left his son with relatives when he enlisted, perhaps influenced by a $25 bounty. “Mass. Soldiers and Sailors” lists him as a “laborer” when he signed up, perhaps indicating he had also lost, or given up, his living.

The regiment had formed in the summer of 1861 and mustered into U.S. service in August. They were assigned to Porter’s division, then briefly to the 3rd Corps, and finally to the 5th Corps, by the time Marshall joined them, in which they served until muster out. Their first experience of combat was shortly after Marshall joined, at Second Bull Run on August 30, 1862, losing 169 men, of whom 54 were killed or mortally wounded. Their experience at Fredericksburg was also costly: 134 officers an men with 27 killed or mortally wounded. It fought again at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, and Mine Run. In Grant’s 1864 campaign they fought at Wilderness, Laurel Hill (Spotsylvania,) Cold Harbor, and the North Anna. Those whose time was about to expire returned to Massachusetts in late July and were mustered out Sept. 2, 1864, William Marshall among them. During its service the regiment lost 9 officers and 114 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, almost al while Marshall was in the regiment. He is listed as present on all bimonthly muster rolls until February/March 1864 when he is marked absent, but then appears on extra duty as a “mounted pioneer” from April 25, 1864 to June 30. This may place him in the advance when the regiment formed to the right of the Orange Pike and advanced to “feel the enemy” and opened the battle of the Wilderness on May 5.

Marshall returned to Middleborough after muster out and is again listed as a farmer there in 1864, though army life must have taken a toll: he applied for an invalid pension in February 1865. He lost his son, just four years old, in July. He died in Middleborough just two years later, in October 1867, just two months shy of his forty-first birthday. It was reported to be an accident.  [sr]

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