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Item Code: 801-559

The owner of this group was Joseph W. Corning of Palmyra, New York who was commissioned Captain of Company B. 33rd New York Infantry on May 9, 1861. He led a colorful and interesting life. The 33rd New York’s regimental history says of him:

“Joseph W. Corning was born in Yarmouth, North Scotia, Nov. 4th,1813, and when eleven years of age removed with his parents to Rochester, New York. The father losing all of his property by an extensive conflagration, the son was thrown on his own resources, and resorted to various shifts for a livelihood.

In 1829 he joined a military organization, and devoted much time to the manual. During a part of the years 1833 and 1834, he resided in Waterloo, where he was elected Captain of a Company of Fusiliers. In the spring of 1834 he proceeded to Clayton, Jefferson Co., and spent two years in teaching and agricultural pursuits. He was here likewise chosen Captain of a Militia Company.

He settled at Ontario, Wayne County, where he remained ten years, engaged in agricultural pursuits. In 1847 he removed to Palmyra, and embarked in the mercantile business. In May, 1850, he sailed for California, and after spending three years in mining operations, returned to Palmyra. He now commenced the study of law, was admitted to the bar in March 1855 and continued the practice of his profession until the outbreak of the war. He was chosen Justice of the Peace, Police Magistrate, Mayor of the village, and filled other positions of trust. In the fall of 1860 he was elected by a heavy majority to represent his district in the State Legislature.

He took a prominent part in the various Legislative proceedings of the session, and when the South rebelled, urged the enforcement of the most stringent measures for their subjection. On the adjournment of the Assembly he returned home, and the next day commenced raising a Company for the war. He was promoted from Captain to Lieutenant-Colonel of the Thirty-third, November, 186l, and was present with the Regiment in all its encounters with the enemy, being frequently complimented by his superior officers for “gallantry and courage.”

Author George Contant in his book titled “Path of Blood: The True Story of the 33rd New York Volunteers” relates this concerning Corning:

"At Williamsburg, on May 5, 1862, Palmyra New York's Lt Col Joseph W. Corning of the 33d New York Volunteers proved that he was no politician-officer. As General Jubal Early's howling Confederate brigade rushed toward the redoubt near Cub Creek Dam, now occupied by the reinforced brigade of General Winfield Scott Hancock, the 33d's dazed Colonel Taylor stumbled up to his second in command. Corning tried to find out what happened to the four companies that his Colonel had taken into the woods, but Taylor had utterly lost contact with them. Looking out at the onrushing enemy, and seeing that the Federal line was beginning to crumble, a frustrated Corning yelled, "My God, sir, nothing but a charge can check this thing!" He turned to his companies, A, D and F, commanded them to charge bayonets, and on his own hook ordered the charge that launched Hancock into history.”

Corning was in command of his regiment at Antietam and his report can be found in the Official Records. He was mustered out with the 33rd at Geneva on June, 2, 1863 and next served as Major of the 111th New York to rank from September 29, 1864. He joined the regiment in October of 1864 and served during the siege of Petersburg.

On February 3, 1865 Corning left the 111th to accept a commission as Colonel of the 194th New York Infantry. The war ended before the 194th finished organizing and Colonel Corning was discharged on May 31, 1865.

After the war he returned to Palmyra, married and ran a grocery business. He served for a while as a customs officer in New York City but returned to Palmyra where he died on June 30, 1890. And was buried in Palmyra Cemetery.

Quite a few wartime items belonging to Colonel Corning were offered at auction several years ago. A while back we offered a frock coat, trousers and cap, now the rest of the group has been released and is being offered for sale.

The first item in the group is a frock coat made of a fine dark blue wool broadcloth. The coat has a 2.00 inch high folded collar with a black felt lining. Coat is double-breasted with two parallel rows of seven buttons down the front, three on each functioning cuff and four on the tail. One is missing off the front and one off the tail. All are eagle “I” buttons, all look to be original to the coat. Front buttons are all marked “WATERBURY BUTTON CO.” while all the cuffs are marked “SCOVILLE WATERBURY.” Two of the three buttons on the back match the front but one is marked “JOHNSON.”  Attached to each shoulder is Lieutenant Colonel’s shoulder straps in good condition. Each strap is a double border with gold bullion oak leaves on a faded royal blue rank field.

The exterior of the coat is in very good condition overall. There is very light scattered moth tracking and a few minor nips here and there. The largest moth whole encountered is in the bottom edge of the skirt and is about the width of a pencil eraser. The exterior coat has some light surface dirt but is otherwise excellent. All seams are tight.

The body of the interior of the coat is lined in a black polished cotton that is tightly quilted in the chest area. He left breast has a horizontal pocket. The body and tail lining are of a black polished cotton. The lower right back has a stress separation approx. 2.00 inches long. Sleeves are lined with plain white muslin throughout. Sleeve linings show wear and signs of having been resewn where they meet the body lining. These repairs were made long ago. Sleeve lining is also dirty and worn from wear. Especially in the interior cuff area.  Inside of left sleeve has period ink inscription that reads “LIEUT. COL. J. W. CORNING.”

With the coat is a pair of dark blue trousers with a thin royal blue leg stripe made of the same broadcloth wool as the coat. Trousers have a royal blue binding around the top edge of the waist band. It has some wear but 90% of it is intact. The same blue binding is found around the edge of the yoke in the back of the waist band. All six suspender buttons are present. Right front of waistband has a watch pocket that is outlined in royal blue thread. Fly has all five buttons. Trousers were held closed by a strap sewn to the top of the fly that connected to a button sewn to the inside left side of the trousers. Pockets are the mule-ear style and one still has a black mother of pearl button present.

Exterior is in fair condition. Seams are tight but moths have gotten to the trousers. There are numerous scattered holes just below the fly. Each leg has a good amount of moth tracking and several moth holes. The largest is in the right thigh and is a bit smaller than a quarter. The lower right hip has a severely affected area that is approx. 3.00 inches long x 1.00 inch wide. Leg stripes were also targeted by the moths. Approx. 75% of the color on the leg stripe remains. Back of trousers have mostly moth tracking and several small holes.

Interior waistband and fly is lined white muslin and is complete. Surface shows light wear and dirt. Watch pocket lining has light period ink inscription of “J. W. CORNING” over “32 ¾.” Bottom inside of cuffs are also lined and show wear.

Group includes dark blue wool forage cap. Cap has a body that is in good overall condition. The top of the disc has some moth tracking and a small amount of moth bites. The body has one or two very tiny bits and some tracking but is otherwise nice. Cap has seam with stiffener around the base and a seam running up the back. The chinstrap is missing but the two eagle “I” buttons are present. Black leather visor is straight and flat with a bound edge and is firmly attached. Surface of both top and bottom have light crazing.

Interior of the cap is complete. Thin black leather sweatband is present but shows heavy wear with only one separation. The black polished cotton lining is complete but has separated from the sweatband along the sides. A good conservator should be able to tack it back in place. Base of crown is stamped “JUSTICE No. 5 REED HOUSE ERIE, PA.” Wear on the interior appears to be from use.

Next is a red sash approx. 2.75 inches wide x 6’ 7” long and made of ribbed silk. Surface is very dirty from age storage and use. The edge is frayed along both top and bottom but not badly. There is a 2.00 inch separation at one end caused by a pulled thread. Acorns are present at both ends along with all the tassels and show the usual wear.

With the sash is the sword belt made of black bridle leather a stitched border decoration along each edge. Leather is pliable and in good overall condition but dirty from age and storage. Both drops are present as are sword hooks. Both leather sliding keepers are present as well. Rectangular belt plate is attached and is the correct 1851 officer’s plate with a stippled field behind the eagle. Both the plate and the keeper have the matching bench mark of “25.” There is some surface finish wear throughout but overall the belt is in nice shape.

Also with the group are two pairs of gloves. One pair is actually heavy gauntlets made of brown leather and which have been heavily used. Palm and finger areas are very dark and dirty while the cuffs are brighter. Aside from scuff marks and one or two small holes the gauntlets are in good used condition. The other pair of gloves are white calf skin held closed at the wrist by two black mother of pearl buttons. Gloves are in good condition with a period repair on the palm of one from which a new tear has branched off. It is approx. 2.00 inches long and is not that noticeable.

The group also contains a pair of white wool socks in excellent condition. Only some light surface dirt at toe, heal and top. One appears to have been darned in the heel.

Also present are two haversacks. The first is the usual officer’s variety haversack minus its strap. The body is a little stiff and has several open seams. Outer flap has strap and buckle but the buckle has separated from its anchor. Underside of outer flap has worn painted canvas pocket. Bottom center seam has split as has one of the side seams.

The second haversack is actually an artillery gunners leather haversack. It is complete with body and strap. Outer flap has the tab and roller buckle. Lifting the flap reveals “LIEUT. COL. CORNING SEPT. 1862” scratched into the leather. Body of the item is complete and solid with only light signs of wear from use.

Present also are a pair of black leather camp shoes that show signs of heavy use. Soles are worn. One heel is gone and the other has worn diagonally. Shoes are slip on with a “V” notch of cloth sewn into the leather at top front. With these are a pair of wooden ice creepers. The body of the creepers are shaped like the sole of a shoe and are painted black. A wide leather strap is tacked to each toe and at the heel of each is tacked a leather backing approx. 2.00 inches high. Coming up from under the arch are two leather straps that tighten with a roller buckle. Protruding from the bottom of the wood sole are three sharpened square nails with one in the heel. All leather is in excellent condition.

There is a pair of Civil War binoculars in the leather case. These have a leather covered body and a straight bridge between the eye pieces. Leather is missing off of one shade. Eye pieces are unmarked. One is cracked and the other is chipped. Optics are good but one of the large lenses has come loose and needs to be screwed back in place. There are no markings. Leather case has no strap and the top hinge has broken. All four strap keepers are present. Case is in otherwise good condition.

The last two items in the group are headgear. The first is a wonderful straw hat. It is tightly woven throughout and despite some surface dirt is in excellent condition. There are a few small nicks out of the brim edge but otherwise it is very nice. The crown is high and stands approx. 4.50 inches. Around its base is a black ribbed band tied in a worn bow. Band is complete and has no doubt faded from exposure to the sun. Also attached around the base of the crown is a well-worn officer’s hat cord with small acorns. Brim meas. approx. 3.50 inches wide. Interior has most of the sweatband but it has curled around its base.

The last item is a Scottish tam complete with black silk ties at back and wool tartan around the base. Attached to the front is a white metal “33.” Tam also has small black velvet ear flaps. Hat shows wear from age and use. Top front has small 1.50 inch separation. Interior liner is complete and is of quilted black cotton. Maker marked in crown “JAY DAVIS” with unreadable city.

This group shows constant wear throughout. There is no doubt that after the war the Colonel put all these items in a trunk and left them there. They have never been cleaned and all have telltale signs of being worn and used. Fantastically complete.   [ad]









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