G.A.R. POST IMPRESSIVE SHELL-STRUCK WAR LOG: A “FRAGMENT” FROM CHICKAMAUGA

$18,500.00

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Item Code: 365-11

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This impressive section of tree trunk was cut from the battlefield of Chickamauga and displayed in a Boston G.A.R. post. It measures about 36 by 16 by 14 inches and has embedded in it a ten-pound Parrott shell, the lower portion and iron sabot of which are visible. This was formerly in the Mullinax collection and is illustrated in, “In the Line of Fire,” 2006, by Mullinax and Melton. It was originally acquired by a Massachusetts artillery veteran, who must have found the presence of the shell especially appropriate, and donated to his G.A.R. post in Boston. The log still has its display card from the post tacked in place just above the exposed base of the shell reading, in somewhat tongue-in-cheek phrasing, “A FRAGMENT / FROM CHICKAMAUGA / PRESENTED TO / JOHN A. ANDREW POST 15 / BY COMRADE E W FROST.”

The display card has some edge losses and fading, but has a fabric backing and is completely legible. The trunk has lost some pieces of bark over the years, but displays very well and would be a centerpiece in a collection. Narrow iron bands at top and bottom were fitted around it early on, likely as soon as it was cut, to keep it from splitting. Just as wartime photographers like Brady were drawn to bullet and shell-struck trees, veterans also found them evocative of their combat experiences, showing the intensity of the fire they endured, freezing that moment and the flying piece of metal.

Emery Washburn Frost, who gave the piece to his veteran’s post, had served in the 14th Mass. Light Artillery, so perhaps a war log showing an artillery round appealed to him. He may have also wanted to remind his comrades of the importance of artillery as a branch of service. He seems certainly to have had a sense of humor in labelling his gift a “fragment” of Chickamauga, given its size and weight, something in the neighborhood of 150 pounds.

Born in January 1847, Frost enlisted in 14th Mass. Light Artillery in Boston on 2/19/1864, is listed as age 18, and was mustered in as a private on 2/27/64. The battery was newly raised and was ordered south in April, armed and equipped at Washington and assigned to the 9th Corps, taking part in Grant’s Overland Campaign. It saw action first at Spottsylvania and more service under fire at Totopotomoy, Bethesda Church, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. In September it joined the Artillery Reserve and the 2nd Corps in October. In January it was assigned to the 6th Corps and in March was back in the 9th Corps in time to take part in the Battle of Fort Steadman, where one section was captured for a time, and on April 1 and 2 was engaged in the bombardment of Petersburg in preparation and support of the final assault. Frost mustered out with the battery 6/15/65. They had lost 9 officers and men killed or mortally wounded, which is pretty high for a light artillery battery.  Frost died at the soldier’s home in Chelsea, Mass., June 12, 1915. His tombstone bears the simple inscription, “In the Civil War a common soldier.”

War logs were so popular for display at veterans’ posts that some were even manufactured at the time using relic shell fragments and bullets. A few modern entrepreneurs have tried their hand as well. This is great example, completely original, impressive in size, and with a wonderful provenance and publication history. This could be the centerpiece of a collection room as it likely was for the G.A.R. post.

Special delivery to one of the Civil War shows that we do or pick up at the shop will have to be arranged. Please contact us to discuss the options.  [sr] [ph:L]

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