INSCRIBED CONFEDERATE CANTEEN OF LIEUTENANT WILLIAM DUNLAP, CO. C 24th ALABAMA, WOUNDED IN ACTION IN THE BATTLE OF ATLANTA JULY 22, 1864

$3,750.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 1176-03

This is the classic Confederate wood drum canteen, modeled on canteens dating as early as the Revolutionary War, inexpensive and easy to manufacture using lathe-turned round wood faces with thin staves fitted over the edges and held in place by two narrow iron bands kept in position by three iron brackets hooked on each end and slightly raised in the middle to admit a shoulder strap. These canteens were made throughout the south, though generally referred to by collectors as the Gardner pattern from a Richmond maker, and even at the time were regarded as the quintessential Confederate canteen, becoming valued relics and war trophies.

The canteen is solid, with the faces, slats, bands and brackets in place and secure. The brackets and bands are the typical narrow iron strips with the ends of the bands riveted to make a hoop. The mouth of the canteen probably had a simple wood spout that was found unnecessary and shows some wear. There is no stopper. A simple plug or even a corncob likely sufficed. The finish is subdued, but generally very good with natural and expected wear to one side from rubbing against the soldier’s body. The upper portion shows a script carved inscription in a sophisticated hand reading: “W. H. Dunlap / 24th Ala. Rg’t.”

Although usually signing himself William H. Dunlap, his full name was William Henry Clay Dunlap, born to James Madison Dunlap and Sarah Ann Barringer Dunlap Dec. 7, 1840. The elder Dunlap had been in the mercantile business in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, though by the 1850 census he was listing himself as a farmer, perhaps a more gentlemanly pursuit, and in 1855 moved the family to Pickens County, where he died in 1856, leaving behind his widow, three boys and two girls (by the 1860 census,) of whom William was the eldest. The elder Dunlap had listed his real estate in 1850 as worth $500 and in 1860 his widow listed it as $1,000, but also included a personal estate valued at more than $38,000, indicating they were rather well off. The 1860 slave census lists her as the owner of 29 people and the employer of 2 others who are listed as owned by others.

William entered the University of Alabama in 1859. By the end of 1860 the university was being converted into a military school and he likely became a member of the state’s corps of cadets, which petitioned for a suspension of their “college duties” at the outbreak of the war in 1861. The corps was not officially furloughed, but “within six months, however, the senior class had disappeared and the junior class had dwindled to three,” according to one recent history. These were head of Dunlap’s class, but his likely followed the trend. His compiled service record indicates he was officially appointed 2nd Lieutenant of Company C of the 24th Alabama Infantry on November 8, 1861.

The regiment had organized at Mobile in August and became part of the “Army of Mobile,” garrisoning Fort Morgan till April 1862 when it joined Jackson’s brigade in the Army of Mississippi and took part in defending Corinth, serving under fire at Blackland and Farmington. Dunlap was on sick furlough at home in Pickens on June 13, 1862, when he is also listed as First Lieutenant of Co. C. His sister wrote to the commanding officer in late June that he had contracted “camp fever” and would not be well enough to return for some time. Whether he was back in time for the invasion of Kentucky, where the regiment did not see fighting, is not known, but he was back in the regiment by November, when he is given temporary command of Company D. How long that assignment lasted is also not clear, but he may have been leading that company when the regiment was heavily engaged at Murfreesboro at the end of the year, losing about 100 men in killed and wounded.

On January 20, 1863, he was assigned as “recruiting and enrolling officer” by Gen. Bragg, which is termed “conscript duty” on some his records, apparently serving under General Pillow through March. He seems to have been with the regiment, and Company C, in September 1863, when they lost some 200 men in heavy fighting at Chickamauga and at the end of the lost another 25 at Missionary Ridge.

The regiment wintered at Dalton and Dunlap was acting regimental quartermaster for the first quarter of 1864, but seems to have returned to Company C for the Atlanta Campaign as Johnston and then Hood tried to thwart Sherman, with the regiment fighting all the way from Rocky Face Ridge down to Atlanta itself.

There on July 22 Hood, who had replaced Johnston in command, pulled back his front line to entice Sherman to attack and struck at the Federal left rear. That attack by Hardee’s Corps stalled and Hood sent in Cheatham’s corps from the west. Manigault’s brigade, followed by others, moving along the Georgia Railroad, broke through Union 15th Corps lines, but were eventually thrown back by a massive counterattack organized by Sherman himself. At some point in the fierce Dunlap suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and was evacuated to the Ocmulgee Hospital in Macon, where he was admitted on July 24.

Dunlap’s wound cost him his leg and he spent the rest of his life walking with the aid of two crutches. He was placed on leave from the regiment on Sept. 7 and furloughed from the hospital on Sept. 12. He seems to have returned home to recover and does not appear to have rejoined the regiment or been formally discharged. His name appears on a roster of paroles dated May 26, 1865, at the Post of Columbus, Mississippi, just across the border from his home in Pickens County, Alabama. He is listed on the parole still as First Lieutentant Co. C 24th Alabama, though in postwar years he was given the honorific of “Captain.”

Dunlap seems to have returned to his studies after the war: the University of Alabama roster of alumni (with and without degrees) lists him as lawyer, but also as a merchant and planter. We do know that in September 1870 he married Mary P. Crump of West Point, Mississippi, just a little west of Columbus. The couple had two children and seem to have resided on her parents’ estate, judging from the birthplace of their children and his obituary. His wife’s father listed himself as a retired physician in 1870, but had been a prosperous planter in 1860 with real estate valued as $75,000 and a personal estate of $50,000. The war had brought those values down drastically, but the estate had several “hands” who seem to have been tenant farmers and were likely ex-slaves of the family.

Whether Dunlap was practicing law, engaging in business, managing his father-in-law’s property, or all three, is unclear. What is rather clearer is that on the night of November 14, 1876, Dunlap went over to their “quarters” to collect rent from at least one. That apparently came off okay and Dunlap was leaning against a fence talking to a small group when the conversation took a turn, one of them produced a shotgun loaded with slugs and blew off Dunlap’s remaining leg. He collapsed and bled to death on the spot. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery at West Point, leaving behind, in the words of the West Point Advertiser, “a wife, two children and a large circle of friends to mourn his fate.” The local constable retrieved a bloody shotgun and arrested four men thought involved in the murder. We did not follow the case further.

The inscribed signature on the canteen nicely matches some in Dunlap’s records. A collector’s note indicated that the 24th Alabama had been supplied with canteens made by wood-working shop owned by Robert Cowan of Talladega, but we have not been able to confirm that. The canteen displays very nicely and has had a strap added for display that we have left in place, though do not think it needs any dressing up. It is a nicely identified example of the quintessential Confederate canteen from an officer with some very active service in key battles of the war.  [SR] [ph:m]

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