CONFEDERATE 23rd VA CAVALRY ID’D CAPTURED U.S. PISTOL CARTRIDGE BOX

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Item Code: 2023-2604

This regulation early to mid-war pattern U.S. issue cavalry pistol cartridge box bears the Union trooper’s company letter and rack number, and the initials, company letter and regimental designation of its Confederate captor in the 23rd VA Cavalry. The box itself is a standard issue box for pistol cartridge packs that would be held in place inside by friction against two interior leather panels. These boxes show up in three sizes to accommodate the differing sizes and configurations of the cartridge packs: soft packs, cardboard packs, drilled wood blocks for just the cartridges and for the percussion caps also, etc. This is the early version of the intermediate size, using stitching alone to secure the latch tab and the belt loops. The condition is good. The leather shows good color with some cracking to the finish from flexing and age, but no large flakes or areas of abrasion. The belt loops and the latch tab are present and firmly in place. The latch tab shows an extra hole, likely added so the box would hold some of the larger ammunition packs, or more of them.

The upper part of the flap is stamped with what seems to be “F” on top and “E 51” below indicating issue to a company F, followed or preceded by issue to trooper number 51 in Company E. We see, however, what looks like part of a “1” below the “F” and on top of the “E,” making it likely the soldier marking it simply botched the first attempt, leaving a partial impression of the “E” and tried again. In any case, the box passed into Confederate hands and the new owner personalized it by carving his initials, company letter, and regimental designation on the flap as well. He used small X’s for periods, had an easier time carving straight lines than curves, and ran out of space near the end of the line on the right edge of the flap, but managed a very clear, “C.W.co.I.23.RE” before he realized he would not have enough space, left “REGT” unfinished and concluded with “ca” for “cavalry” and “Va” at the very end of the line, though he had to use smaller letters and put them one over the other.

He nevertheless did a good enough job that we can identify him almost 120 years later. (There is only one candidate: none of the other C.W.’s in the regiment is in Company I and we checked G.W.’s as well, just to be sure.) Charles Wolfe, carried on the rolls as Wolf, was born in Mount Jackson, Va., May 22, 1847, and just 16 when he enlisted in Shenandoah County on April 1, 1864, and was later described as standing 5’7” with light hair, gray eyes, and florid complexion. He was signed up by Capt. Solomon K. Moore, a former Captain in the 33rd VA Infantry who had been wounded at First Bull Run. Moore had apparently hoped to recruit a company for a battalion to be commanded by Charles T. O’Ferrall, a former captain in the 12th VA Cavalry, but necessary consolidations led to them all becoming part of the 23rd Regiment of VA Cavalry, officially organized on April 28, 1864, and eventually 12 companies strong.

The regiment became part of Imboden’s brigade in Lomax’s division and active in the Shenandoah and in Early’s advance on Washington, before returning again to the Valley. Many of their fights were likely small unit actions, but they took part in some major battles and campaigns as well: New Market May 15, 1864, the Lynchburg Campaign in June, at Monocacy July 9 during Early’s thrust at Washington, and in September and October at 3rd Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. (Some sources list the regiment as having been dismounted, but that seems to be a misunderstanding from some of the men who had lost their mounts fighting on foot as New Market in a temporary composite company.) Wolfe is listed as wounded on July 31, 1864, on an October 31 muster roll. This could reflect an even earlier wounding at Monocacy or in the skirmishing taking place during Early’s advance and retreat, but we note a few other losses at about the same time at Charlestown and New Market. In any case, he was still absent, recovering from his wound as of the October 31, 1864, muster roll, but returned to the regiment, eventually surrendering and being paroled at New Market on April 19, 1865, apparently as part of a group of thirteen enlistedmen surrendering along with Captain Moore.

Wolfe remained in Shenandoah County after war, farming, marrying in 1870 and raising a family. One of his sons survived into the 1960s. He died at age 56 in 1903 and was buried in his hometown.

This is a really interesting pistol cartridge box with a no-doubt-about-it identification to a Confederate cavalryman who had some active service and was wounded. It would make a great addition to a Confederate cavalry collection.  [sr] [ph:L]

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