BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER PRESENTED BY ARMY SURGEON W.T. THURSTON TO ORION DONNELL, 7th INDIANA, LATER DIED AS POW IN 1864

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This Protestant Episcopal “Book of the Common Prayer” was published in Philadelphia in 1860 and bears on the flyleaf a beautiful ink inscription: “Presented / by/ WT Thurston / Surgeon U.S. Vols. / Winchester Seminary / Hospital / Frederick City / Maryland / To / Orien W. Donnell/ Company G / 7th Indiana Vols./ November 19th 1862.”

Surgeon William T. Thurston served in the First Rhode Island Lt. Artillery from 10/4/61 to 4/6/63. He had been wounded 6/28/62, but was in the hospital at Frederick on detached duty from 9/15/62. He had at least one subsequent similar assignment: we find him ordered back to his unit from Campbell Hospital in Washington in March, 1863. Orion Donnell was a 39 year-old resident of Decatur County, Indiana when he enlisted at Indianapolis 9/12/61, leaving behind a wife and two children. He enlisted at Indianapolis and mustered into Co. G of the 7th Indiana on 9/13/61 as a corporal. By Fall 1864 he was a sergeant. The regiment had served as a three-month organization, seeing action in West Virginia, from April to August 1861 and was then being reorganized for three years’ service. They served in the eastern theatre and had lost men at battles like Port Republic and 2nd Bull Run, before joining the First Corps, Army of the Potomac in September 1862, after which they served at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Grant’s 1864 campaign.

We don’t know what brought Donnell to the hospital and his acquaintance with Thurston, but he likely had plenty of active service after that. CWdata lists 60 points at which the regiment took casualties of some sort and by Fall 1864 Donnell had been promoted to sergeant. One source says he was a corporal until 3/3/64, which might be the date of his promotion. In the 1864 campaign they fought at Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spotsylvania, Po River, North Anna, Bethesda Church and Cold Harbor, being under fire for 18 days. At Petersburg on July 17, they went into action with less than a hundred men and lost 3 killed and 30 wounded. Two weeks later, in the assault of July 30, they lost 2 officers and 10 men killed and another 2 officers and 55 men wounded and 1 missing.

Donnell’s luck ran out on August 18 or 19, 1864, when he was captured on picket during the battle of Weldon Railroad when Grant managed to a vital rail line south of Petersburg. He was taken to Belle Island and then transferred to Salisbury, NC, where he died of disease or exposure 11/14/64.

The book is in very good condition, with just minor abrasions to the leather binding and a tight text block. Donnell likely sent it home to his wife, who outlived him by fifty years, dying in 1920, likely treasuring this book as a memento.  [sr] [ph:L]

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