PORTABLE OFFICER’S CIVIL WAR FIELD DESK BELONGING TO MAJOR EDWIN J. STIVERS, 89TH ILLINOIS INFANTRY AND 17TH U.S. COLORED TROOPS

$2,250.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 454-27

Here, in very good condition, is a large wooden portable Civil War field desk identified to Major Edwin J. Stivers.  This field desk externally measures 24-½ inches long by 12-1/8 inches deep by 28” high and is primarily made of wood; it does have metal hinges and screws.  The exterior of this field desk is stained a nice light green color with a light period protective coating.  It is solidly and tightly constructed of tight grained old pinewood using butt joints, mortise and tenon joints, and nails.  The interior of this piece of camp furniture contains multiple compartments; one large pullout drawers at the top left, three large paper slots on the lower right, and 9 smaller sized open compartments, and one compartment that was probably a drawer at one time.  The upper left drawer measures 10 inches deep by 12-7/16 inches wide by 4-3/8 inches high.  The lower left missing drawer’s compartment measures 10-7/8 inches deep by 13-1/8 inches wide by 4-½ inches.  The drawer has a bone key escutcheon with the original lock mechanism; there is no key with this field desk.  The drawer has old square head nails, beveled drawer bottoms, and mortise and tenon and butt joints.  The drawer pull is missing and an old flat headed single slot screw acts as a temporary pull.  Some misguided soul scratched “Hi” on the front of the drawer.  A scrolled wooden slat separates the three full paper compartments; the right slat is missing.  These compartments each measure 2 inches wide by 19 inches high and 10-7/8 inches deep.  The nine small compartments are missing 4 dividers; each slot en measures10-7/8 inches deep by 4-½ high x 4-3/8 inches.  The double hinged lid or desktop folds down to reveal a writing surface composed of tightly joined wide wooden slats bordered by a 3-inch wooden border along the perimeter.  The front most likely had the hinges on the right side but were moved to the bottom.  The top did have a locking mechanism integrated in the center of the top edge but it is now missing along with the key.  There is also a contemporary kitchen cabinet stay attached to the inside front and inside case; this holds the door closed.  The exterior surfaces of the wooden desk have acquired a light green coloring and exhibit a number of dents and dings that are consistent with age and use.  No maker’s marks nor any unit identifications are visible on the desk.

The outside case backing is stencil neatly with its provenance information.  In large black script lettering, it says “Capt E. J. Stivers / Jonesville / Mich - / Care of / Hill V. Humlburt / Cincinnati / Ohio”.  Edwin J. Stivers had an interesting life.  He enlisted at Chicago, Illinois in Company K, 89th Regiment Illinois Infantry at the age of 28 on August 7, 1862 for a term of 3 years.  He was 5 feet 10 inches tall with dark complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair.  Edwin started out as a Sergeant Major, appointed Fife Major, and Principal Musician for Company K in September 1862.  Per Act of Congress, he was reduced to Musician in January 1863 but then appointed Sergeant Major later that same month.  In November 1863, he was discharged as a Private and commissioned a Second Lieutenant in command of U.S. Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) at Mufreesboro, Tennessee.  He was later promoted to 1st LT in Company A, 17th U.S.C.T. and Captain of Company G.  He was court martialed in January 1866 and reduced to 2nd LT in early1866.  Details of this proceeding are not known.  His records are sketchy during this time frame but it appears he was again promoted to 1st LT and transferred to Company K, U.S.C.T.  On November 3, 1866, he was mustered out as a Captain with the 17th U.S. Colored Troops.  Stivers was reappointed to the Army in 1867, served in North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Philadelphia.  His pension records show he retired as a Major on April 23, 1904 whereby he was a military instructor and took up painting.  He moved to Paris, France to study art in 1904; his wife returned to America and he died in Paris in 1921.  He is buried in Père Lachaise Crematorium, Paris, France. Additional details of his life and career in the Army are fascinating reading.  Copies of the service and pension records accompany this field desk.  This field desk would make an excellent display item for a Civil War collection. [bb] [ph:L]

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