CIVIL WAR BLANKET OF SAMUEL LOWELL, 20th MASSACHUSETTS

$2,250.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 2022-1026

This is a nicely identified Civil War blanket preserved by the veteran’s family and bearing their ink identification tag, likely made for its display in a local GAR hall or historical society. The blanket is rolled up and secured by a strip of webbing with the note tucked into it reading, “Blanket Belon[gi]ng to/ Samuel Lowell 20th Mass/ Died May 13 1897 / Dorthe[a] Lowell May 1908.” Along the lower edge of the blanket, visible just under the tag is a slightly blurred black stencil reading “S. LOWELL.” We have not unrolled the blanket, but it appears to be full length and loosely woven construction, possibly center seamed from some stitching visible on the end, though it could be a repair, and what seem to be three faded narrow red stripes, all of which indicates it was probably a local donation made to departing troops or sent to him from home, explaining his use of his stencil to mark it, though once having purchased a marking kit, many soldiers were tempted to use it on everything.

Lowell was a 41 year-old carpenter, born in Maine and living in Nantucket, Mass.,  when he enlisted at Massasoit on July 15, 1861, and mustered into Co. I of the 20th Massachusetts as private on July 18 at Readville, MA. Sometimes called the Harvard Regiment from the number of students and graduates in its ranks, the main portion of the regiment was mustered into service on August 28, 1861. They left the state September 4, reached Washington Sept. 7, and were assigned to Lander’s Brigade in Stone’s “Corps of Observation.” Stationed near Poolesville, MD, they were tasked with picketing the Potomac and on October 21 were caught up in the disastrous Battle of Balls Bluff, losing 194 officers and men, of whom 38 were killed or mortally wounded, in a poorly planned and executed reconnaissance to the Virginia side of the river. Lowell was among the captured, which included the regiment’s Colonel, and was confined at Richmond on Oct. 24 and sent to Salisbury, NC, on Dec. 24. Paroled at Salisbury May 28, 1862, he passed into Union lines at Washington, NC on June 2 and reached home on furlough June 8. Letters in his service file from a Justice of the Peace and an Inspecting Surgeon dated December 1862 indicate he had been confined to his home with rheumatism and spinal problems for almost the entire six months since his return, was too unwell to travel, and was unfit for military service. He was discharged for disability on Jan. 26, 1863. Records indicate Lowell returned to Maine before his death and is interred in the Riverside Cemetery in Lewiston.

The condition appears very good though we have not attempted to unroll it. The ink tag, dated 1908, shows some stains and minor losses, but is fully legible and displays very well. As a personal item the blanket was likely sent home after Lowell’s capture: for a time he was listed simply as “missing in action.” This would be a great addition to a collection of field gear or concentrating on the 20th Massachusetts or the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, which put an effective end to the military career of Union General Stone, a very final end to the military and political career of Colonel and Senator Edward Baker, and inspired the poem and song, “The Vacant Chair.”  [sr] [ph:m]

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