CIVIL WAR PRISONER OF WAR CAMP ART

$125.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1179-643

These two bone rings are carved with two low pyramids on the top with a small red dot at center between the two, and three more red dots on each pyramid, one on each of the three sides facing away from the center. They are preserved in a small cardboard box with a pink paper label from a Lawrence, Mass., jeweler with an old pen notation on the inside: “made by / Madison Stephens / aunt (cousin) Elsie / father while in Civil / War. He died in Libby / prison.” This displays very nicely as an example of camp art made by prisoners to while away the time or sell or trade with guards or civilians for extra food, etc. Since there are two matching rings, we might suppose they were intended for the soldier and his wife, which adds a note of pathos since he did not survive.

The inscription is real, but we have not been able to identify the soldier. That he died at Libby suggests he was an officer, but Madison as a first name does not turn up any ready candidates under Stephens or Stevens. Most likely, Madison was his middle name, following the not uncommon Victorian practice of using that name among family members. Neither the National Archives list of Union prisoners who died in Confederate hands nor their list of prisoners in Libby 1863-1864, however, seem available online as a shortcut. A diligent search might produce an officer with that middle and last name, but most rosters will include a middle initial at most and many omit middle names or initials entirely, so it would be an extensive search for a candidate before checking his fate.  We also note that it is possible the family member was mistaken about which prison he was in- Libby being well-known and likely to exert some gravitational pull on a family history.

This is, nevertheless, a very telling relic of the war and reminder of its cost.  [sr] [ph:m]

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