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Item Code: 399-23

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This is the classic Civil War Union army “double-bag” knapsack personalized by a soldier of the 49th New York by the addition of a painted canvas cross of the 6th Corps with the number “49” in the top of the cross and “NY” at the bottom. The badge is made from a larger blue canvas cross overlaid with a slightly smaller white cross indicating the Second Division, placed so that the edges of the lower cross form its borders, and at the center is fixed a regulation Civil War brass hunting horn indicating infantry service. The numbers and letters are cut from the same blue fabric as the underlying cross. The brass has an untouched age patina. The fabric has dirt, dust, and age spotting making the white appear a slightly cream color and the border, numerals and letters a faded dark blue.

This pattern of knapsack was introduced in the 1850s and remained the standard issue pack throughout the war. The shoulder strap assembly is in place and intact, with wide shoulder belt sections each having two narrower strap extensions, one attaching to the bottom of the pack and the other holding a J-hook that was originally intended to fit into the slides on the 1855 pattern rifleman’s belt, but could also support a standard infantry waist belt, though photos usually show soldiers just crossing them on their chests. On the wearer’s left the other strap is buckled into place on the bottom of the pack. On the wearer’s right it ends in a triangular loop attachment held by a hook on the underside of the pack making it easier to “unsling knapsacks,” during rests on the march.

Straps and buckles securing the flaps of one compartment of the pack are in place. The flap of the bag attached to the rear flap is in place, but the four small rawhide ties used to tie it shut have pulled out and are missing. The tarred canvas shows holes and separation lines along with couple of older attempted repairs and a few spots where tape was used in more recent years. These could be redone, but we have left it as is and when closed up to display the insignia on the back of the pack as it would have appeared when worn, the pack displays very well.

We have traced it back through two owners at least twenty years, when it initially appeared near Rochester in western New York, not far from Chautauqua and Erie counties where many of the companies had recruited. There was no individual name attached to it or, if there was, it was long ago lost. The badge and regimental identification seem very much to be wartime personal additions rather than something added for display in a G.A.R. post. It would certainly mark out the soldier’s pack in a pile formed by his company when resting on the march or unslung in preparation for action. Knapsacks and haversacks, usually indistinguishable from one another, were frequent objects of theft by members of other units. It would be hard to argue you did not know this one wasn’t yours or even did not belong to someone in your regiment.

The 49th New York was known as the Second Buffalo Regiment, mustering into the US service for three years September 18, 1861, and enough members reenlisting later for it to remain in service. The regiment served in the Army of the Potomac throughout the war, first as part of Smith’s Division and then the 4th Army Corps after the institution of corps organization in March 1862. In May 1862 they joined the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 6th Army Corps and remained in that organization all the way through, until discharged and mustered out at Washington June 27, 1865. They were in all the major campaigns and battles of the army, including the Peninsular Campaign, Antietam, and Fredericksburg in 1862; Chancellorsville (where they fought at Fredericksburg again and at Salem Church,) the Gettysburg campaign in 1863. In 1864 it was particularly active in Grant’s Overland Campaign against Richmond and Petersburg, fighting at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg, along with several months under Sheridan, fighting Early in the Shenandoah at Opequon, Cedar Creek and other battles before returning to Petersburg and the final battles of 1865. The regiment’s losses are indicator of its active combat service, losing 142 officers and enlisted men killed in action or mortally wounded, and another 244 listed as wounded, but recovered- which can mean all levels of disability.

This is a great knapsack demonstrating not only a real personal touch by a soldier but a great deal of unit pride. It displays very well and would make a great addition to a collection focusing on the 49th New York or the 6th Army Corps.  [sr] [ph:m]






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