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Monday, February 22, 2010

"I have picked up a great many relics during the war but have been compelled to throw them away as I could not carry them..."
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H, 18th Massachusetts Infantry

Not so with Sergeant Edmund F. Churchill of Company E, 18th Massachusetts Infantry. One of the Regiment's truly great souvenir hunters, he grabbed nearly everything of personal significance he could lay his hands on and, after carefully tagging them, shipped them home via Adams Express to Pembroke, Massachusetts. Lacking photographs to visually document his wartime experience, the relics would have allowed him and all who held them to have something tangible beyond memories by which to remember the war.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Director Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon," a movie still dissected by film students sixty years after its release, is the tale of several people who are participants in the same event. But, as each witness recalls that event, decidedly different viewpoints emerge, often contradicting what others before them have disclosed. With Kurosawa's film in mind, today's post provides another perspective to the one Tom wrote about in Saturday's "With Friends Like These..."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

On a regular basis I search the Internet for things revolving around the 18th Massachusetts. I am continuously surprised at the things I find that have been hidden to most of the world for a century or more, now open to all who have the inkling to look.

Shortly before my birthday I discovered something that could have been huge – a letter from Great-Great Grandfather to his sister talking about the battle of Gettysburg. Those of you that have followed this blog know this could have been big for two reasons, helping us prove that General James Barnes did not fail in his responsibilities and to give us needed information about the unit towards the end of the war.

While it was over four pages in length, it did not really touch on either. When I mentioned it to my wife, she was ready to buy it as a combined birthday and Christmas present but I felt that at $1100, it was too expensive for what little information it provided.

I went ahead and copied the letter’s content and then meant to email Donald and Steve about it but got distracted when my wife offered me a Jameson and Coke. The Jameson must have killed the brain cell that was storing that memory because I then forgot about it for a few months.

That is, until I received an email from a collector looking for more information about Edmund and the 18th Massachusetts. He had just started collecting and wanted our opinion on the value of the letter. We got in a long series of back and forths discussing why one letter would be more expensive than another (famous battle, famous unit, famous author, etc.) and how he might find a letters at a much cheaper cost. In the end he decided to pass on the letter; which was good because Donald mentioned he might get it.

About a day later, I received an email stating that the collector had changed his mind and would be getting it. And in what I consider a very gracious move, offered to give us color copies of the email. While we wouldn’t have the original, we would have an exact duplicate. About a week later he emailed me that the copy was on its way, which should have been the end of it.

So when I came home to find an envelope from FedEx on my counter, I did not bat an eye – until I saw it was from Donald.

Yes, the collector had lied to me about the letter. He was not providing a copy at all.

You see, Donald came up with a plan where he would buy it himself but have the collector tell me he was buying it and sending a copy.

So as I opened the FedEx envelope, I pulled out the original letter and yes, I was a bit emotional. Even though I had done everything I could not to see this letter, not to really care about it, much less desire it – as I saw it for the first time – it meant the world to me.

In the end, I had answered a question I didn’t know I had asked.

Historical relevance matters not when it comes to the 18th Massachusetts.

As Donald says, these are “Our Guys”. It is our duty to carry on their memory – and because of this, everything single thing about them, from a uniform button to a bugle to a razor or even to the simplest of a letters - is Sacred and Valuable in its own right. Nothing should ever be lost because it is “just” something.

Because if it belonged to the 18th, it we should always see it as, “just amazing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It’s a grand day today.

The 18th Massachusetts Historical Society – Summerville Branch, just purchased two more relics for the collection – bullets from the Battle of Gettysburg as collected by Color Sgt Edmund Churchill.

This will make 6 pieces that we now own and continue to be on the look out for. We still ache for the chance of looking at the pictures and letters of Edmund – hoping that one day someone will contact us with the good news that they want to share. Until then, we will continue to pray.

Once I get the bullets in my possession, I’ll share pictures.