Mississippi Oval Cartridge Box Plate

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   The non excavated oval cartridge box plate shown here bears the unofficial seal of Mississippi; an eagle with three arrows in its right claw and an olive branch in its left.  An official seal was adopted in 1861 bearing “a cannon and plough” but it was never used.  In 1859, in response to the North’s sympathetic approval of the fanatic John Brown’s plan to massacre the white population of Virginia, the Mississippi legislature appropriated $150,000.00 to purchase arms and accoutrements for the newly raised Army of Mississippi.  Accordingly accoutrements, including both belts and cartridge boxes were ordered by the state of Mississippi from Emerson Gaylord of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts just prior to the War.  The shipment of accoutrements from Gaylord began in 1860 and continued until shortly after the state seceded on January 9, 1861.  In these shipments were a relatively small number of oval infantry box plates like that shown here.  These plates, on Gaylord boxes, were issued to the earliest regiments of the Army of Mississippi.

     In answer to the Confederacy’s call for troops in the spring of 1861, many of the men in the Army of Mississippi were transferred to the Confederate army and the entire Army of Mississippi was disbanded in January, 1862.

     These plates are primarily associated with the Mississippi troops that served in the Army of Northern Virginia and this example is no exception.  It has a very specific history.  Scratched into the lead of the plate’s reverse is the word “Antietam”!  This tells us a lot about its history; its Mississippian owner made his way to Virginia joining with the Army of Northern Virginia.  Eventually brigaded under General’s Barksdale and Featherston, he then crossed the Potomac with his comrades, taking the War to the invaders of his homeland.  No one knows whether he lived or died on the bloody field of Sharpsburg, only that for some reason a cartridge box plate, that he no doubt prized very highly, never left the field by his hand.  I know this because the name of the battle “Antietam” carved into the back betrays that it left the field with a Yankee, who picked it up on the field of battle.  The Confederates always referred to the battle as Sharpsburg and the Yankees Antietam.  The Yankee then displayed the box on a board, for that reason he drilled a small hole in the upper rim.  It was not a casual collection which he had where this was perhaps his only souvenir, for faintly on the face in the recesses of the lines can be seen the collection number “151” in white paint as was so common of the era’s GAR and museum collections.

     The hole could be fixed so that it could not be seen, but it is an important part of the plate’s history.  Not nearly so important as its Mississippi Army origins, but an important piece of its history just the same.

     All Mississippi plates are rare, the ovals of the enlisted man rarer than the rectangular of the officer, and the non excavated ovals rarer still, but rarest of all is the non excavated cartridge box plate.  I have never seen another and even the one in Steve Mullinax’s Confederate Belt Buckles and Plates is an excavated example.

     The buckle is perfect, just the way the Confederate and Yankee left it.  

   

 

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