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  • Bill Howard

Strange Relic of War


The soldiers who fought in the Civil War often brought back souvenirs from the battlefields to serve as reminders of their wartime service. Both museums and private collections feature artifacts that came home with the soldiers. Often these items feature handwritten labels that tell the story behind the artifact. Rarely are the items as personal as the item pictured above. This is a remarkable Civil War relic that was preserved and cherished by the veteran. It is a Confederate Enfield bullet that struck a Pennsylvania soldier during a skirmish at Altoona Hills, Georgia in 1864. The bullet was saved by the veteran. The old handwritten note reads: “I was shot with this ball in the left breast on May 27, 1864. It was in the battle of Altoona Mts., Ga. While with Sherman on his march to the sea. Jesse Gangwer.”

(Pictured Left) The original Regimental Monument to the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg. This monument was dedicated in 1885 and is set along Slocum Avenue at Culps Hill.

(Pictured Right) This is the second monument dedicated to the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg. It was erected in 1904 and marks the position near Rock Creek, along South Confederate Avenue where the Regiment took position on July 2, 1863. The Regiment brought 370 men into the fight and lost 3 killed, 23 wounded and 2 missing.

Jesse Gangwer served in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. He enlisted at age 29 on June 25, 1861 at Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania in Company E of the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered into United States service at Philadelphia on July 6, 1861 and was promoted to Corporal on August 27, 1862. Gangwer fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. His name is on one of the plaques on the impressive Pennsylvania Memorial on the latter field. After their service in the east with the Army of the Potomac, the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry was transferred west and fought with Sherman’s army.

Plaque from the impressive Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg Listing Gangwer’s Name on the section honoring Company E. He is listed as a Private.

The 1890 Pennsylvania Veterans’ Census lists Gangwer (spelled variously in the records as “Gangwer,” “Gangwere” and “Gangware”) as residing in Lackawanna. A notation of the Census taker indicates that Gangwer advised that he had suffered a “Gunshot wound to the left breast” during the war. Gangwer received a federal Invalid Pension on May 15, 1879. According to an obituary published after his death in 1913, Gangwer preserved the bullet that wounded him during the war and “took great delight in showing the bullet as a souvenir to his friends.” It is rare that a relic referred to in such a period account survives. Gangwer was obviously proud of his service and retained the bullet as a very personal memento as well as a testimonial to his brave service in defense of our nation.

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