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Posted By: Chuck Lee on: 10/30/2002 10:29:11 CST
Subject: RE: Signal Corps Patches - And What About Boxes?

Message Detail:
Dave,

Thanks for the information and direction. I've got a new friend at the museum for the 141st National Guard Field Artillery - Battalion Washington Artillery in New Orleans, (I just mailed her and the museum reproduction Washington Artillery badges over which I currently have production rights and copyright), and have asked her if she would check their materials in storage to see if they might have anything from the Civil War era marked "Signal Corps". I've made the same request of a lady at the Cabildo (one of Louisiana's State Museum properties, and quite an impressive place to visit should you come to New Orleans - but plan on starting on the third floor if your primary interest is the Civil War; the first floor is fine for early Louisiana history, and the displays on slavery - quite well done and quite fascinating - begin on the first floor, too) who is a friend of the lady at Jackson Barracks Museum (141st Field Artillery). If they have anything at all, I'm confident they'll dig it up and let me know.

I don't anticipate getting to Howard Tilton Library at Tulane University in New Orleans for some months to come, but I'll certainly be looking for all materials relevant to the Confederate Signal Corps when I do. I've also contacted friends involved in Camp Moore Confederate Cemetery and Museum in Tangipahoa, and Memorial Hall & Confederate Museum in New Orleans to see if they can locate Signal Corps information for me - artifacts in particular, but also all paper references on file.

(Memorial Hall & Confederate Museum at 929 Camp Street in New Orleans is the second largest Confederate Museum in the world. We are still fighting to retain possession of what has been its home since the 1890s. Freakin' liberal University of New Orleans is still trying to steal the building and the contents from us and turn the building into a hallway so that their art patrons for two modern art museums they own won't have to walk "in the weather" to go from one to another. They want to gut the museum, which is where Jefferson Davis lay in state while some 60,000 people filed past his corpse before his interment in a New Orleans cemetery, and disperse the collection because they are ashamed of our Southern heritage. Check out the museum's website to get some general idea of what they have there. They are still accepting donations to the legal defense fund, and the articles concerning the fight on that site are interesting, to say the least.)

I'm thinking about making use of my affiliation with the Washington Artillery in devising some way of keeping all my Signal Corps goodies together. I'm thinking about taking one of our color-coded artillery fixed ammunition boxes, which has the size and type of charge stenciled on the ends of the box, and stenciling "Signal Corps" on the sides of the box. That way, it'll look like a "field fix" - making use of what we had available in the field at the time of our need - and will still fit in with the artillery company climate, when necessary.

The fixed ammunition boxes, as you probably know, were rectangular wooden crates in which they stored the fixed ammunition (powder charge and projectile affixed to a wooden sabot by means of tin straps) which were stored in cylindrical paperboard tubes with caps, the size and type of charge marked on their tops. The boxes were to transport the fixed rounds via wagon, and the limber chests were loaded with these rounds from the ammunition boxes or crates. They were color-coded (olive for shot, black for shells, red for case shot, and light drab for canister) so that even an illiterate could tell by the color of the box what was inside.

As it turned out, the simple act of stacking the boxes probably made it important to color-code them anyway, since the ENDS were stenciled, not the sides; and the most natural way to stack the boxes would have been with the sides facing out and the ends (which is where the handles AND stenciled information were located) obscured by a stack to the left and / or right of that stack. So it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to make use of such a box, modifying it with a "Signal Corps" stencil in order to make sure we know what's in it.

I'm a long way from having all the equipment I'll need for our Signal Corps impression, but other than a fly and perhaps a tent, I would think that I could fit everything needed for three signal parties into a shipping crate for Enfields or Springfields. I'm guessing that I'll need at least three full sets of equipment in order to ensure that my men are properly equipped.

You're right about them thinking of themselves as at least semiautonomous units, if their descendants are anything like an accurate reflection of that mindset (and I include myself in that number). Though this reference pertains to an artillery unit of the period, it shows something of the mindset of some, at least. The Washington Artillery of New Orleans existed before the war as a militia unit. When war came and General Beauregard published a summons to all men of Louisiana to come to the defense of their homes, the Washington Artillery answered that call. They didn't enlist in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America the way that other men did, though. Their commander, James Burge Walton, offered the services of the Battalion Washington Artillery en masse to Jefferson Davis. They would enlist AS A GROUP - not individuals. This allowed them to continue to vote on new members, and to have... autonomy. President Davis actually had to take the matter up with the Confederacy's Senate in order to accept their offer to join en masse, as they had no provision in their plans for such an occurrence. It was that same autonomy that rankled so with E. Porter Alexander when the first four companies of the Washington Artillery came to Virginia. There were several instances where Alexander butted heads with Walton, for Alexander wanted absolute control - but Walton had made sure that the Washington Artillery had to do only as its OWN commanders directed it. That seems to have been why Walton never advanced beyond the rank of Colonel, and finally resigned during the war - Alexander was a formidable inside foe.

Autonomy? I sometimes think the South invented the word AND the concept...lol.

Is the Williamsburg Brass of which you spoke now called Hanover Brass Foundry? Gary Williams does EXTRAORDINARY work there, although his prices on buttons have become ridiculous (to the reenactor, at least, although I wouldn't want to make the buttons either at less than what he charges - $5 a button), I'm working with a jeweler in Baton Rouge on making a prototype period-like Signal Corps ring, and then I'll cast them myself. That's turned into a long-term project, too, both because I have a lot of other things I'm trying to finish, and my jeweler is on Carribean time. "Two weeks" seems to translate into "six months".

Thanks again for the help, Dave. I appreciate you.

Chuck Lee

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