Some of you know that the cover story for the April issue of Civil War Times will feature my article on Confederate military executions. This is a project that I’ve had in the works for a couple of years, and although I am not finished thinking about the subject, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of my findings with a general audience. In addition to the article I am also finishing up a 500 word sidebar on an execution that took place in “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps in August 1862 for the same issue. December has been incredibly productive for me without the pressure of having to churn out daily blog posts.
In the course of my research I came across an interesting account that I am hoping to follow up on in the near future. The account comes from the Charles Thurston Papers which are housed at the University of Virginia. Writing from Centreville, Virginia in November 1861, Thurston promised his family to send home a souvenir from the battlefield and hoped to include the following:
I am only pleased to hear from Mother that you are such a good boy and Edwin, too. Fine lads both of you, and I shall certainly bring you home something good for sore eyes in the shape of a bomb shell, Yankee toe, a Stone Bridge, or Bull Run Walking Cane. I cut one out the other day, a soldier on the end of it, and I believe I will send it to Mr. Cooks.
You can see that I am interested in Thurston’s desire to send home a body part. This is the only such account that I’ve come across, but I am sure there are plenty more. I would very much appreciate any references (Union and Confederate) that you’ve come across in the course of your reading/research. It seems to me that this would make for a very interesting essay. I would also like to know if there are any secondary sources on the subject. I know that it was quite common during the Jim Crow Era to remove bones from lynching sites to keep as souvenirs. At first glance it seems to touch on the fascination that soldiers attached to battlefields and their struggle to come to terms with the brutality of war. That Thurston hoped to send a body part home suggests a need to impress upon loved ones of just what he and others experienced in battle. Thanks in advance for your assistance.