Saturday, May 18, 2024

John Blackshoe sends - Serendipity History in your hands …

Many people love to read about history. Some enjoy visiting historic sites. Others have a collector gene which impels them to acquire historic relics as a tangible connection with past events. Someday I’ll tell you about a seriously committed collector, one I hold up as an example to my wife of how it could be a lot worse!

And, a few know nothing of history, care less, and are doomed to dire consequences for their character flaw. Pity the fools.

Sarge has already expressed his fascination with the Antietam Campaign of the American Civil War, where Lee’s army moved northward into western Maryland in September 1862. This was a move to bring the ravages of war to Union soil, for a change, and draw Yankee forces away from their Capitol in Washington, perhaps opening it for an attack.  Others tell the story of the campaign far better than I can. Accounts of heroism or trepidation, strategic and tactical skills and blunders which resulted in nearly 23,000 dead, wounded or captured on 17 September 1862. A majority of those engaged, and the majority of the casualties wore Union blue, and lesser numbers wore Confederate Gray.

If you want to know about the battle, the American Battlefield Trust has an EXCELLENT 15 minute video, including some of the best living history footage I’ve ever seen, and quite a bit more on Antietam.

I’ll share two stories about Antietam relics, first about two muskets, and a later installment about a sword.

The first musket “from the Schindel farm in Hagerstown.”

Source: all photos related to this gun are by the author.
A seller had a somewhat disreputable, beat up old musket for sale at a very low price at a large antique arms show. (Yes, there are such things!). It was a conglomeration of various parts and pieces from long before the Civil War. But, the seller’s tag read:

Someone making up a story would be much more likely to attach the name of a famous battle location, and rebel stuff usually gets higher prices, so this had a ring of truth unlike so many old stories.
The old saying is “Buy the gun, not the story.” It was NOT a “German shotgun.” This is what the gun whispered to me:\

It was made from salvaged Revolutionary War musket parts, probably circa 1790-1812. Poor quality, it would have been used as a general purpose gun in the early days, and was marginally able to meet the requirements of the Militia Act of 1792 which required every man to have a musket for militia duty.
  • French Model 1763 (+/-) “Charleville” musket lock marked “Maubeuge Manuf. Rle.” 
  • Barrel may be from the same type, but cut down to about 36”. 
  • Stock is probably American maple, having almost the form of a rifle stock.  
  • Trigger guard and lower ramrod pipe are from a British Brown Bess and possibly the buttplate.
This is very close to some arms made by Rufus Perkins in Bridgewater, Massachusetts circa 1808-1812, including some Indian trade guns. At some point the stock was painted red, now worn thin, common on guns intended for trade with the Indians, but Bubba may have painted it to match his barn.

This gun may have been carried by New England militiamen to the mid-Atlantic states during the War of 1812. Or maybe the owner migrated and took it with him. Eventually it was converted to percussion, probably circa 1830-1850 and a few such guns were still used to a limited extent by militia units raised during the Civil War.

Later it was altered to a half-stock for hunting or hog butchering, perhaps before, or after the Civil War. It was certainly plausible that it was in the Hagerstown, MD area in 1862.

“The Schindel farm” location was undoubtedly one of several owed by members of that family about 6 miles southeast of Hagerstown, or about 8 miles northeast of the Antietam battlefield, according to old property maps and census records.

My guess is that this story has some truth to it, and that either the soldier was a militia man who had this gun, or deserted his unit and found this gun on a farm and used it to disable himself as his unit headed towards the battle. Or, maybe he was a draft dodger who mutilated himself “by accident” several months before the battle of Antietam. We will never know, but war is not always gallantry in battle with mild flesh wounds. PTSD was every bit as real then as today.

Second musket- “The Cool Creek musket.”

In researching Antietam farms, I stumbled across a delightful blog by a Washington, DC interior designer and his husband who discovered a [once] nice brick federal farmhouse circa 1823 with 7 acres right on Antietam creek, between Hagerstown and Sharpsburg. They proceeded to purchase and considerably upgrade the house to be really beautiful. When nearly complete, they invited the family of some former owners over to see the results, and were surprised with a delightful gift.

“Grateful for allowing them to tour the house and grounds, they brought us an extraordinary gift. A German rifle made for the Napoleonic war around 1815 was found in the ground near the smoke house. At the dawn of the Civil War, the south found itself with a lack of weapons, most factories being in the north. European countries sold their old weaponry to the Confederate government where they subsequently fashioned them to weapons for their soldiers.

The “Cool Hollow Musket” as it is called was one of these such weapons. Most likely left by a Confederate soldier that either stayed near the house or was treated there. Whatever the actual story is we will never know, but this wonderful treasure was an amazing gift that has come home.

What we have come to realize is that our historic home, just like so many others is more than just the built environment. These structures encompass centuries of family life, both happy times and sad, war and peace. In this bloggers humble opinion, these are the most important aspects of owning an old house, we are keepers of the past, saving it for the future.” Source (Quote and image)

This musket is indeed a German (actually proto-German Prussian) model 1809 flintlock converted to percussion and widely used by both sides in the Civil War. This one had both the barrel and stock shortened, likely done after leaving military service, but still useful as a “farm gun.” I highly recommend the story of their preservation and restoration work, but it is only available on the Wayback Machine, which tends to be cranky and you need to be persistent and creative in finding all the installments. You can start here.

Now, it is an amazing coincidence that by 1861, the “Cool Hollow House” was amalgamated with other properties into a 500 acre estate “owned by David and Magdalene Schindel.” Mr. Schindel was a prominent businessmen in and around Hagerstown, MD. Mrs. Schindel, the daughter of the builder, Benjamin Emmertt.” Armies moved across this land twice, both in the September 1862 advance to Antietam, and again around July 9, 1863 after Gettysburg as union forced followed the retreating Confederates. Yes, this is in the region of Schindel farms mentioned previously. Source

Undoubtedly many other old guns have been found adjacent to battlefields, or the line or march to or from a scene of combat. “I wish it could talk.” Or, maybe there are scenes best left unseen, such as these dead at the Dunker Church at Antietam, only a tiny number of the 23,000 killed wounded or captured that day. Source:


  1. Ah yes Antietam , where Union generals such as McClellan and Burnside proved their utter incompetence. This helped teach Lee to inflate his opinion off his own invincibility and led to Gettysburg. This was another of those Southern "victories" where the Union armies were out thought and out maneuvered and they still cost the South men they could not afford to lose. The Union could stand a far higher casualty rate and carry on than the South could. Chancellorsville was another such engagement where the timidity of Joe Hooker cost the Union a victory and gave Lee and exaggerated belief in his and his armies invincibility. If the casualty numbers were 55/45 or even 60/40 the North could sustain those and the South could not. Logistics are always a major factor in war whether talking about materials or personnel numbers, the larger force can always sustain the fight longer even when the ability levels of leadership are inferior.
    The Russians in WWII and the Ukraine demonstrate this vividly.

  2. There were Badgers in The Cornfield. The Wisconsin State museum on the Capitol Square has a life size diorama of a section of The Cornfield.

  3. Quite the interesting post JB, thanks for expanding my knowledge base.

  4. Cooler than cool, JB. Thank you!

    This is precisely why I love history.

  5. JB,
    Way back when, I went to the Army's School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). That was where the "Jedi Knights" of the Gulf War came from. Fortunately/unfortunately, I graduated a year too late. Neither here nor there, as part of the curriculum, we went to Washington to see five sided hell. We also got to visit both Gettysburg and Antietam. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the operational level of war as applied to both battles. Tactical level is the hand to hand done by the troops. Strategic level is what is this war supposed to accomplish. Operational level is the level that binds the two together. As a fighter pilot, I had spent a lot of time trying to "kill" my opponent and didn't give a rat's rear about why, I was just doing my job. So, I had a bit of difficulty as did many of my Army classmates in understanding the nuances of the Operational level. Both those battles and the Park Rangers that worked the sites did an excellent job of explaining the how and why's of the battle and it was like taking a blindfold off. I understood how Grant/Lincoln's grand plan was implemented and then executed by the soldiers. An excellent learning experience. I heartily recommend visiting the sites.

  6. Well done, JB.

    If those old muskets could talk ...

  7. Thank You John Blackshoe for an unexpected treat in the side trip to "Cool Hollow House". A successful version of the movie "Money Pit"!
    When my family arrived from Switzerland around 1740, they settled in the Frederick, Maryland area. Ten years or so later, they migrated to SW-Virginia. Some hundred years later, my Great-Grandfather and his brothers returned to the area with Armistead's Brigade at Gettysburg.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. It is cool stuff like that house which I enjoy most about researching various topics. I think I know where we are headed, but often end up somewhere else, or by a totally different route.
      My people came about 1732 and stayed around York, PA, and within a few decades moved about 70 miles west and then remained mostly in south central or south east PA until the late 20th century. About a day's travel from Antietam...


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