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Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park Receives Important Civil War Uniform Donation

By Susan Larson.

Gordonsville, Virginia, resident Greta Shaw donated Union Soldier Capt. Richard Halsted’s American Civil War uniform frock coat and forage cap to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Four generations of Mrs. Shaw’s family were at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center on January 24, 2017, to transfer ownership to the National Park Service. The live on Englewood Farm, where 3,000 of Confederate General James Longstreet’s troops encamped.

“This matters to us because Richard Halsted, the man who wore this jacket and kepi, was an aide to the highest ranking Union general to die in the American Civil War,” said John Hennessy, chief historian and chief of interpretation at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. That was Major General John Sedgwick, who was killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 9, 1864.

Halsted became one of a group of about 10 or 12 men who travelled with Sedgwick, and they became very close friends, Hennessy said.

Sedgwick was beloved. “I know the Army of the Potomac as well as anybody — the Union army that was out here — and there’s no officer in the Army that had more affection directed toward him as did John Sedgwick,” Hennessy said. “His staff was almost familial to him.”

When Sedgwick was hit below his left eye by a sharpshooter’s bullet, Halsted was nearby, and ran to him. He was most likely wearing the kepi cap at that time, Hennessy said. Sedgwick died instantly.

Halsted accompanied Sedgwick’s body to his home in Cornwall, Connecticut. “It was probably during that escort process that Halstead wore this jacket,” Hennessy said.

Halsted continued in service through the end of the war. He never wrote about his experiences, that anyone has found.

“People come here to touch history, or get as close to it as they possible can,” Hennessy said. “Knowing that hat, and the man who wore that jacket, and maybe the jacket itself, were at that scene at that moment that mattered so much to the nation is a tremendous thing for us, so we’re very grateful to get these items.”

The frock coat and forage cap have Halsted’s initials written in ink on the lining. The set is documented in a 1911 hand-written letter, that includes the typed comment, “Halstead coat and hat purchased from Murray 1913 when larger collection was not taken by MOLLUS.” MOLLUS stands for “Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.”

“This donation helps us complete the larger story,” said Park Superintendent Kirsten Talken-Spaulding.

The coat and kepi will be on rotating display at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitors Center, 9001 Plank Rd., Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia.

Watch the Video: Historically Significant Uniform Donated to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
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