Sunday, July 1, 2012

The relics are here

I thought I would share with you the artifacts I brought back with me on my trip to Gettysburg for the Civil War Institute. The following pictures are the memorabilia of Pvt. Albert A. Clewell, a probable descendant of mine and an 18-year-old enlistee who fought for the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers of the 11th Corps during the Civil War. They were given to me by pawn broker Paul Mastronardi, who had come into possession of them two years ago. It was his goal to find a relative of Clewell rather than try to sell them for profit. We met in the parking lot of a Gettysburg restaurant (A Friendly's, appropriately enough), where he gave me these items.


This is Albert's discharge paper. It is probably the only "true" Civil War item in the collection.

The document reads: "To all whom it may Concern: Know Ye, that Albert N. Clewell, a Private of Captain Owen Rice's Company (A) 153d Regiment of Penna Vol who was enrolled on the Fifteenth day of September, one thousand eight hundred and sixty two to serve nine month (sic), is hereby Discharged from the service of the United States, this 23d day of July, 1863, at Harrisburg, Pa, by reason of Expiration of term of Service (No objection to his being re-enlisted is known to exist.)

"Said Albert N. Clewell was born in Upper Nazareth in the State of Pennsylvania, is 18 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, ruddy complexion, Brown eyes, Auburn hair, and by occupation, when enrolled, a laborer.

"Given at Harrisburg this 23d day of July 1863."

It is signed on the right by an A.S. Dallas, Capt., USA, and on the left by by Owen Rice, the captain of Co. A of the 153rd Pennsylvania.

The curious thing here is that the document uses an "N" for Albert's middle initial. All my research tells me that Albert's middle name was Alexander, so I guess we just leave the clerical error as a by-product of government work. Close enough, I guess.

This is Albert's Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) kepi. It is postwar and I'm guessing that if he wore it at all, it was probably in parades or other GAR functions. The GAR is likely the forerunner to today's American Legion and I suspect the boys sat around the table enjoying liquid refreshments and telling war stories.

The "217" badge on the kepi indicates the GAR post of which Albert was a member. It is the Lafayette Post 217 in Easton, PA. I did a little research into this particular post and found out that it caught fire and burned sometime around 1912, taking with it a ton of documents and records. This is probably why it has been so difficult to find any detailed information on Albert.

The kepi, by the way, is a size 6-7/8, which is way too small for me.

 These are Clewell Family reunion pins. The smaller one with the ribbon was held in 1904, while the larger one was held in 1907. Clearly, the Clewells did not meet every year.

But this also makes me wonder if Albert met up with my great uncles, William and Sylvester, at these reunions. I'm guessing they did. All three were born in Nazareth and all three served in the 153rd Pennsylvania.

This is Albert's GAR ribbon from Lafayette Post 217. On the bottom of the ribbon it reads "Gettysburg Excursion 1888" which means the post — and Albert — no doubt took a trip to Gettysburg for the 25th anniversary of the battle. Albert would have been 43 years old at the time.

I wonder what he remembered. The 11th Corps was routed on the first day of the battle, but pretty much held its ground the next evening at the base of East Cemetery Hill, fighting off Tar Heels.

We originally thought this was a GAR pin celebrating Albert's 50 years of service in the organization. But it turns out to be an International Order of Odd Fellows pin.

The back of the pin has this inscription: "Presented to Albert A. Clewell (this time the middle initial is correct) by Elon Lodge No. 604 I.O.O.F. May 22, 1918. Initiated April 30, 1868. Pennsylvania."

In truth, this pin commemorates Albert's 50 years of service to the Odd Fellows, a charitable organization. It's nice to know that a man who saw the face of war spent the better part of his 87 years on the planet striving to make life better for others.

Thank you, Albert, for your service.


  1. "East Cemetery Hill fighting off the Tar Heels" incl the NC 43rd, Co F w/ my aforementioned great-grandfather, Thaddeus Branch. Good they both survived.

  2. Albert Alexander Clewell was my 2nd cousin 4X removed. It's good to know that these precious artifacts are in the hands of family and a very fine thing that Mr. Mastronardi did in seeking out a family member to return them to. Albert Clewell's brother, Joseph Lovin Clewell fought in the Battle of Antietam and died October 1, 1862 at Harper's Ferry as a result of his battle wounds. Albert Clewell then enlists one week later making me wonder if he was in part motivated as a way to honor his brother's memory. The brother's great uncle, Joseph Clewell, served in the Revolutionary War, a Private in 3rd Company, 2nd Battalion, Pennsylvania Militia. There is much history of the Clewell family serving in wars throughout the early history of our country. Wonderful story and I am glad that these artifacts will be treasured by family for years to come.

  3. Also, Albert Clewell was only 17 when he enlisted. I know that it was not at all unusual for someone so young to go to war, but it is interesting. However, unlike his brother, Joseph Lovin Clewell, who died at the young age of 20, Albert lived to the ripe old age of 86 passing away in 1932. He and his wife Amelia had at least one child, a daughter named Laura Albright (nee Clewell) who passed away in 1946. Laura Clewell and her husband Herbert Albright also had children.