Thursday, June 13, 2019


It was time.

About seven years ago, through a generous and well-meaning Pennsylvania pawnbroker, I came into possession of some Civil War artifacts belonging to Pvt. Albert A. Clewell, a (very) distant cousin of mine.

You might even remember the story; I wrote a blog about it: (see here).

But the time had finally come to do something significant with the artifacts. Sure, they were fun to own. Occasionally, I'd take them out of storage and look at them. I'd hold them in my hands and feel the connection, if not the actual presence, of somebody who'd seen the elephant at both Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. I once had an opportunity to show these artifacts – particularly Albert's postwar Grand Army of the Republic kepi and discharge paper – to my youngest brother, Scott, who was visiting from Oklahoma and had done some genealogical research into Albert Clewell. I think Scott relished the moment; he certainly deserved it.

Sigal Museum docent Ken Wildrick (left) receives Albert's artifacts.
For the most part, however, the artifacts were put away in something like a plastic storage container, unseen by anyone.

I wanted to change that. I wanted to keep a promise I once made to myself.

A week ago, Kim and I made the 500-mile trek to Center Valley, PA, to attend my 50th high school class reunion. It was the perfect opportunity to visit the Sigal Museum in nearby Easton, PA, which pretty much serves as the repository for anything to do with the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, who were recruited out of Northampton County (of which Easton is the county seat).

So on Saturday morning, we went to the museum, where I finally donated Albert's memorabilia for perpetual safekeeping.

It was a good feeling.

Ken Wildrick, the museum docent, gave us a brief tour of the place. I asked to see whatever items they had on display regarding the 153rd, and was escorted to a smallish glass case. Inside were two other GAR kepis as well as a 25th Anniversary Gettysburg Excursion ribbon, identical to the ones that Albert had once worn.

But I think Albert's discharge document was the first of its kind that the museum had ever seen, and that made me feel really good about my donation.

I've reached a stage in my life where it's time to downsize. Some Civil War artifacts that I've purchased in the past for my personal enjoyment have served their purpose, so I'm unloading them. Donating Albert's artifacts to a museum after I was done with them was the promise I made to myself years ago.

Now it's time for others to enjoy them.

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