This week is National Preservation Week, an initiative developed to raise preservation awareness in the library and archives community. Museums celebrate this week as well and use it to promote their activities to save and preserve artifacts, photographs, and archives in their collections. Many people know about the High Point Historical Society’s annual Adopt-An-Artifact campaign that raises funds for conservation of specific artifacts. However, we engage in preservation activities every day, utilizing best practices to preserve the items in our care. We’ve recently completed a unique preservation project for one of our most fragile artifacts in order to make it accessible: a detailed analysis and documentation of a rare jacket from the American Civil War. The analysis makes the jacket “available” for study without having to be handled physically.
A heads-up for May: May is National Preservation Month! National Preservation Month spotlights efforts to save and preserve buildings and places of historical and cultural significance.
The collection of the High Point Historical Society holds a North Carolina-issue Confederate enlisted man’s shell jacket. Although the soldier was from Forsyth County, his descendants were High Pointers and loaned, then donated, the jacket many years ago. Over time, we have realized it is one of the few of its type in museum collections, and the interest in it from researchers and Civil War reenactors has grown.
North Carolina issue enlisted man’s infantry shell jacket in the collection of the High Point Historical Society. It was made and issued by the North Carolina Quartermaster Department in 1862.
This jacket is an example of the type produced for the state’s Quartermaster Department by North Carolina manufacturers. Because they were provided by the state government exclusively for state troops, only North Carolina soldiers wore these distinctive jackets. The jacket in our collection was worn by Sihon Alexander Ogburn, private in Company D, 57th Regiment, NC Infantry, who was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862.
North Carolina was the only Confederate state to maintain an independent effort to clothe its soldiers. Cloth for uniforms was produced in North Carolina’s few textile mills, then assembled by seamstresses who sewed jackets, pants, shirts, and undergarments. The finished clothing was collected by the NC Quartermaster Department and issued to North Carolina soldiers.
The Ogburn jacket is in a deteriorated state, not only due to being over 150 years old and worn in wartime but also having damage from the exploding shell at Fredericksburg where Ogburn was wounded. It had also been exhibited at the Museum for many years, having first been loaned in 1972.
Uniform experts David Bourhenne (left) and Wilson LeCount (right) took accurate measurements of the Ogburn jacket for documentation but also to provide information for reenactors replicating it.
Museum staff knew that handling and exhibiting the jacket to any extent could only damage it further, however with the recent 150th commemoration of the American Civil War, there was renewed interest from researchers and reenactors to see it and understand its construction. A solution was suggested by a fellow museum colleague: have it thoroughly documented and then make the analysis available. This project combines both preservation and access, the perfect combination! The report is now available through our online catalog: https://hpmuseum.catalogaccess.com/objects/5222.
The jacket was examined, photographed, measured, and patterned. We also utilized a handheld digital microscope to look closely at stitching and fabric composition.
This week also marks the anniversary of the surrender of General Joseph Johnston and his Army of the Tennessee to General William Sherman on April 26, 1865, at the Bennett farm in Durham, North Carolina. Most of these troops were mustered out in Greensboro beginning the first week of May 1865. Visit these websites to learn more about Bennett Place State Historic Site and the Civil War in North Carolina, including Stoneman’s Raid which came to High Point:
Photograph of Sihon Alexander Ogburn and his brothers, as Confederate veterans in their 70s.
Ogburn enlisted as a private in Company D, 57th North Carolina Regiment on July 4, 1862, in Winston, NC (Forsyth County). On December 13, 1862, the 57th experienced its first engagement at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. During the battle, an artillery shell landed near him, killing three others and wounding Ogburn in his right side. Visit these websites for more on the Battle of Fredericksburg, including maps of the battle drawn by the American Battlefield Trust which show the action of the 57th NC and where S.A. Ogburn was likely wounded:
Contributed by Marian Inabinett, Curator of Collections at the High Point Museum. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.