The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 30, 2006


A Carlisle soldier's precious Civil War articles go on display

A new exhibit of some personal items carried by a Carlisle soldier in the Civil War is on display at Heald House. George Varnum Monroe joined the Union Army in 1862 at age 24. A member of Company G., 47th Regiment, out of Boxford and Readville, Monroe's regiment fought in skirmishes in Amité River and LaFourche Crossing in Louisiana. He died of illness in 1863 in Carrollton, Louisiana, leaving his wife, Anna Maria Hill. His regiment lost a total of 36 men to disease and two soldiers to battle.

These artifacts were given to the Historical Society by Carlisle resident Virginia Lee (Wilkie) Mills, and her sisters Barbara Waites and Shirley Jensen. George Monroe was the first husband of her great-grandmother, Anna Maria Hill, who later remarried and continued to live in Carlisle, where she raised one child to adulthood.

Mills recounts how she and her sisters became aware of the artifacts: "When my sisters and I were growing up, our grandmother, F.Winifred (French) Lee, would refresh our memories with a quick history lesson about some special articles stored in an old trunk in our attic. I remember her saying they were very old, very important, and had belonged to our grandfather, Herbert A. Lee." Mills continued, "After our mother's death, my sisters and I were cleaning the attic and came across the trunk with these precious articles and thought this was the right time to donate them to the Carlisle Historical Society. I am very pleased to see them on display."

According to Ruth Wilkins' book, Carlisle, Its History and Heritage, 55 Carlisle residents served in the Civil War, while another 15, either born in or living in town, served on behalf of other towns. In 1863 and 1864 the town voted funds to aid the families of these soldiers. Monroe's parents received $15.42 in 1862, and his wife, Anna, received $52.13 in 1863, the year of his death.

The artifacts on display provide insight into what was precious to one soldier on his journey through war: a tintype and lock of hair from his wife Anna, a leather pouch, a white silk scarf in remarkably good condition, and a cloth and leather sewing kit with spare buckles and buttons. He also carried with him five devotional booklets; the one on exhibit, Words of Healing, contains words of encouragement and solace for the sick and dying soldier.

One of the most poignant items found in Monroe's sewing kit is a small polished wood fragment with his wife's first name and his initials carved onto the surface. These personal items encourage the visitor to realize that there was a personal story behind the battles and guns.

Monroe's effects were sent home to his wife, who did not learn of his death until two weeks after his burial in Louisiana. The display of his artifacts puts a human face on the Civil War.

To name just a few of the artifacts on display: an ivory powder horn with a primitive vine motif carved onto its surface, a Confederate canteen, a Union cap and a swab bucket, used to clean out cannons between firings. Smoothbore muskets that were the primary weapon of the infantryman are on view, as well as sabers, swords and pistols of the officers. These items join the Historical Society's wide-ranging Civil War collection, that includes rifles, powder horns, canteens and drums.

The Historical Society's next Open House is Sunday, July 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. All are invited to drop by Heald House at 698 Concord Street and visit the society's exhibits.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito