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Passing in Review

Clean-shaven Bayard Wilkeson stares out from his pristine carte de visite with a determined expression. He is the young Union artilleryman who inspired his grieving father, reporter Sam Wilkeson, to write just a few days after his son perished, “Oh, you dead, who at Gettysburgh have baptised with your blood the second birth of Freedom in America, how you are to be envied!”

Next to Wilkeson are two other items that belonged to him—his wallet and telescope, presumably carried into battle.

These personal effects are just a few of the large number of artifacts picked up on the battlefield and collected afterwards by another young man, Gettysburg resident John Howard Wert (1841-1920). A selection of these distinctive objects—photographs, hats, swords, haversacks, books, clothes, pipes and even a set of lead knuckles—grace the pages of J. Howard Wert’s Gettysburg: A Collection of Relics from the Civil War Battle.

Authors Bruce E. Mowday and G. Craig Caba sort through this one-of-a-kind collection and bring them to life on the pages of this handsome volume by Schiffer Military History. Mowday notes in the foreword that he spent many months delving into the history of the Wert family. What follows is a well-researched and written profile of them, and how they amassed the oldest collection of Americana documenting the Battle of Gettysburg.

This book pays tribute to a pioneer collector. It also serves as an inspiration to those of us who have followed Wert, and have taken on the role of caretakers of the personal stories and material culture from this pivotal period in the history our republic.

J. Howard Wert’s Gettysburg: A Collection of Relics from the Civil War BattleBy Bruce E. Mowday and G. Craig CabaHardcover, 144 pagesSchiffer Military History$34.99

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