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Paper Trail

Printed on a thin strip of paper cut from a newspaper page and tucked behind the mat of Oliver Gardner’s portrait are poignant details of his Civil War service. He served in Company G of the 3rd regiment, hailed from the town of Lowell, suffered a wound, and died on June 6.

Sixth-plate tintype by an unidentified photographer. Paul Russinoff Collection.

Research reveals the rest of his story. Gardner, born in Ionia County, Mich., and the son of Canadian immigrants, lived in Lowell, located in the neighboring county of Kent, when the war began. In April 1862, at age 18, he joined the army with the consent of his father, Joseph.

Gardner became a private in Company G of the 3rd Michigan Infantry. He joined the regiment, organized the previous summer, in Virginia, and was present for duty during the Peninsula Campaign. According to History of the Third Michigan Infantry by Steve Soper, Gardner had fallen ill by August 1862 and had been recommended for a discharge.

It never came to pass. Gardner remained with his company and went on to fight in some of the war’s biggest battles with the Army of the Potomac. He suffered a wound during the second day at Gettysburg, when Confederates drove Gardner and his comrades from the battlefield after Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles moved his entire Third Corps to an exposed position. Though details of Gardner’s wound are not known, medical personnel deemed it serious enough to send him to a hospital to recuperate.

The date of death engraved on the marker located in Section 27, Plot 521, is incorrect. ANC Project.

Less than a year later during the Overland Campaign, Gardner was back in the ranks. On May 6, 1864, during the Battle of The Wilderness, he suffered his second war wound, a gunshot in the arm. Transported to Washington, D.C., and admitted to Armory Square Hospital, he succumbed to his injury on June 4. Two days later, his remains were buried across the Potomac River on the grounds of the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington, Va.

Most Hallowed Ground is part of the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Book Project. Established by Jim Quinlan, owner of The Excelsior Brigade, its mission is to identify approximately 15,000 Civil War veterans interred on the hallowed grounds of the cemetery, and to provide a biographical sketch and photograph of each individual. If you have an image to share, or would like more information about the ANC project, please contact Jim at 703-307-0344.

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