Gettysburg Jacket

The Civil War Union Shell Jacket of Henry H. Stone

Courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions, Inc.

In the fall of 1861 following Bull Run, the 11th Mass. or Boston Regiment changed from state gray fatigue clothing to regulation Federal blue. It is documented that Stone later wore this very same jacket at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Locust Grove before sending it home to his mother in April 1864.

After nearly three years of foot-slogging service as a Federal infantryman Sergeant Stone was only a month short of being discharged when cruel fate intervened. At Spotsylvania Court House the 11th Massachusetts was part of Hancock’s 2nd Corps occupying an ominous position that would come to be known as the “Bloody Angle.” Captured on May 12, 1864, Stone would live to regret parting with his “lucky coat” as he somehow miraculously survived imprisonment in the hellish confines of Andersonville prison. Henry later recalled, …I became a captive with others in what was General Hancock’s charge…the extreme right of the line. We were ordered on to the works, and some of us found ourselves in a trap with nothing to do but surrender or be shot down… We surrendered and six terrible months began for me right off. It was pretty hard on a man who saw home so near, but such is the luck of war.

Stone lost his hearing during his lengthy imprisonment and took to writing a diary (one of the most famous and well-renowned works of literature to come out of Andersonville) that now resides in the National Prisoner of War Museum at that National Historic Site. Henry escaped death at Andersonville thanks to a prisoner exchange on December 10, 1864 and mustered out of service on February 18, 1865.

Not yet 24, Henry Stone returned to South Boston living there until the bugle played last call on March 11, 1892. Post-war, Henry became active in Charleston’s Dahlgren GAR Post #2, a participant in the upwardly mobile veteran’s movement and patriotic regimental reunions that shaped the last decades of the 19th century America. No surprise that Henry also served on the planning committee that ultimately dedicated the 11th Massachusetts monument on the Emmittsburg Road in Gettysburg, his scrap book is full of battle anecdotes.

According to his great-granddaughter, recounted at the time by James Stamatelos, Henry the veteran didn’t speak of his experiences in the “rebellion” very much. She did say that on every Memorial Day, Henry would once again wear his jacket to honor that which he and his comrades had done for their country, this “lucky” blue coat, tangible and permanently imbued with the sacrifice of a long ago generation.

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