Reference Items
Identified Items
Francis Washburn - 4th Mass Cavalry

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Francis Washburn, a shavetail aristocrat from Boston, enlisted as a lieutenant with the 1st Mass Cavalry in January, 1862. He proved a capable leader, and a willing combatant. After an additional stint with the 2nd Mass Cavalry, he received a Lt. Colonel's commission with the new 4th Mass Cavalry in early 1864 and served in General Sheridan's cavalry command in the last year of the war.

By April 6, 1865, the war had entered its final hours. Robert E. Lee was racing for Virginia’s Southside Rail line that would unite him with much needed supplies. And Sheridan was racing to beat him there. Control of river crossings was critical and Washburn was sent to hold High Bridge, a long railroad trestle near Appomattox Court House. Near the bridge, his small command made an impetuous charge against a much larger Confederate cavalry force and was destroyed. Washburn was shot, then sabered, and died from his wounds. But his furious fight which was opened against overwhelming odds caused Lee to believe he had a more substantial force at his front and temporarily brought him to a hault. This action gave the Union forces just enough time to close their grasp on the Rebel army. It also launched Washburn into Massachusetts history. The following day, Lee surrendered.

A few of Washburn’s possessions were retained by his family. The items include: a CDV standing image of him with his saber, kepi, gauntlets and his greatcoat resting on a chair beside him; his wool blanket with F.W. cross stitched into the fabric; a 7˝” X 9” albumen print in its original frame, depicting the officer’s corps of the 2nd Mass Cav (Washburn is 2nd from left, wearing a slouch hat. His handwriting on the back names those pictured); a small book titled "Morrison’s Stranger’s Guide and Etiquette to Washington City”; and the brass spurs he wore at High Bridge, the rowel of one having been shot off during the action.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-182

Inscribed Saber - Charles Roberts

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Charles Roberts, originally from New Brunswick, enlisted with the Cal Battalion in 1863 at San Francisco. His company became Co. F of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry. Charles kept a journal for much of the early period of his military service, providing a valuable chronicle of the actions of the Californians who went east to fight.

Among Roberts’ effects are this inscribed M1860 light cavalry saber with A.G.M. inspector's marks and 1865 date at its ricasso. The scabbard has been nickel plated and is inscribed at the throat "Chas Roberts, Cal Cav Bat, 1862 - 1865", probably accomplished after the war. The saber is in original and untouched condition. The blade shows little wear and has not been sharpened. The leather grip is intact and excellent with its original wire wrap.

Joining the saber are several promotion documents including the pictured certificate attesting to his promotion to Sergeant of Company F on March 1, 1864. It bears the signatures of the Regimental Adjutant, C. Mason Kinne, also a Californian. The commanding officer is Lt. Col. Caspar Crowninshield who led the regiment at the time, Colonel Charles R. Lowell having been given command of the brigade.

Also shown is Roberts’ reunion silk ribbon, the only one we have seen of its kind, and apparently given as a souvenir during the 1886 reunion in San Francisco.

On October 19, 1864 Roberts was wounded in the thigh during a saber charge against Confederate infantry at Cedar Creek, Virginia. Recovering from his wound, he rejoined the regiment in early 1865 and remained with them to witness the final struggle leading to Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Charles returned to California and lived in Oakland. He married Catherine Degau in San Francisco on 14 July 1866, almost a year after his discharge.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-177

Officer's Uniform Grouping - William D. Dixon

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William Dunlop Dixon enlisted with the 35th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (also known as the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves) at its formation on April 24, 1861 at the age of 27. He received a commission as Captain of Company D, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on September 12, 1863. The 35th fought with the Army of the Potomac for its entire period of service, seeing action at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. Colonel Dixon survived the war and mustered out of the service on June 11, 1864 after the regiment’s term of enlistment expired.

The diverse grouping includes Dixon’s double breasted frock coat which bears his triple border Colonel’s rank insignia and a complete set of original infantry staff buttons. His mounted officer’s trousers have an infantry blue welt down the 33” outside seam (written on the inside face of his watch pocket is "Capt. W. Dixon with size notation 33Ľ”). Also present are his silk crimson sash, his officer’s grade belt and holster rig with his Colt Army revolver, serial #61756 indicating mid-1862 manufacture. Additional personal effects include a Gettysburg reunion medal, a variety of separate shoulder straps, and Dixon’s line-officer grade dress epaulets.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-173

Personal items - Willis G. Babcock, KIA Gettysburg

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"…..Willis has laid himself on the altar of his country….” Thus the words of Samuel Babcock as he wrote to his two surviving sons, also serving in the Union army. As he informed them of the death of their younger brother at Gettysburg, Samuel had little notion that his two remaining sons would also give their lives for the cause, a year later and one day apart from each other.

Lt. Babcock’s personal effects include a Manhattan Navy Series II revolver, produced in a quantity of just over 10,000 by Manhattan Arms in Newark, New Jersey beginning in 1859. It has a five shot cylinder roll engraved in five decorative oval panels, its frame and hammer once casehardened. It’s barrel is 6˝” in length, with address MANHATTAN FIRE ARMS MFG. CO. NEW YORK. The gripstraps are brass and bear the original period inscription "W. G. Babcock 64th N.Y.S.V." for Lt. William G. Babcock, of Company G, 64th New York Infantry. The revolver is in good condition with even patina and light pitting. All metal is uncleaned and all serial numbers match. The pistol is accompanied by a .36 cal bullet mold and by Lt. Babcock's brass pattern 1851 eagle belt plate which bears script initials on reverse WGB, bench number 215 with number 81 on keeper.

Young Babcock enlisted in the Union Army from Owego, New York at the age of 20, on November 4, 1861 as a Sergeant. He was promoted Lieutenant on July 26, 1862. His regiment fought at Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, was heavily engaged at Antietam, and again at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. The carnage he witnessed at Chancellorsville prompted Willis to write his father for advice, as he was considering leaving the army. Samuel Babcock recommended that Willis stick it out for the final months of his enlistment period, when he could then leave the service with honor for himself and his family.

A few weeks later, the 64th endured their most severe fight of the war, in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg where Lt. Babcock was killed in action on the far edge of the field. His body was recovered on July 5th, stripped of his weapons and accouterments, but with a small note pinned to his coat. Written in a strange hand on the paper was "W. G. Babcock, 64th New York Infantry,” the exact notation shown on the gripstrap of his now missing revolver. Thankfully, the scavenger who stripped Willis of his possessions had conscience enough to leave such a note, or Babcock would have been lost to the ages, added to the numerous unidentified casualties of the battle.

The identity of the forager, the role played by Babcock’s revolver and belt rig for the duration of the war, and the paths they followed in subsequent years leading them to this collection, all remain a mystery.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-159

Uniform Grouping - Sgt. Hugh Burns, 40th New York

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This grouping includes a privately made 4-button sack coat, tailored with officer’s grade broadcloth. It belonged to Sgt. Hugh W. Burns of the 40th New York Infantry, or the "Mozart Regiment." The jacket features a black velvet fold-down collar, four standard federal infantry buttons and is lined with an officer’s grade green polished cotton. The 22˝” sleeves are widely tapered at the elbow and bear their original 1st sergeant’s chevrons. The standard white cotton lining is marked inside the left sleeve in period ink: "H. W. Burns.” Accompanying the jacket is Burns’s forage cap made of the same fine quality broadcloth, adorned by a cloth First Division, 3rd Corps badge, which is embroidered with the Mozart regiment’s "40”. The cap's original cotton liner, Federal eagle I buttons and leather sweatband are intact. The grouping also includes Burns’s Mozart Regiment reunion pin (absent its original ribbon) and the regimental history, History of the Mozart Regiment published by Stanhope Press in 1909.

Hugh Burns left his work as an engraver and enlisted originally with the 55th New York Infantry, also known as the Garde Lafayette, on October 23, 1861. As a corporal in the Army of the Potomac, Burns saw action at the following engagements; Battle of Williamsburg; Seven Pines; Malvern Hill; and the Battle of Fredericksburg. On December 21, 1861, the depleted 55th New York was merged with the 38th New York Infantry. The refurbished 38th went into action at Chancellorsville a few weeks later.

On June 3, 1863 the 38th was merged into yet another unit, the 40th New York Infantry, known alternatively as the Mozart regiment and the Constitution Guard. A month later, Burns was wounded in desperate fighting at the Slaughter Pen in Gettysburg. In November, 1863, he returned to the regiment, his recovery now complete. He reenlisted for the duration of the war and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. As the conflict continued, Sergeant Burns took part in the actions at Kelly’s Ford, Payne’s Farm; The Wilderness; Spotsylvania; the Bloody Angle; and Cold Harbor. During fighting at the Wilderness, Burns was wounded for a second time as a bullet creased his chin.

Surviving the Civil War, Sergeant Burns returned to New York where he married and raised four children. He returned to his work as an engraver and is credited with the illustration of the Mozart Regiment’s charge into the Slaughter Pen at Gettysburg that appears in the 40th’s regimental history.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-158

Inscribed sword - Lt. James W. Hepburn

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This is a non-regulation cavalry saber with an inscription on an escutcheon made of gold taken from the California foothills, and attached to the scabbard above the top mount in script letters: "Presented June 1865 to Lieut. James W. Hepburn. By the Citizens of Mokelumne Hill. and Vicinity. As a token of their appreciation of his Services while a Soldier in the Army of the POTOMAC."

The cast brass guard displays a winged eagle surrounded by oak leaves and a panoply of arms and banners. All mountings are cast brass and heavily decorated with eagle and leaf designs. The blade is 35˝” and is marked W. Clauberg/Solingen at ricasso with Iron Proof on top and importer’s name "Schuyler Hartley & Graham, New York”. The blade is marked with etched motifs of a swept eagle over E Pluribus Unum banner on one side and "U.S.” with intricate scrolls on the other.

James Hepburn served as a Lieutenant with Company E of in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, having originated as part of the Cal Battalion out of San Francisco during the winter of 1862/1863. Surviving the war, Hepburn returned to his small town of Mokelumne Hill in the gold country of California. A newspaper account details the ceremonies heralding his arrival and the presentation of the sword on July 5, 1865.  After a long speech from the Mayor, Hepburn made a concise and eloquent expression of gratitude:

 "Gentlemen: The army is a poor school in which to learn the arts of oratory, and I cannot find words to express my feelings of gratitude to my old friends of Mokelumne Hill for their noble gift which you have just presented me. Whatever may be the sum of the services I have rendered to our country in the war which has just closed, and whatever the peril incurred, thousands and hundreds of thousands of others have freely done the same. And in the future we may be sure of this: that our country will ask no service of any of her sons which myriads will not cheerfully volunteer to perform.

For a more complete biography on Lt. Hepburn and additional information on the Cal Hundred and Battalion, please visit the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry website hosted by Earl Robinson at

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-157

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