Union Signal Corps Book & GAR Medal, ca. 1885
Appraised Value: $5,000
IMAGE: 1 of 4
Appraisal Video: (4:17)
Arms & Militaria
Shiloh Civil War Relics
GUEST: The medal was worn by my great-great-great-grandfather and his son carried the signal book.
APPRAISER: He was an important man. What organization was he in?
GUEST: He was a brigadier general.
APPRAISER: In the Grand Army of the Republic.
GUEST: Right, right.
APPRAISER: The Union veterans of the Civil War were in the Grand Army of the Republic. It was their organization after the war. And he was instrumental in the state of Iowa for helping form the Grand Army of the Republic. You had a national organization and you had departments for each state or area. And he was actually the commander of all of Iowa in 1874 and 1875. Years later, in 1886, the state department of Iowa wanted to say thank you for all he had done. They gave him this medal. And on the back of it we have his name, the 1886 date that they gave it, and it was by unanimous vote. And it even says on the medal a unanimous vote to give it to him. And you can tell how much he loved this thing. He has that chest poked out and you can see that exact medal. A lot of the medals were made just out of a simple cast brass or cast bronze. This one is jeweler-made. Your ancestor was 50 years old when he went into service. He rose all the way from captain. He was brevetted brigadier general, meaning an honorary brigadier general at the end of the war. After the war, in the veterans organization, he was a general again. And we have the stars on the rank badge. We also have the 40 rounds, which is the corps badge that he served under during the war. Because he was such an important man, that's why you have all of these extras on here.
APPRAISER: Now, this is out of this world. Twenty years I have been enjoying Civil War artifacts. I've never had a chance to lay my hands on one of these before. What is this?
GUEST: My dad always called it a signal book.
APPRAISER: It's for the signal corps. At the start of the Civil War, there was not a signal corps. Now we think of radio operators and things like that. Back then they actually used flags-- they would wave the flags in certain directions, they would wave certain flags, or they would use lights or torches. This one was used mainly on the Mississippi River. At the southern part of the Mississippi River, you have Port Hudson, which was the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. It was one the Confederates just couldn't afford to lose. There were 6,800 Confederates in the fort there at Port Hudson. And 30,000 Union soldiers lay siege onto there, meaning that they bombed it and they bombed it and they bombed it. For 48 days, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at these guys.
APPRAISER: If we open up the book, if you notice, it was printed to be used in 1862. The battle was in '63; they mark out the two and put the threes. And it's so cool because you have a two-section paper. You have one where when a signal'd come in, you'd write down what they're saying and you'd sent it to the superior. And a few of these are actually to Admiral Porter, who was in charge of the Union navy at Port Hudson. They're requesting shells, they're requesting support.
GUEST: So the signatures in the book are actually the signalmen's writing, not actually Ulysses S. Grant and Admiral Porter?
APPRAISER: Unfortunately not. It's the order from General Grant, not directly written down by General Grant.
GUEST: Right, okay.
APPRAISER: And it's going to Admiral Porter. It's by their command, not by their hand. There's not a lot to compare it to. There might be others out there, but I honestly don't know of them. A regular message book from the Civil War is a few hundred dollars. This one, I think, would easily bring $3,000.
APPRAISER: The medal and the photograph, they're priceless in Iowa history because Iowa played such a pivotal part during the Civil War. The medal and the picture are probably another $1,000 or $1,500.
APPRAISER: I'd insure the three pieces for $5,000.
GUEST: Thank you. Thank you. I'm excited.
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