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  • Berkeley Plantation
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  • Officers Tent at Berkeley
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Star Cape Pin / Watch Fob Star Charm and Chain, dug Berkeley Plantation


Product Description

This is another rare and unique piece being offered, it is a Star Cape Pin / Watch Fob Charm and Chain. It is cast brass but appears it may originally been gold-washed. The overall length is approximately 9”. On one end is a watch key with the tip broken off. This example was dug at Berkeley Plantation on the James River, Virginia (Also known as Harrison’s Landing).

The Army of the Potomac rested there and resupplied over the summer of 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign. Soon after the arrival of the Union Army, General J.E.B. Stuart briefly shelled the plantation until McClellan’s troops forced the Rebels away and secured the surrounding area. One of Stuart’s cannon balls can still be seen in a wall of one of the plantation’s buildings (see pictures).

The wounded and sick (and there were many of the latter in the summer heat) were treated at Berkeley. President Abraham Lincoln visited McClellan twice during that time. Also, that summer, Brigadier General Dan Butterfield, a brigade commander in the 5th Corps, decided he didn’t like the regulation lights out bugle call then in use. Together with bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton, Butterfield came up with a new arrangement. It caught on quickly and was soon played at the end of the day and at military funerals throughout the army. The new song was the now familiar Taps, adapted officially by the army in 1874.

For years these devices have been referred to as "cape pins" as it was believed that their use was to connect an officer's cape. More recently it has been suggested that they could have also been used as watch fobs. In 2012, in the Publisher's forum "Learning the Lingo" found in Vol. 36 No. 2 of the "North South Trader's Civil War" by publisher Steve Sylvia, the publisher writes: [the use of] "Cape pins" is still in vogue, although I am convinced, they were used as watch fobs. Maybe a few officers wore capes, but enlisted men sure didn't. There are far too many excavated examples to attribute them to officer use only.”

Similar excavated stars and chains can be found in Civil War relic reference books, such as "Civil War Artifacts" by Howard Crouch and "Excavated Artifacts from Battlefields and Campsites of The Civil War" by Stanley S. Phillips (see pictures).

This piece is in very nice condition and has an excellent untouched patina. It is extraordinary to find an artifact as this in this condition. It comes in the glass top display case pictured.

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$7.50 (Fixed shipping cost)