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Battle of Monocacy

Posted 1/16/2023

Finial Style: Brass Flagstaff Eagle Finial

Location Housed: Private Collection of the author.

Measurements: 4.11 high X 5.28" wide, at the widest part of the wings

Recovery Location: Private Purchase

Finial Attribution: Possibly an unknown New York regiment

Photograph Accreditation: Author

Additional Information:   The battle of Monocacy, Maryland took place in July 1864. Some have called it "the battle that saved Washington."  In Confederate General William C. Oates, The War Between the Union and the Confederacy, and its Lost Opportunities, the general says of the battle, " Gordon encountered Lew Wallace's division entrenched on the other side of the Monocacy river, but after a lively engagement brushed that army out of the way, taking 650 prisoners." Confederate John Worsham, one of Stonewall Jacksons Foot Cavalry said of the battle, "This was the most exciting time I witnessed in the war." The goal of the Confederates was to take Washington D.C. 

The battle commenced with the Union Division of Lew Wallace's 10,000 to General Jubal Early's 23,000 Confederates. In the Union Division were the 106th and 151st New York Infantry, as well as the 8th and 9th New York Heavy Artillerymen. The New York regiments appeared to have taken the brunt of the attack by Early's Confederates. The 9th New York Heavy Artillery regiment lost 305 killed, wounded, and missing which was the greatest number lost of any regiment in the battle of Monocacy. The total captured appears to have been between 650-700, depending on which official report you might read. In Worsham's, he reports John B. Gordon, the Stonewall Brigade commander told his men to not take any more prisoners due to the fact Gordon had no where to put them.

After Wallace's Union soldiers retreated, Early made his move on Washington. As all know today, this effort was defeated, however in Wilkerson's "Recollections of a Private Soldier in the Union Army" is said on page 216, "Could Early have captured Washington on July 11-12 1864? I unhesitatingly answer, yes. I supplement this by saying that he could have taken the city without losing more than 1,000 men. But if he had taken it, his poorly-clad, poorly-fed, impoverished men would inevitably have gone to plundering, would inevitably have gotten drunk, and he would have lost his entire army." 

This particular brass eagle was recovered by a detectorist on private property at the time, in the early to mid 1990's where also was found a large number of New York coat buttons. One can only think there is a possibility this eagle may have belonged to one of the New York regiments on the field.  

The artist Don Troiani had a very similar eagle in his personal collection that has since been received by the U.S. Army museum. That particular eagle is bullet struck, and is reported to have been ground recovered on the Antietam, Maryland battlefield. There is another ground recovered example of this same style eagle that will be placed on the website at a later time. 


Sources: Oates, William C. General; The War Between The Union And The Confederacy, and It's Lost Opportunities. Neale Publishing, New York, 1905

                Worsham, John H. One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry, Neale Publishing Co. New York, 1912

                Wilkerson, Frank, Recollections of a Private Soldier In The Army of The Potomac, 1887.

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