Many soldiers returned home from the war bearing souvenirs, mementos, or artifacts, evidence of their individual part in a war that would have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives. Canteens, bullets, manuals, bayonets, insignia and badges, cooking utensils, weapons, cannonballs, cups, belts and leather equipment, swords, and all sorts of military material potentially became a soldier’s personal “trophies of war”. Some of it wasn’t theirs for the taking, legally belonging to the government. Others were “captured” from the enemy, possibly stripped from the dead on the battlefield, or left behind by their comrades in retreat. In addition there were those treasures which were taken (or exchanged) from those confined as a prisoners. The variety of stories the soldiers told, of how they acquired these prizes, were often times as valuable and precious as the artifact itself. Unfortunately, as the soldiers died off, so did the tales of glory that once were attached to these oftentimes “sacred” possessions.
Over my years of collecting of items belonging to the men of the Fourth Michigan Infantry, I have often wondered how the soldier felt, and what his particular story went for the relics that appear on this site. One can only wonder, just as grandchildren so long ago, while sitting on the porch with their tale-telling grand-daddy, the old veteran of the Fourth Michigan Infantry.