Finding a uniquely historic object in the collection is always a thrill. However, finding two items that relate to each other is an unforgettable experience. While cataloging some beautiful old coin purses in the collection, one of our volunteers ran across an object that was obviously not a purse — it was a bullet. What was a bullet doing in the coin purse drawer? After reviewing the 1935 catalog records we discovered that the Civil War era bullet was removed from the leg of Sgt. Thomas P. Jones after he was wounded at the siege of Knoxville during the autumn of 1863. Official military records confirmed that Jones belonged to Company C, 2nd Michigan Infantry, trained at Fort Wayne in Detroit, and was present during the Knoxville Campaign. Initial identification suggested that the slug might be from an Enfield rifle, common among Confederate troops.
As exciting as this discovery was for all of us, we decided to look through the records to find any other objects we might have related to Sgt. Jones. There were around a half-dozen items donated by Jones’s son during the 1930s and 40s, one of which was a canteen. When the canteen was pulled from storage and unwrapped the room went silent as we gazed upon a bullet hole piercing the front and back of the vessel and a dark stain around the hole of the red cloth canteen cover. So after 148 years the two objects are reunited and we are proud to share the find with all our DHS blog friends.
So, what was the bullet doing in the coin purse drawer? Sgt. Jones, a member of the Battle Creek Battery, recovered from his wound and was discharged in 1864. He remained in Detroit where, ever after, he kept that fateful bullet in a small (you guessed it) coin purse.