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Presentation watch...A man who helped with Lee's decision to surrender

robert jeansonne

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Hello All:

I thought I would post a new watch find. I am so giddy to own this watch, and for those who like civil war history, have I got a story for you.
This watch was presented to Captain William Wagner of the 15th Pennsylvania cavalry (Anderson's Calvary). After extensive research, it appears the watch was ordered by the line officers of Anderson's cavalry, to recognize a promotion to Major. The 15th Pennsylvania cavalry was a unit that participated in many engagements throughout the civil war from 1862-1865. Captain Wagner was captured at the battle of Stone Rivers river December 31, 1862 and later paroled. Major Wagner was under the command of William Palmer of the 15th (Palmer later founded Colorado Springs and founded the Denver and Rio Grande railroad). Although the dates are sketchy, it appears this watch was ordered for Wagner after Palmer had refitted his unit in early March 1865. The current major had resigned on February 1, 1865, which allowed Wagner to be promoted.

Inside the watch cover is inscribed "Presented to Captain WM Wagner of the Anderson Cavalry the line officers , March 30, 1865." It has an Appleton Tracy movement in the 150XXX range, and production of the movement was mid February, 1865. It's an 18k gold case. The watch runs great. It was a topic in a 2002 cover story by a Civil War website that no longer exists. Why does the inscription say "Captain" instead of "Major"? I don't know. The only logical answer is that there was not an "official" announcement for Wagner at the time of the watch inscription. My belief is that the watch was probably ordered by the line officers in late February or early March, with an "unofficial" status of Wagner's rank. I believe it was meant to be given to him on March 30th, as it was probably ordered (others were also promoted too higher ranks at this time in this regiment). The regiment left March 21, 1865, so it obviously could not have been made for him on the detachment. Was it picked up before they left? If it was an event of a presentation after their return to Tennessee, it obviously would have read "major".

Having fairly good knowledge of the civil war, I wasn't aware of the all out assault by the Union cavalries from mid March, 1865 to basically the end of April, 1865. Their goal: to isolate and trap the Army of Northern Virginia. The 15th Pennsylvania cavalry was part of "Stoneman's" raid that consisted of around 6000 men, coming up from Tenn., with the goal of exploiting North Carolina and Virginia, by destroying the railroads and isolating the Confederacy. The raid began it's journey on March 21, 1865. Major Wagner and 230 men went on a detachment that covered nearly 100 miles on April 4, 1865 and finished up the morning of April 8, 1865. The detachment was able to destroy miles and miles of track, and burn down two significant bridges outside of Lynchburg. Reports came back to Lee who had intended to reach Lynchburg with an escapement plan to the southwest, but it was too late. The vanguard Wagner had set up facing Lynchburg gave a false image to the Confederates that the detachment was much larger than it was. Getting within 3 miles of Lynchburg, Wagner's raid turned back to catch up with the other main body. Upon the return, some ten days after they left, the main body greeted the 229 men and Wagner with open arms. Palmer admitted he didn't think they would return. This detachment of Wagner's forced Lee's hand, and on April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered. In Grant's memoirs, he stated the Wagner's detachment and the damage they inflicted actually was the deciding factor for Lee.

It was stated in the 15th Pennsylvania Calvary book, that Wagner took a major part in paroling Confederate soldiers. It was said Wagner paroled a soldier of the 3rd S.C. Infantry who was thought to be the first soldier who loaded the Canon that fired the first shot at Ft. Wagner. As Wagner paroled the soldier, he asked "so you're the fellow that caused all this?" joking. How ironic that Wagner paroled who is thought to be the first soldier who helped start the war, and Wagner was the man in charge of the detachment who helped end the war. William Wagner later helped co-found Colorado Springs with Brig. Gen. Palmer in the early 1870's, became the first mayor of Colorado Springs in 1876, and was treasurer of the Denver and Rio Grand railroad company for many years. Wagner died in 1902. He lived in New Jersey upon his death. The watch was purchased at an estate sale in 2002. I was able to win it in an auction a couple of weeks ago. Talking with the owner of the auction house, apparently the current owner of the watch had passed and that was how they acquired it in New Jersey. It had probably been passed down generation to generation from 1902 to 2002, just a guess.

A song was written by the Band in 1969 that paid tribute to the raid "The night they drove old Dixie down". Levon Helm did a great job with it.

Did Wagner have this watch when he left on the the Stoneman raid campaign? I don't have an answer to that. Knowing the regiment was going to be away starting March, 21 1865 was it presented to him early? Only history knows but I would like to think so.....
 

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Tom Huber

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Can we see a pic of the movement? What is the serial number on the movement? The serial number can give us a good idea if this is authentic.

Tom
 

MrRoundel

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To be sure, it is a very nice watch. 1857 model Walthams are always very popular with the Civil War "re-enactors", especially when they were made before, or during, the actual war years.

I find it interesting that such an inscription was made on the inside of the front cover. Most armed service award inscriptions that I recall seeing, have been on the outside of the dust-cover. Perhaps it was engraved on the inside front-cover in order to get around the inconvenience of the hole in the dust-cover that is cut for the key?

Maybe you have other provenance to show that it actually belonged to this officer? You can never have too much information to establish genuineness of such rare items.

I hope that it's the real thing, and can be well supported by some sort of documentation. No matter what, it's a nice watch. Good luck.
 

robert jeansonne

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Tom, I have loaded a picture of the movement. It is circ. Feb., 15 1865, according to the database. It is the early part of a 270 piece run, starting in February. I know these records are not accurate to the day, but it fits in the timeframe.

MrRoundel, I understand your skepticism; I too was a little skeptic, but I can dispel the "re-enactor theory". First of all, most re-enactors don't like spending $200 on a watch, much less than 2-3K on an 18k gold watch. The case has perfect matching front and back covers, with the identical trim around. Notice the bulls eye design on the front, and the very small one on the back cover. It is how these were generally made that had this design. (I have owned several of the pattern CW watches). This case was made all together at the same time. The front cover does not have the 18k mark or maker's name on the inside cover. The 18k mark with initials "W. B. S." are in the back with the number 7095 and 18K above it. The cuvette has number 7095 on the inside as well. This proves this case is all complete as original. Let's say for argument sake, that a re-enactor dished out $2000 for a watch he could fake with an inscription. 99% sure if he had found one through ebay, or some other source ,in that time period, the front cover would have maker's initials and serial number visible on the inside cover. This watch case never had that, and I verified this on the inside cover with a high power loop. This obviously was left off for the inscription. 2nd, if it was a fake inscription, it would probably read "major" instead of captain, and dates that were outside the Stoneman's raid. Yes, I agree most had inscriptions on the cuvette, unless you would have specified it on the inside cover. There may have been a "presentation" case just for this, without marks on the inside cover, not to interfere with the inscription. I have found a few online. One sold at the Jones and Horan auction with presentation on inside cover (same year actually, 1865) for $8600 a couple of years ago. Here is the link http://www.auctions.jones-horan.com/1202/images/10718_d.jpg

Other things I have read about this regiment is that the old timers of the outfit (officers) recognized themselves as part of the "Anderson Cavalry", and not the 15th Penn. Vol Cav. They were a spin off from the "Anderson troop" from the early years of the regiment. Wagner and his piers called themselves the "Anderson Cavalry". It was realigned in 1863, given the 15th Penn. Vol. Cav. name, technically. Notice the inscription has "Anderson Cavalry" and not 15th Penn. vol. cav. A re-enactor is not going to know this or bother himself with this, or the average Joe wouldn't either, IMO. Almost all watches with presentations do not have additional provenances, or at lease I have been able to find doing research.

This watch is legit, I have no doubt.
Robert
 

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Keith R...

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I responded to Robert in a PM about my AT&Co grade #97514 circa, Sept. 10, 1864, which aligns with his
dates. Nice find indeed Robert, Keith.......
 

Clint Geller

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Great Acquisition, Robert. Congratulations. I too think your watch is completely authentic. Some thoughts:

Why the presentation was to "Captain Wagner," rather than to Major Wagner: I think the big clue there is that the presentation states that it was made to Wagner by the line officers of his unit. In the army, a "line officer" is any commissioned officer below the rank of major, such as a lieutenant or a captain. [In photographs of Union soldiers, line officers can be easily distinguished from field officers (majors, lt. colonels, and colonels) and from general officers (brigadiers and major generals), even if the insignia on their shoulder boards aren't clearly visible, by the fact that line officers wore single-breasted frock coats and higher officers all wore double-breasted frock coats. (Brigadiers and major generals were further distinguishable from field officers, and from one another, by the unique arrangements of the brass buttons on their frock coats - 4 pairs on each side for a brigadier, and three triplets on each side for a major general.)] So I think the presentation to "Captain Wagner" signified that the line officers of the regiment were celebrating one of their own who had been recently promoted! If the presentation had read as being to a major, it would have subtly changed the meaning of the presentation. Along the same lines, I have an 18K gold AT&Co Grade 16KW that was presented to "Brig. Gen. J. W. [John Wallace] Fuller" by the officers and men of the 27th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry, on July 20, 1865. It is noteworthy that Fuller had been brevetted to major general four months before the watch was presented, on account of his heroic performance during the Battle of Atlanta the previous July. And yet the watch was presented to "Brigadier General Fuller!" on July 20, 1865. Why? Because Fuller had been with the officers and men of the 27th OH since its formation. He had led them in their heroic stand in front of Battery Robinett during the Battle of Second Corinth in October, 1862, where they captured the flag of the 9th Texas Infantry. Fuller and the 27th, part of "Fuller's Ohio Brigade," had surprised N. B. Forrest at Parker's Crossroads on December 31, 1862 and sent that fabled cavalry commander running with the loss of 300 men, 350 horses and seven cannon. And Fuller had rallied his brigade and personally led a countercharge that broke the back of a Confederate surprise attack and killed its commanding general during the opening stage of the Battle of Atlanta in July, 1864. To the men who gave Fuller that watch, his subsequent promotion notwithstanding, Fuller was their brigadier! That's how those brave men had known and related to him since January of 1864 (Fuller having previously been their colonel). I think the presentation on your watch to "Captain Wagner" has a similar explanation.

You had mentioned the first shot fired at "Ft. Wagner." May I assume you meant Ft. Sumter?

Someone mentioned it was odd that your watch has a presentation on the inside of the front lid, rather than the dust cover. That's not odd, just less common. I bought an 18K gold AT&Co Grade Model 1857 at J&H a year or so ago with a presentation on the inside of the front lid to Brigadier General Joseph T. Copeland by the officers of "Camp Copeland," a recruit collection and training camp in Rankin PA, just outside of my home town of Pittsburgh. (The case bears the trademark of a local Pittsburgh jewelry firm, J. R. Reed & Co., which was prominent at the time.) [Copeland, whose name is still on two local streets that once formed part of the boundary of the camp, was the original commander of the distinguished Michigan Cavalry Brigade (a.k.a. the "Wolverines.") That unit, which was trained and equipped {with Spencer repeating carbines) by Copeland, was led to its greatest glory by George Custer on the East Cavalry Field during the Battle of Gettysburg. There, they and another federal unit stopped J.E.B. Stewart's attempt to sweep around and strike the rear of the federal army, just as "Pickett's" charge was meeting with disaster five miles to the west. Custer had relieved Copeland of the brigade's command 2 days before the battle, on account of Copeland's age - he was 50.]
 
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robert jeansonne

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Thanks for the info Clint. Hope you are doing well. Always nice to have your input on presentation watches! I know you like that period of history with a story to tell......I must have had the movie "Glory" on mind for some reason. Yes, I meant Ft. Sumter, not Wagner.

Your assumption of the watch being presented to "Captain" Wagner does make sense. I didn't think of that way, but it makes sense. Had the watch been presented to Wagner by Colonel (Brevt. Brig. General) William Palmer, and not the line officers, it probably would have said "Major". I knew the officers rank below Major were "line officers". Still my guess is that the watch was ordered for Wagner; the regiment left on March 21, and didn't get back home until end of April. It was probably given to him then. There is a small chance the watch could have been given to him prior to March 21, but it would be a tight fit. The movement was manufactured cir. Feb,15, 65. (judging by the serial number in the 270 piece run) Enough time to get it Tennessee, fitted in a case? Was the watch ordered complete? I don't know. Did the officers carry it with them, and present it to him on the 30th? Only history knows.

The other thing that was different then, as it is now, was that those guys from the CW had a bond that carried them for a long time, usually until their death. Brig General William Palmer of the Anderson Cavalry took a lot of the officers with him West after the war. Many of his officers worked for him in his newly formed company Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. (Movie made about this RR in 1952)
The Anderson Cavalry actually met once a year until 1923 at their annual banquets. I was able to pull down the entire 1902 banquet book from the internet. Over 80 pages! A lot of war stories and tributes to fallen soldiers and recent deaths. (Wagner's death mentioned in detail).

Presentation watches are the most collectable form of watch collecting, IMO. Finding out the history of the owner's tells a story, and to me priceless!

Robert
 
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Clint Geller

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Thanks for the info Clint. Hope you are doing well. Always nice to have your input on presentation watches! I know you like that period of history with a story to tell......I must have had the movie "Glory" on mind for some reason. Yes, I meant Ft. Sumter, not Wagner.

Your assumption of the watch being presented to "Captain" Wagner does make sense. I didn't think of that way, but it makes sense. Had the watch been presented to Wagner by Colonel (Brevt. Brig. General) William Palmer, and not the line officers, it probably would have said "Major". I knew the officers rank below Major were "line officers". Still my guess is that the watch was ordered for Wagner; the regiment left on March 21, and didn't get back home until end of April. It was probably given to him then. There is a small chance the watch could have been given to him prior to March 21, but it would be a tight fit. The movement was manufactured cir. Feb,15, 65. (judging by the serial number in the 270 piece run) Enough time to get it Tennessee, fitted in a case? Was the watch ordered complete? I don't know. Did the officers carry it with them, and present it to him on the 30th? Only history knows.

The other thing that was different then, as it is now, was that those guys from the CW had a bond that carried them for a long time, usually until their death. Brig General William Palmer of the Anderson Cavalry took a lot of the officers with him West after the war. Many of his officers worked for him in his newly formed company Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. (Movie made about this RR in 1952)
The Anderson Cavalry actually met once a year until 1923 at their annual banquets. I was able to pull down the entire 1902 banquet book from the internet. Over 80 pages! A lot of war stories and tributes to fallen soldiers and recent deaths. (Wagner's death mentioned in detail).

Presentation watches are the most collectable form of watch collecting, IMO. Finding out the history of the owner's tells a story, and to me priceless!

Robert
Robert, I completely agree with you about the special allure of presentation watches. Nearly all collectors are drawn to uniqueness, and every presentation watch is manifestly unique on account of its presentation! A presentation gives a watch an added historical dimension that perpetually entertains the owner and gives him license to imagine exactly how and when it may have been used in important events. Presentation watches are all I collect, nowadays. The American Civil War (ACW) in particular has captured my attention, both because it was the single most important event in American history (much of prior American history can be seen, in retrospect, as leading up to this climactic event, and subsequent American history is still full of its continually unfolding consequences), and because the ACW occurred during a fascinating early period in American watchmaking. In fact, the ACW and the technological revolution in American watchmaking even interacted with one another in important ways.

As for your specific watch, you are probably right that it was not actually carried on campaign. Some of my own favorite pieces were end-of-the-war presentations by grateful men and colleagues as well. So that fact wouldn't have stopped me from bidding heavily for Captain Wagner's watch, had I known of the auction where it was sold. Once again, congratulations.
 

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