Civil War Blanket Owned By Samuel Gilbreth

Item #: 165
Origin: American
Date: 1861–1864
Media: Wool
Dimensions: 72 x 70.5″
Description: This machine made blanket is woven with wool indigo and cochineal dyed yarns. The banded field seems reminiscent of the early banded Pueblo and Navajo blankets.
Provenance: The collection of Denis E. Reen.

Note: Purchased from the family in Massachusetts. Samuel Gilbreth enlisted in September of 1861 as a private. On October 22, 1863, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and was killed in action at Petersburg, Virginia, on June 18th, 1864. From: Alden C. Ellis, Jr., The Massachusetts Andrew Sharpshooters; A Civil War History and Roster (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers 2012. The Company Record states that Lieutenant Gilbreth was killed by a ball in the face. In Harvard’s Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Richard Miller sheds more light on his death: 

“.. [A] man of extraordinary coolness and daring. There was no reason to question either judgment, but on the afternoon of 18 (June) the lanky sharpshooter’s virtues had become something else. Firing had tapered off along the Twentieth Massachusetts front as men warily eyed the opposing breastworks. Suddenly a Confederate [s]harpshooter, his mind warped no less than a few of his blue counterparts, leaped onto his parapet and challenged any Federal sharpshooter to a duel. Lieutenant Gilbreth decided to oblige. Probably at some arranged signal, both men fired; when the smoke cleared, the rebel was down. Now Gilbreth offered a challenge and several rebels accepted; Gilbreth dropped them all. Meanwhile, frantic comrades tried to persuade the lieutenant to stop his craziness. But no! He would not listen, became very excited as his success multiplied…Finally darkness ended the contests – but not the craziness. The lieutenant was so exhilarated that he claimed with much bluster a charmed life…The lieutenant announced that he would renew the contest in the morning…The charm gave out the next morning. As promised, Gilbreth mounted the works, issued his challenge, and was met by an obliging duelist from the rebel line. Just as the two men raised their muskets the contest was ended when a third rebel sent a bullet zinging through Gilbreth’s mouth and into his spine. Paralyzed from the neck down, he was taken to (Doctor) Perry, who pronounced the wound mortal. Lieutenant Gilbreth’s last words: “I hit him anyway, Doctor,”

Provence with blanket includes multiple copies from the original family of Samuel G. Gilbreth’s service in the Civil War.  This blanket was at one time part of a museum exhibition and records of such are a part of the provenance.

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