Sunday, April 7, 2013

Museum close-up: relic pyramid

Museum close-up: Relic Pyramid by Ranger Mannie Gentile

Last September, just in time for the 150th, we opened the new exhibit gallery in the Visitor Center Museum.  This space allowed us to get some exceptionally interesting artifacts on display.  One of the real hits with visitors is the "relic pyramid".

In the years following the war a sort of relic-based folk art became popular, and the designs were quite unique.  Frequently made by the veterans themselves, these wooden pyramids are typically covered with battlefield relics which are screwed, nailed, and stapled to the supporting wooden structure.

About three years ago Antietam National Battlefield acquired from our sister park at Gettysburg three relic pyramids made in the years following the battle of Antietam.  All of the attached items were salvaged from the battlefield in the days before the battlefield became part of the public trust under the protection of the Park Service.

The results are pretty fantastic and the best of the three is now on display in the new gallery of the Antietam visitor center musem.

Here are some close-up views for you.

The closer you get the more you see.  Don't forget to click on any of these images for an even 
larger view.

An elongated case shot with a ball still in the suspending matrix.  Case shot is a hollow projectile containing numerous lead or iron balls and a small bursting charge.  Upon detonation over the heads of an advancing troop formation, the shell fragments and balls rained lethal destruction downward.

A Union belt plate above a damaged Bormann time fuse.

Company letters, regimental numbers and a metallic carbine cartridge.

Here's something you don't see too often; a Williams cleaner-bullet with the zinc disc still intact.  Upon firing, the convex disc at the base of the bullet scraped the interior of the barrel to clean built-up powder residue which could impede loading.

A battered paper cartridge containing powder charge and bullet.  

A bullet in a piece of wood.

A flattened Burton ball from the East Woods.

A shoulder scale from an enlisted man's dress uniform.

A copper sabot.  This was attached to the base of an elongated Confederate Mullane projectile.  Upon detonation of the propellant charge the softer copper sabot was forced into the rifling grooves of the iron gun barrel imparting the spin which characterized the more accurate rifled guns.

A sword pommel.

Stars formed from Bormann time fuses and bullets, and a patriotic inscription. 

An eagle breast-plate surrounded by musket balls.  Plates such as this were attached to the cartridge box  crossbelts of Union soldiers.

A State of New York belt plate in a wreath of Burton balls.  James H. Burton at the Harpers Ferry Armory developed the one-piece Burton ball,  an American improvement over the two-piece minie bullet, the namesake of its inventor - Claude Etienne Minie.

A small eagle button which still has some sky-blue wool attached to it.

The shackle from a Carbine belt.  This attached to a ring on the cavalryman's carbine to prevent him from losing it while fighting on horseback.  The tool to the right is an implement issued with rifles which includes two screwdriver blades and a nipple wrench.

Be sure to explore the new gallery on your next trip to Antietam National Battlefield; 
your National Park.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post! The photos were terrific, really made me want to go back to Antietam (which I hope to sometime during the spring) and take a closer look at the visitor center displays!