On December 9th the Ohio Historical Society successfully bid on two auction lots at the winter auction of Americana at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati, one of the premiere auction houses for historic memorabilia in the country. Money for the purchases came from a fund that we have designated to buy new items for our collections. This auction included many lots for materials related to Ohio. The curatorial staff decided what lots would be the best acquisitions for OHS. We asked ourselves:
- What items are most unique and rare?
- What items can we use in OHS programs and exhibits?
- What items relate well to materials that are already in our collections?
With these criteria in mind, two auction lots stood out: a broadside advertising land for sale in Ohio from 1818 and a wooden cane that was hand carved by a Confederate prisoner at Camp Chase, a Civil War prison located in Columbus. The broadside compliments the Society’s extensive records of federal land sales in Ohio. By listing plots of land of varying sizes for sale primarily in counties in eastern and southern Ohio, the broadside illustrates well how land was bought and sold by early settlers. Our reference archivists who regularly give workshops on how to conduct land research plan to use this broadside to show researchers how settlers were informed of land for sale.
The cane caught the curators attention because it is a hand made, one of a kind object. The U.S. government authorized the creation of Camp Chase in 1861 as an Army recruitment and training center for Union soldiers. However, it was also a prison for Confederate soldiers, holding over 8,000 soldiers at its peak in 1863.
The Society holds records of Camp Chase, such as prisoners’ lists, parole records and burial records for the Confederate soldiers who were held there. Additionally, there are images of the camp and written accounts of camp life in the archives. However, we have very few physical objects made or used by Union or Confederate soldiers who spent time in the camp. This beautifully carved and polished cane will be the center piece of the stories we tell about common soldiers’ experiences at Camp Chase.
The cane is inscribed with “Camp Chase Ohio 62” and the name “J. Green.” Scrolling around the lower portion of the cane is a rattlesnake. “J. Green” is possibly John H.A. Green, a private who served in Company G of the 36th Alabama Volunteers.
Both items have been shipped the Historical Center, unpacked and photographed and will soon be cataloged in the Society’s Online Collection Catalog. The curatorial staff are excited that we were able to bid on these incredible objects and bring them to the Historical Society to preserve them for and share them with the people of Ohio.