If this old, hand-sewn, civil war era shirt could talk, there would be an interesting story to tell….
When the shirt is held to the light, the back has been patched on both sides over a ragged hole in the back. The ragged hole does have some dark edges, as if blood soaked. There is what appears to me to be blood stains to the front and back, mostly laundered, but leaving wash stains, although there are spots of blood set in on one of the arms. There is a patch of blue color on the back suggesting to me that some migration of color from a Union uniform during a wash has transpired onto the back which might indicate it was mended and worn again in active duty, if this was worn by a soldier during the Civil War.
In addition, there is a stamped name in the lower front edge.. a L E Thompson or LE ThomPsa?n? is what I see. I don’t understand why there would be an upper case P in the middle of a name-could this be a private? A stamped name naturally suggests the name of the owner, however, it could also be the name of a sutler who provided the clothing. I have never seen a stamped name on any period clothing I’ve collected.
The shirt has been completely hand-sewn of cotton and has a few porcelain type buttons on it….there is no machine stitching, which became evident on clothing as early as the late 1840 period, so it’s certainly middle of the nineteenth century manufacture and the right time period for the Civil War. If this was an ordinary shirt that got dirty from everyday wear and tear, I doubt it would have been saved to survive until now…and I doubt that dirt would have soaked into those particular locations on the shirt, when there is ample evidence of laundering; there must be a memorable experience associated with this.
Whoever wore this shirt seems to have been injured in the upper back toward the spinal cord and bled….that much appears to be evident. It even looks from the wear pattern, that someone tore the shirt open more, as if to get to the wound, where the cotton fibers go straight down with the grain or warp threads. In all my years of collecting antique clothing, I have never seen anything like this and I think it’s worth considering why this was saved. My sense is that this would be a real treasure to someone who collects military items from the Civil War era or before.. The provenance is from New England.
Antique Civil War Shirt