My wife and I love to watch the TV show Pawn Stars. Oddly enough, it’s on the History Channel.
I’m not sure what we like most–the sarcasm, the cussing (tastefully bleeped most of the time) or the familial interactions between Rick, the Old Man and Big Hoss. Something about the show draws us in.
If you’ve never heard of Pawn Stars and you want to learn more about it or just figure out who I’m talking about, you can see it all at their website.
We were watching the other night–laughing when Rick laughed, trying to guess how much he would offer for each item, wondering how exactly Chumlee functions on a daily basis–when all of a sudden an item showed up that jolted me out of our reverie.
A guy walked into the pawn shop with a field officer’s desk from the Civil War. This alone would have gotten my attention. I might have casually commented how cool it was or how I had never seen one before. But then they opened it up.
The guy’s great-great grandfather had been a captain in the 10th Indiana Infantry (Company C, I believe). The desk had remained in his family ever since the Civil War. It still held a variety of documents, from his own personal commission to muster rolls and reports relating to the war.
One of the documents they pulled out was from the Battle of Rich Mountain, which occurred on July 11, 1861 in what is now West Virginia. By this time, I was twitching with excitement.
My great-great grandfather was a captain in the 69th Indiana Infantry. He might have had a field desk like this one. Somewhere it might still exist. He was also at the Battle of Rich Mountain, serving as a private in the 8th Indiana Infantry at the time. The very documents in that desk at the pawn shop might mention something about him, or at least his regiment.
At Rich Mountain, the 8th Indiana and the 10th Indiana were under General William Rosencrans. In an amusing twist, the 8th Indiana actually took a wrong turn as they marched up Rich Mountain toward the Confederates. They had to turn around and try again, which ended up putting the 8th Indiana behind the 10th in battle formation.
On July 11, 1861, my great-great grandfather saw his first fight and learned what it meant to be under fire. Sometime after the battle he was promoted to corporal, and when his three-month commitment expired in August of 1861, he was almost immediately commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 36th Indiana Infantry. Whatever he saw at Rich Mountain didn’t keep him from continuing as a soldier. He would fight at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Mobile–to the very end of the war.
Seeing that field desk on Pawn Stars and watching them unfold the piece of paper within the desk that talked about Rich Mountain made me think of my great-great grandfather. I imagined his field desk, his sword, his personal diary (I don’t even know if he kept one), his letters home–all the things that could give me a little more connection with him.
We have some of his papers, but nothing very personal (mostly commissions, discharges, official memos and the like). We have a few pictures. But that’s all.
I often wonder what might be hiding in someone’s attic or basement. Every once in a while I google a few key words to see if anybody’s put anything up for auction online that might somehow connect to my great-great grandfather.
And I keep watching Pawn Stars.