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Collecting Military Memorabilia

By Will Dabbs, MD

Tangible Trinkets from Terrible Times

My Dad was out squirrel hunting on a beautiful Mississippi afternoon when he saw it. Half exposed at the base of an aged oak, he initially thought the black orb to be some kind of fruit. His curiosity piqued, Dad ambled over to the thing and kicked it. The object was unexpectedly firm and immobile.

Dad pried the heavy iron sphere out of the mud with a handy stick and hefted it onto his shoulder. As he strode out of the woods with the little bomb, he pondered what its story might have been. Nothing interesting had ever happened around here. Or had it?

Symptoms of the Disease

I like stuff. The optimist might call me a “pack rat.” My long-suffering bride would more likely use the term “environmental menace.” At the end of the day, this just means that I really have a weakness for neat old artifacts. They need not be expensive or even rare, but holding some moldy trinket with a connection to something bold and historical always makes my heart race a bit.

Nobody ever thinks anything interesting happened in their backyards. Perhaps folks growing up in Athens or Jerusalem even feel a bit jaded about their local history. However, the cannonball my Dad tripped over while squirrel hunting that day became the very centerpiece of an expansive cool-guy-stuff collection that grows by the week. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, even folks of modest means can collect some of the most fascinating military memorabilia. You just have to know where to look.

Civil War Details

My cannonball was fired from a Union gunboat in 1862. William Tecumseh Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter rendezvoused at the nearby Mississippi Delta town of Friars Point before moving south to attack Vicksburg. Union troops landed in this vibrant little port community and, for reasons lost to history, burned all the churches. Locals subsequently fired upon the Union gunboats moored nearby from the wooded banks of the Mississippi river. The Union sailors responded with a broad cannonade of the surrounding area. The fact that this...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N10 (December 2017)
and was posted online on October 20, 2017

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