ATLANTA — The Atlanta History Center has acquired nearly 1,000 Confederate relics — including rare munitions and the bloodstained jacket of a slain Georgia teenager.
With the addition of items collected by the late Atlantan George Wray, the center now has the world’s finest Civil War collection, said John Sexton, an Atlanta historian and dealer who helps collectors worldwide determine the value of their artifacts.
There are dozens of weapons, including sniper rifles smuggled into Southern ports from Europe, pistols, saber bayonets, rifles made in the South, a bazooka-sized cannon and other big guns that demonstrate Georgia’s importance as a Confederate arsenal.
The trove also includes the bloodstained uniform of Ben Schumpert, 17, shot through the head at Chickamauga in September 1863. He was buried near the spot where he died, but his unusual striped uniform, carefully stitched from pillow fabric by his mother in Americus, was retrieved by a cousin in his unit. It eventually made it home to Georgia.
His uniform is “one-of-a-kind,” said Gordon Jones, the center’s chief historian, because it is knee-length and hand-sewn of beige, brown and yellow cotton ticking.
“The bloodstains are the darker brown splotches on the collar, shoulders and back,” Jones said. “This uniform set is one of the most important surviving Civil War artifacts, both as an unusual uniform and as a poignant story of sacrifice. Can you get any closer to death than this bloodstained coat?”
Another important item is the flag of the 1st Georgia Infantry, which flew over Battery Wagner near Charleston during the famous attack on July 18, 1863. The futile charge, led by the all-black 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, was the centerpiece of the 1989 movie “Glory.”
History center director Jim Bruns said it would be months before the objects were available for public viewing.
“We now have the finest collection in the world,” said Bruns. “There now are two (Civil War) pilgrimage sites ... Gettysburg and us. And ours is the best.” He said cost of the acquisition was in the “multimillion-dollar” range, but would not reveal a precise figure.
The Confederate uniforms are especially significant because most soldiers who survived the war wore theirs until they fell apart. The few uniforms that remain mostly belonged to those who died, treasured for sentimental reasons, or to high-ranking officers.
Wray, who died last year at 68, wanted his personal collection to be sold to the history center.
On the Net:
The Atlanta History Center: http://www.atlhist.org/