Civil War Artillery Shell Jacket Belonging to Pvt. Henry Thomas, 8th NYHA

A pristine Navy blue wool artillery shell jacket with bright red trim piping.  Twelve-button single-breasted variant with blue wool lining in body. Sleeves are lined in white muslin with right sleeve having US Depot markings "US INSP CIN."  This shell jacket belonged to Private Horatio Thomas, 8th NYHA and descended in the family of the consignor.  Lot 17 is Thomas' companion nine-button frock coat.

This artillery shell jacket and frock coat (Lot 15) were both worn by Sergeant Henry H. Thomas, Co. G, 8th New York Heavy Artillery and descended in the family of the consignor.  Both coats belonged to the consignor's Great Grandfather and came into his possession from "my Aunt Ida Belle Thomas Borell.  Her name sake was her Any Ida Belle, her father's sister.  She sent me the families military material before she died."

Henry H. Thomas (1843-1908) was a nineteen-year-old artist (aspiring photographer) from Batavia, N.Y when he enlisted as a Private in Co. G, 8th New York Heavy Artillery on August 28, 1862. He served with the regiment for the duration, a lucky survivor of the deliberate attrition wrought by the grand strategy that drove Grant’s Overland Campaign. Thomas remained unscathed during the bloodletting at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, but his luck ran out when he was seriously wounded before Petersburg. Sent to hospital in Buffalo, N.Y., he recovered and returned to his regiment, being appointed Corporal on November 15, 1864, then quickly promoted to Sergeant on January 1, 1865.

The winter of ’64-65 saw the 8th NYHA ensconced in the misery of siege operations against Petersburg, finally emerging from the trenches to march in pursuit of the fragmenting but defiant Army of Northern Virginia during several brisk weeks that defined the forlorn Appomattox Campaign. The “Heavies” witnessed Lee’s reluctant surrender achieved at an astronomical price of 361 officers and men killed and mortally wounded over eleven months of fighting. The survivors took part in the Grand Review of May 23, 1865 and finally mustered out on June 5.

After the war Henry spent time working as an engineer in the grimy oil fields of Pennsylvania and West Virginia perfecting his knowledge of explosives, nitroglycerine and dynamite. He later relocated to Bay City, Michigan where he formed the Ajax Dynamite Works and built the first of several production plants specializing in industrial pyrotechnics. Between 1883 and 1905 Henry Thomas’ Ajax dynamite factory "blew up or exploded no less than four times and burnt down a fifth…with fatalities. He accumulated wealth enough to regularly rebuild exploding dynamite plants while acquiring a baronial home in Bay City where he raised two surviving daughters from two marriages.

Thomas was himself the victim of an early automobile accident. In 1908 his car was struck by a streetcar and “Henry was badly shook up but did not appear seriously hurt. He was confined at home and there suffered a stroke” and died on December 3, 1908. He rests in Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City, Michigan.

Provenance:Descended in the Family of the Consignor

Condition:One seam on top of right shoulder is open and could be repaired.  Overall condition is excellent with no noticeable mothing damage or holes.

Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium


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