Minnesota man donates artifact to Port Hudson
By JAMES MINTON
Advocate Baker - Zachary bureau
Published: Oct 13, 2009
PORT HUDSON ( LA ) — A Minnesota couple has returned a Confederate soldier’s canteen to caretakers of the Civil War battlefield where it was found more than 146 years ago.
“I figured it belonged here,” said Torney Marshall, who inherited the wooden canteen but decided to donate it to the museum at Port Hudson State Historic Site.
The canteen is built in the same manner as a wooden barrel, with two round pieces of wood separated by short stave-like pieces of wood around the circles’ circumferences.
Two bands of iron, similar to barrel hoops, hold all the pieces together.
A pewter neck completes the canteen, which Port Hudson Curator Mike Fraering said probably had a cork for a stopper.
Port Hudson’s museum has no authentic Union canteens, which were made of thin metal saucers soldered together, Fraering said.
Marshall’s donation now gives the museum two wooden canteens, although the one donated 20 years ago had no documentation to show that it was used by a Confederate soldier, Fraering said.
“The most notable thing about this one is that it’s documented,” site Manager Gregg Potts said.
A fading label, written in brown ink, pasted on the canteen tells its story:
“Rebel Canteen. Taken from the battle of Port Hudson, La., during the grand charge, June 14, 1863, by Pfc. John Little, 53rd Reg., Mass. Volunteer Infantry.”
Fraering said the 53rd Massachusetts Regiment participated in the June 14 assault on a Port Hudson fortification known as the “Priest Cap,” now on private property, and the canteen probably belonged to a soldier either in the 1st Mississippi Infantry or 49th Alabama Infantry Regiment.
Marshall, of Hanover, Minn., said John Little was either the father or grandfather of a woman who later married his dad’s uncle, William Marshall.
The canteen was passed on to Torney Marshall when his father died.
“I never saw it until he passed away. Even after I acquired it, it didn’t mean that much to me until I started looking into Port Hudson,” he said.
Marshall said he offered to donate the canteen to the museum “a number of years ago” but could not get assurances that it would remain at Port Hudson.
Passing through the area again two years ago, Marshall and his wife, Marion, “got a completely different story.”
“We were assured it would stay here, and I decided it would come here,” said Marshall, who was en route with his wife last week to Hanover from Sarasota, Fla., when he stopped at Port Hudson.
After the canteen is appraised and the necessary legal documents are completed, the canteen will be placed on exhibit, Fraering said.