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Gavel with a head made of relic pine taken from the wooden stockade walls at the Andersonville Prison in Georgia and presented to a prominent veteran of the Union Army after the American Civil War. The turned handle is made of maple or cherry wood and the simple relic pine head is incised with three concentric lines and encircled by a silver band engraved with the inscription, “Cut From The Stockade of Andersonville / Presented by L. Cox Young to L.V.S. Mattison / Commander Lewis B. Porter Post 573 G.A.R.”
Colonel Lucius V.S. Mattison (1844-1911) entered the Union army as a teenage private in 1861 with the 81st Regiment, New York Infantry, and had become a lieutenant by the war's end. Mattison's obituary in 1911 details his accomplishments:
“Col. L. V. S. Mattison, the man who tore down the stars and bars from the flagstaff when the Union forces entered Richmond, died at his home in Oswego N.Y., aged 67 years. Col Mattison was one of the best-known veterans in northern and central New York. At the age of 17 he was enrolled a private of Co. D. 8lst N.Y. and served thru to the close of the war. He was in 22 engagements and left the service with the commission of a Lieutenant. He was in charge of Castle Thunder and Libby Prison while in Richmond, and was the first to release, without waiting for orders, between 300 and 400 Union prisoners confined there. His command was placed in charge of 2,500 Southern prisoners, who were for a time confined in their own prisons. At one time he was prominent in politics, and for 12 years was Assistant Librarian in the Senate Chamber at Albany. For 25 years in succession he had been Commander of Post Porter, G.A.R., town of Scriba.”
For 15 months during the latter part of the Civil War, the Confederate Army housed thousands of Union Army prisoners at Andersonville, with a peak population of 33,000 captured soldiers during the summer of 1864. Conditions were grim and almost 13,000 prisoners died there. According to the National Park Service, which currently operates the grounds at Andersonville, it “became synonymous with the atrocities which both North and South soldiers experienced as prisoners of war."
The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, was a fraternal organization and advocacy group founded in 1866 for Civil War veterans who had fought on the Union side. The Andersonville prison site was purchased by the Georgia Department of the GAR in May 1890 and administered by the Woman's Relief Corps, auxiliary to the GAR, until August 1910, when the property was donated by the group to the U.S. government. The offered gavel, being a GAR presentation, apparently was made between about 1890 and 1910, from relic wood structures originally erected during the Civil War.
The fact that a gavel made from materials taken from a Confederate prison was presented to Colonel Mattison may have had special significance, inasmuch as Mattison was involved with prisons after his regiment entered Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, in April of 1865, effectively ending the war. Mattison took it upon himself to liberate Union prisoners from Confederate prisons, and was also among the officers charged with overseeing Confederate POWs in the immediate aftermath of the war. Later, Mattison served for 25 years as commander of the GAR post in Scriba, New York. The gavel's presenter, identified on the inscription as L. Cox Young, may have been Lewis Young, who served as a corporal in Mattison's regiment.
"Andersonville Civil War Prison Historical Background." National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/seac/histback.htm (28 November 2011).
"Andersonville Park Statistics." National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/ande/parkmgmt/statistics.htm (29 November 2011).
"Col. Mattison Dead." The National Tribune. Washington, DC. 27 April 1911. p. 2. Online at Library of Congress: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016187/1911-0
4-27/ed-1/seq-2.pdf (28 November 2011).