As you can see, the sword is missing.
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James Nagle was born on April 5, 1822, in Reading, Pennsylvania. He received little in the way of a formal education, and his early childhood was marked by a series of family migrations. By the early 1830s, the Nagle family settled in the Schuylkill County seat of Pottsville, where in 1840, at just 18 years of age, James organized the Pottsville Blues, a militia company which two years later became the Washington Artillerists. As its captain, Nagle led his company during the Mexican-American War, seeing action at the battles of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, and during the siege of Mexico City. Upon his return from Pottsville in 1848, Nagle was presented with a sword by the grateful citizens in recognition of his service. This sword was one of Nagle's most treasured possessions and he would carry it throughout his service in the Civil War.
A young Captain James Nagle upon his return from Mexico in 1848. . .the sword he is holding was presented to him by the people of Pottsville and was the source of great pride. He carried it throughout the Civil War, and when his statue was sculpted for the regimental monument at Antietam, an exact bronze duplicate of this sword hung by his side.
Elected sheriff of Schuylkill County in 1852, James maintained an active role in the city and state militia system. He was also a devoted husband and father. When in April 1861 South Carolina forces opened fire on Fort Sumter and thus sparked the Civil War, Governor Andrew Curtin summoned Nagle to Harrisburg where he helped to organize the trainloads of volunteers that arrived daily in the state capital. Curtin then commissioned Nagle colonel of the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month unit that served under General Robert Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley. Upon his discharge in July 1861, Nagle was authorized to raise and recruit a regiment of volunteers to serve a three-year enlistment. Returning to Pottsville, he was determined to raise this regiment entirely from Schuylkill County, and enlisted the help of ten men who recruited volunteers from the county's anthracite coal mining towns and agricultural districts. In late September, Nagle's regiment was mustered into service as the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Nagle led the 48th from September 1861 until April 1862 when he was elevated to brigade command in General Jesse Reno's Division of General Ambrose Burnside's 9th Corps. He commanded this brigade with great distinction at the battle of Second Bull Run, and was afterwards recommended for promotion to brigadier general by Reno. President Lincoln approved of this recommendation and on September 19, two days after the battle of Antietam, Nagle received his commission. He saw further service as a brigade commander at the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, but began to develop chest pains. His doctors diagnosed him with heart disease and suggested he tender his resignation. With great reluctance, Nagle resigned from the army in May 1863 and returned to his home and family in Pottsville. He did not rest idle for long, however. Soon after Nagle returned home, General Robert E. Lee launched his invasion of Pennsylvania. In response, Nagle organized the 39th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia and led this unit to Harrisburg, where General Darius Couch named him a brigade commander. After Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, Nagle once again returned to Schuylkill County. The next summer, in response to General Jubal Early's drive northward, Nagle raised and subsequently commanded his fourth regiment of volunteer soldiers--the 194th Pennsylvania. Assigned to Baltimore, Nagle and his regiment were mustered out on November 5, 1864. Nagle's heart disease continued to worsen. On August 22, 1866, James Nagle died. He was just forty-four years of age. He left behind a widow and seven children, the youngest of which was but eleven months old. His funeral in Pottsville was one of the largest the city ever witnessed. He was laid to rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery.
General Nagle's final resting place in Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery
To learn more about the life of James Nagle, please read this article I wrote for the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) in December 2007:
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OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
Here is the official press release of the effort to restore the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument at Antietam:
EFFORT LAUNCHED TO RESTORE 48th PENNSYLVANIA MONUMENT AT ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD:
Donations Sought to Replace Missing Sword from Statue of General James Nagle
On September 17, 1904, thirty-six surviving veterans of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry gathered at the Antietam Battlefield to attend the dedication and witness the unveiling of their regimental monument. Exactly forty-two years earlier, the regiment was heavily engaged in the significant battle, losing eight men killed, fifty-one wounded, and one missing. In addition to commemorating their wartime service and cherishing the memory of their fallen comrades, the aged veterans who traveled to Antietam in September 1904 were there also to honor the memory of the man who organized and first led the 48th Pennsylvania, Brigadier General James Nagle. Nagle (1822-1866) hailed from Pottsville, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, and although he never received a formal military education, he led troops with great distinction during the Mexican-American and Civil Wars. In 1840, at just eighteen years of age, Nagle organized the Washington Artillerists, which he subsequently commanded in Mexico, seeing action at such battles as Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, and the siege of Mexico City. During the Civil War, Nagle raised no less than four regiments of volunteer infantry—including the 48th Pennsylvania—and commanded a brigade in the Federal 9th Corps at the battles of Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Heart disease forced his resignation from the army in May 1863, and caused his untimely death in August 1866 at the age of forty-four.
Oliver Bosbyshell, a veteran of the 48th, commenced the dedication ceremony at Antietam by delivering a few opening remarks. After expressing his gratitude to the state of Pennsylvania for procuring the funds necessary for the construction of the monument, Bosbyshell spoke of the late General Nagle: “The man the Forty-Eighth honors by placing his statue to mark the spot it maintained in the fight, honors the Forty-Eighth in turn. The organizer and disciplinarian who brought his command to the highest point of efficiency amongst the Ninth Corps organizations, the foremost soldier of old Schuylkill County, Brigadier General James Nagle, well deserves this meed of praise bestowed upon him.” Following Bosbyshell’s brief opening remarks, the regiment’s former surgeon, Dr. William R.D. Blackwood, delivered the dedication address. He spoke of the role the 48th played in the battle of Antietam and the appropriateness of the regimental monument on the battlefield before turning his attention to General Nagle:
At this time the merited and (for ourselves) the coveted promotion of Colonel Nagle eventuated—he won his star as a Brigadier General. Never did a soldier win the distinction through a harder road—for his whole time of service this more than brave gentleman and splendid soldier devoted his every energy to the cause for which he left his home and family, and supported by his gallant men, he won imperishable fame. . . .Today we celebrate the attainment of his glory—a glory to him and to us who can never forget his leadership—may the bronze and granite which we now dedicate to his memory remain till time shall be no more on this historical field where so many of our Pennsylvania heroes gave their all to the defenses of the land they loved, and the Flag they adored.
Following Blackwood’s address and amidst great applause, the monument was unveiled. On its granite base stood a 7’4” bronze statue of General James Nagle. At his side was sculpted an exact copy of one of his most treasured possessions, the sword he received by the grateful citizens of Pottsville upon his return from Mexico in 1848. Nagle carried this sword throughout the Civil War and can be seen holding it in all of his wartime photographs. To him it was a source of great pride, and it was only fitting and proper that it was replicated in bronze to hang by his side on his statue at the Antietam Battlefield, where he received his promotion to brigadier general. Nagle’s statue still stands atop the 48th Pennsylvania monument at the Antietam National Battlefield. Unfortunately, however, the sword is missing. When or how it disappeared remains unknown, but an effort is now underway to have the monument restored and the sword replaced.
John David Hoptak and the Western Maryland Interpretative Association, in cooperation with the Antietam National Battlefield and the Antietam National Battlefield Division of Cultural Resources, are partnering in an effort to restore the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument on the Antietam Battlefield by raising money to replace the missing sword from the statue of Brigadier General James Nagle. Hoptak, a Park Ranger at Antietam and Civil War historian, is a native of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, and is an expert on the 48th Regiment and the life and service of General Nagle. The Western Maryland Interpretative Association is the nonprofit (501-C3) cooperating association for the Antietam National Battlefield, and is dedicated to the preservation of the battlefield. Mr. Hoptak has secured the services of artist and Civil War preservationist Michael Kraus to sculpt the bronze sword, which will ultimately be placed on the statue by Antietam National Battlefield’s Division of Cultural Resources. The goal, based on an estimate provided by Mr. Kraus, is $6,800.00. Individuals and organizations can help honor and preserve the memory of General Nagle and pay tribute to his services by generously donating today. Donations can be made payable to the Western Maryland Interpretative Association, and because this is a not for profit organization, are entirely tax-deductible. Please write “Nagle Sword” in your check’s subject line. Robert Casey, director of the Western Maryland Interpretative Association, has graciously agreed to match all donations on a one-to-one basis. To learn more about this effort, please contact John Hoptak at (717) 337-9388 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also log on to www.amonumentaltask.blogspot.com to learn more about this undertaking online. Donations can be mailed to the Western Maryland Interpretative Association/P.O. Box 692/Sharpsburg, MD 21782.
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