A Gift for the Ages: Oliver Case’s Bible

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Throughout the Civil War, most of the camps for mustering Union regiments were located in major urban areas where resources including transportation and communication were more readily available to commanders. The location of these camps also allowed access by members of the public curious to observe the daily training. So it was for Oliver Case and his fellow recruits in the fledging 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment during their time of organization and equipping at Camp Buckingham. As the few veterans among the officer corps of the regiment continued to drill and equip the regiment, the newly minted soldiers were visited by many friends, family members and other well-wishers.

Our relatives and friends who desired to see us had to come to see where we were, instead of expecting us to be calling upon them, and every day, by the time of evening dress parade, the camp was well crowded with visitors. It was the season of flowers and there were very few tents which did not have at all times a profuse supply of flowers, the gift of the lady friends of some one of the occupants.[1]

Based the dating and unit identification from Oliver’s bible, he was visited while in residence at Camp Buckingham by several family members and at least one young lady who was either a friend of his younger sister, Abbie, or a possible romantic interest. Written on one of the front pages of Oliver’s Bible are two names in script not inscribed by Oliver’s hand. The first name is that of Miss Abbie J. Case, Oliver’s sister and the other is a Miss Jennie A. Hartford. Jennie Hartford was a young lady approximately the same age as Oliver who may have been a love interest although that is pure speculation and the relationship was quite possibly nothing more than a friendship. Love interest or not, the year following Oliver’s death, she married James Wesley Latimer who was likely a distance cousin of the Case siblings and her relationship with Oliver Case is lost to history.

On the same day as Governor Buckingham received the orders for his two regiments to report to Burnside, Private Oliver Cromwell Case received orders of his own. On October 1, 1861, Private Case was ordered to transfer from his original company of enlistment, Company B, to Company A of the 8th Connecticut. The reason for the transfer is unclear, but only one other soldier from Simsbury, George W. Lewis, appears on the rolls for Company A. As indicated by many of his letters, Oliver seems to have adapted well to the new company making friends and joining in the extracurricular activities of the troops. He also appears to have maintained a very positive relationship with the officers of his new company mentioning them positively throughout his correspondence. In particular, Oliver formed a close association with Second Lieutenant Wolcott P. Marsh of Hartford who would appear as a subject in many of his letters. Walcott, who was married to the sister of Ariel Case’s wife, also appeared to develop a great fondness for Oliver mentioning him in many of the letters to his wife during the war.

On that same day, Oliver received a pocket-sized, leather-bound Thomas Nelson and Sons Bible printed in 1854. The origin of this bible is unclear but there are several likely scenarios for its appearance on October 1st of 1861. It is possible that Oliver obtained the bible from one of the Christian aid societies that operated in the Union camps during this period. However, it seems the more likely explanation is that someone in his family or a friend gave it to him as a gift during a visit with Oliver at Camp Buckingham. Although Oliver never mentions this bible in his wartime letters, one set of inscriptions in the bible is a definite match with his handwriting in several of the letters he wrote to his sister.

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The inscription on the bible of Oliver Case

Whatever the origin of this Thomas Nelson pocket-size bible, one hundred and thirty-two years later, it appeared at a community yard sale in Germantown, Maryland where another soldier procured it for the sum of three dollars. It forever connected the two soldiers and became a gift for the ages.

 

ENDNOTES

[1] Marvin, Edwin E., The Fifth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, 1889, Hartford, Wiley, Waterman & Eaton.

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