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Communities rallied to save Civil War coat, now asked to vote

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 7/6/2016, 10:15 a.m.
Community members in Gloucester, Boston and other locales came together to rescue a dilapidated Civil War era coat. Now brothers ...
Gloucester brothers George and Charles King’s crowdfunding campaign raised enough money to restore the coat. Photo: Courtesy of George and Charles King

Community members in Gloucester, Boston and other locales came together to rescue a dilapidated Civil War era coat. A call to action and crowdfunding campaign launched in the fall of 2015 by 11-year-old brothers George and Charles King has brought in more than $4,000 in donations to repair the garment and increasingly has been drawing attention. Now, with the relic sent out for restoration, the King brothers are calling again upon these communities to decide how the coat should be displayed.

Under option 1, the coat will be featured in the existing display case at Gloucester High, with some improvements.

Under option 1, the coat will be featured in the existing display case at Gloucester High, with some improvements.

On the web

To vote: Email gloucestercoatkids@gmail.com or take an online poll at http://tinyurl.com/hna9lx3

To donate: Donate at https://www.youcaring.com/the-gloucester-fund-467104

“We really want to hear what people want. We’re not just going to make the decision,” the brothers told the Banner in a phone interview.

For many years, the coat hung, forgotten, in a trophy case in Gloucester High School. But it took a long path to get there, with its known history stretching back to a slave family in Civil War-era Virginia, who gave it to a Union soldier.

Viewing the past

In 1864, Albert Bacheler, who would later become principal and teacher at Gloucester High, was a Union soldier on the run. He had escaped from the Confederacy’s infamous Libby Prison and fled north. Along his trek, southern slaves sheltered him and one slave family gave Bacheler the coat to hide his Union uniform. He managed to reach safety, discovered by an all-black Union unit. Throughout his years at Gloucester High, Bacheler would bring out the coat to show students as he recounted stories from the war.

The King brothers said they expect restoration will be complete by late summer and want to be sure the coat is displayed in a way that lets people see its front and back. To achieve this, they present three ideas and ask that readers vote. So far, all fundraising was directed to restoration costs, but some display options would require further financial support.

The first, and cheapest, is to feature the coat in a large case already present in Gloucester High. The boys said they would add a mirror so that the back of the garment is visible and may need to change the light bulbs for ones that will not cause fading. With funds raised so far, they have about enough to afford it, they said. That case also has the ultraviolet filtration that is critical to preservation, said Camille Myers Breeze of Museum Textiles Services, who is conducting the restoration.

The second and third options call for placing the coat in a free-standing display case on a pedestal, which allows people to walk around and view the garment from all sides. They estimate the costs for each type of case are $2,000 and $5,100, respectively. The more expensive option has thicker plexiglass, a door and a micro-climate control.

The coat has garnered excitement from local historians, including a group of local history buffs who donated $1,000, and a genealogist who dug up more information on Bacheler. The King brothers say they hope to hear of other coats like this one.