|Gov. Edwards throws out first pitch (Courtesy of Sacred Heart)|
|Details of bullet (Courtesy of Phillip Faller)|
A Picket article posted one year ago today resonated with readers curious about a Civil War bullet that was found during the renovation of a church ballfield in Baton Rouge, La.
I decided to check back to see whether there has been anything gleaned about its origin.
Author Phillip E. Faller told me Wednesday that he checked the .54-caliber, flat-base bullet last fall. It was made for Merrill rifles, which were manufactured in Baltimore, he said.
“I took one of my own Merrill bullets with me to compare and make sure,” Faller said of his visit to Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, which sits on property that saw action during the Battle of Baton Rouge and owns the ballfield where the bullet was found.
Besides this determination, Faller reaffirmed his believe that such a rifle likely belonged to a soldier with Company H or Company K of the 21st Indiana, which fought in the August 1862 battle. The regiment was the only Federal unit at the battle believed to have been equipped with the breechloader Merrills, he said.
|Field after 2018 renovation (Courtesy of Sacred Heart)|
Faller, author of “The Indiana Jackass Regiment in the Civil War," believes the bullet was fired because of a chip and other slight wear. “It very likely was fired ... but with the caveat it could have been dropped when the regiment was retreating.”
The 21st Indiana and 14th Maine had entrenched positions at what is now Sacred Heart and its ballfield. At that time, it was just woods and fields.
Confederate brigades began the push toward the Mississippi River and the fighting extended to the public cemetery (now called Magnolia Cemetery, across the street from Sacred Heart and its sports field).
“A fierce fight soon developed across the length and width of the cemetery, most of it in hand-to-hand combat. The tomb and monuments were chipped and pockmarked where Minie balls struck them, and the magnolia and cedar trees were scarred and twisted from cannon fire,” William A. Spedale wrote in his book “The Battle of Baton Rouge.”
|Father Walsh blesses the field (Sacred Heart)|
Several headstones at Magnolia Cemetery bear fading nicks and damage from bullets. (Faller said the uncovered bullet is not a Minie ball.)
Mary Lee Eggart, an archivist for Sacred Heart, said the renovated ballfield was blessed by pastor Fr. Miles Walsh on April 8, 2018. Gov. John Bel Edwards threw out the first pitch.
“The field has seen a lot of use for baseball and other school athletic activities in the past year. Our students and parishioners are very proud of our beautiful ballfield,” she said.
Deacon David Dawson, who spearheaded the renovation, began his studies for the priesthood at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans last August. “We miss him but are glad he is close enough to come back and visit regularly,” Eggart said.
|Damaged tombstone (John Potts)|
“We have no definite plans for displaying the bullet as of yet,” Eggart said this week. “We thought about a small display at the ballfield itself, but we couldn't come up with a display method that would keep it secure from environment or thievery. (We) will display it when we have church history exhibits on special occasions.”