Historian shares Civil War discovery hiding in plain sight

Historian and Author Brian Egen during his Civil War presentation at the Waterloo Historical Society’s annual meeting, May 19, 2019. Photo by Alex R. Weddon

by Alex R. Weddon

A lone bullet resting near the Civil War grave marker of soldier J.A. Clark was exciting news for famed historian Brian Egen Sunday, May 19 at the annual Waterloo Area Historical Society’s (WAHS) Volunteer Appreciation Social and business meeting. 

“No one has noticed it in this picture of the Monroe, Michigan Lieutenant killed at the battle of Antietam over 150 years ago, and today for the first time, I am pleased to reveal this discovery,” Egen offered during his presentation “Michigan at Antietam.” 

Members of the WAHS during their annual business meeting. Ron Kaiser (middle behind table), presided over the meeting.


Using a portable projector attached to his laptop, Egen cycled through historical photographs and graphs onto a hanging white bed sheet tacked to a wall of rough-sawn oak slabs of the century old barn on the grounds of the Waterloo Farm Museum. Over 40historical society members looked on attentively as he pointed to an upright conicalshaped lead projectile that “had to be carefully placed by those detailed to bury the dead during one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War,” he continued. 

The .58 caliber bullet, weighing over an ounce and known as a Minie ball, caused devastating wounds when fired from a musket rifle and was a major contributor to the 22,700 plus casualties between sunrise and sunset, September 17, 1862. Fought in Maryland, the battle was considered a draw between the Federal and Confederate forces.     

The photograph, taken by another Michigan man, Alexander Gardner, became famous for depicting the buried Union soldiers in contrast to the unburied Confederate dead two days after the carnage.  

The Monroe, Michigan resident is a noted writer and film director/producer and currently serves as the Executive Producer of the CBS television’s award winning production of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. Egen’s attention to detail and his detective-like ability to connect names and families to often anonymous history are evident in his most recent book, Michigan at Antietam: Wolverine State’s Sacrifice on America’s Bloodiest Day. 

The WAHS offers family friendly historical programs throughout the year. For a trip back in time or to take advantage of the genealogical resources of this local treasure trove of history, dial 517 596-2245 or click to: waterloofarmmuseum.org.

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