Civil War Tintype and Belt Buckle Found in Camp Point, Illinois

CivilWarThe past may seem like a faraway place, but we can still catch a glimpse of it from time to time. After all, we are surrounded by invisible reminders of an America that seems impossibly distant from our world of computers, cell phones, and high-definition televisions. A family in Illinois recently learned this first-hand when they stumbled on some remarkable artifacts from the 19th century while in the process of renovating their home.

The Discovery
As Clyde and Sheri Renner were renovating their 1891 house in Camp Point, Illinois, they came across several priceless relics from another age. They discovered the broken pieces of a tombstone from 1870 and some ancient love letters on crumbling paper. But the most startling finds were yet to come, and they shed light on who may have once lived in their antique house.

A Union Officer’s Belt Buckle
At some point in the past, the Renners’ house must have belonged to a Civil War veteran. During renovation, Clyde Renner found an old piece of metal lying on the ground near the house’s foundation. It turned out to be the belt buckle of a Union officer. The belt buckle, which features an eagle, a shield, and the legend “E pluribus unum,” is still impressive despite more than a century of rust and wear.

A Civil War Tintype
While the Renners’ home contractor was drilling into their porch ceiling, he caught a glimpse of a face. He had discovered a tintype of a Union soldier—possibly the same soldier who had worn the belt buckle. A tintype was an early type of photograph that was popular in the 19th century because it could be developed quickly; countless Civil War soldiers brought or mailed home tintypes of themselves in uniform.

This article is part of our STRANGE THINGS FOUND DURING HOME RENOVATIONS blog series.


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