Family heirloom donated to historical society
By Erik Buchinger
Dan and John Peterson made a trip from out of state to the city of Clintonville to see a prized family heirloom neither of them had seen since the 1970s.
The two brothers stopped at the Clintonville Area Historical Society on Friday, May 5 to view a sword used during the Civil War by their great grandfather Alexander Peterson.
Dan Peterson traveled from Charlotte, North Carolina, while John came from Downers Grove, Illinois. The two were raised in the Shawano area.
“It’s great to see,” Dan Peterson said after picking up the sword. “We’ve heard about it, but I haven’t seen it in detail since I was a kid probably 5 of 6 years old when my second cousin had it in Sheboygan, but I was too young to even remember or know the significance of it. As we tried to trace family history as I got older, I had to finally come see it.”
The sword was in possession of their second cousin Kent Peterson in Sheboygan, and his widow Mary Fenn Peterson donated the sword to the Clintonville Area Historical Society upon her death in 1987.
Dan Peterson said he and his brother made the weekend trip to Clintonville primarily to see the sword but also take care of the family cemetery and visit the few family members still from the area.
Former CAHS President Rich Beggs did not have much information on the sword prior to Dan reaching out, and as someone who is fascinated with Civil War history, Beggs took an interest and researched some information on the sword.
“When he told me who the guy was and where he came from, I had quite a bit of information at home about Civil War records and books, so I was able to look the guy up to establish some history for the sword, and it worked out good,” Beggs said.
Beggs provided the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette with some of his research.
Alexander Peterson was enlisted on Aug. 14, 1862 in the 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, which trained at Camp Bragg in Oshkosh.
Alexander Peterson enlisted as a private, was promoted to corporal and later to first sergeant. He was commissioned a second lieutenant on April 11, 1865. He was mustered out of the federal service on that same day and out of the state service, and the regiment disbanded on June 14, 1865 in Milwaukee.
Of the 960 men that left home with Alexander Peterson’s regiment, only 260 returned. There is no evidence that Alexander was ever wounded, but he was a front line combat soldier throughout the war, endured it all and survived.
Dan Peterson said he needed to see the sword to pass the photos and information on to the rest of the family.
“The primary reason for us coming out here was to see the sword,” Dan Peterson said. “I said before I die, I really got to see this and photograph it for the family so they know that it exists and what it looks like and have an appreciation for it.”
Dan Peterson said he has been looking forward to seeing Alexander’s sword for several years.
“It’s the highlight of my summer,” Dan Peterson said. “I don’t know how to describe it, but I’ve been wanting to see it for many years, so finally being able to view it is kind of a mission accomplished. I wouldn’t say bucket list item, but it’s one thing I thought was important to document for the next generation to our family. It means a lot, and it’s a meaningful experience to come up and finally see it.”
Dan Peterson said he is grateful the sword is on display for others to see in the Clintonville area.
“To see that it’s at a safe place on display and now we know the provenance, that means a lot to us,” Dan Peterson said. “We’re just glad to see that it’s carried on and it’s not lost.”