PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — A musket, cannon shell, a canteen and saber are among 70 artifacts from the Civil War that were recently located after being missing for more than 40 years, the Tazewell County Clerk announced Tuesday.

John Ackerman said the collection was found at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum in Springfield which recently closed. Because the county was able to use recently digitized county board minutes to locate the artifacts, they will be returning back to Pekin by August, he said.

“If this discovery of these inventory list had been delayed by just another week, these artifacts would have been impossible to recover because of the formal closure of the GAR Museum and future movement of the displays to other museums. The timing of this entire effort has been amazingly lucky,” Ackerman said.

It was known in the early 1980s when then Sheriff James Donahue began his investigation that someone took them out of the Tazewell County Courthouse and moved them to an “unknown state museum.” But where the collection went was missing.

Minutes from an Aug. 15 1968, board meeting had a resolution that directed the clerk’s office to have the materials “sorted, packed, and stored in a bonded warehouse, at County expense, until such time as arrangements can be made to have this collection placed where it can be properly displayed and protected.”

In 1982, then Sheriff Donahue began his investigation into the missing collection and then it was learned through testimony that someone had taken them out of the courthouse where they had been displayed and put into a museum.

Fast forward to more recently when Susan Rynerson of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society wrote about the area where the collection was displayed at the courthouse in the society’s monthly newsletter. That was followed by Jared Olar of the Pekin Library publishing the information in the “Pekin History” blog. The two brought the missing pieces back into the public’s eye.

That prompted Ackerman’s office to look harder into the matter and they were able to get a list of items from the GAR museum before it closed. The list matched what Pekin’s collection was, he said.

“With these detailed inventory listings now in our procession, the most important of which was the GAR Museum Accession Inventory, and now with knowledge of the location of the artifacts, we reached out, and the GAR Museum has been extremely receptive of our request for the return of the artifacts to Tazewell County,” Ackerman said.

As there are several firearms, Sheriff Jeff Lower has indicated he will send a squad car to Springfield to retrieve the items. After that, Ackerman and Auditor Brett Grimm and Rynerson will catalog the items and decide how they should be displayed.

The Civil War Artifacts total more than 70 cataloged items, including the following:

  • 1849 Springfield Musket
  • 1855 Colt 6 shot Revolving Carbine
  • 1864 Burnside Rifle
  • 1847 Springfield Musket
  • 1852 Sharps Carbine, with history detailed as “captured at Bull Run by Confederates, reissued at Richmond Arsenal, picked up on the Antietam Battlefield.”
  • Cavalry Saber with history detail “used by a member of Wharton’s Texas Rangers. Plowed up by a Mr Thomas 20 years after Battle of Shiloh”.
  • Schenkel Rifled Cannon Shell
  • Grape Shot from Ft Donelson
  • Belt with Cap Box and Bayonet Scabbard
  • Union Canteen found at Battle of Shiloh
  • Watch found at Battle of Corinth
  • Saddle Bag
  • 1840 Musician’s Sword