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Soldier's Tooth Will Be Sent Back Home To South Carolina

Deborah Fitts

(May 2007) GETTYSBURG, Pa. - The tooth of a Confederate soldier picked up off the Gettysburg battlefield in 1864 has come to light after lying forgotten for decades in a box at the Adams County Historical Society.

"We were quite amazed," said Wayne Motts, the society's executive director. "Not only did we have the tooth, but we knew who it belonged to."

The tooth, an upper incisor, turned up in a box of family items donated to the society in 1976. Society volunteer Karin Bohleke, who researches period clothing, found the tooth when she opened a small punched-paper pouch that Motts described as a watch-fob container.

A note inside read, "This tooth was taken out of a head lying in Roses Woods one year after the battle, at the head of a grave marked Lt. W.L. Daniel, Co. I, 2nd S.C.V. Poor fellow, though a rebel, he has only sympathy from the union soldier who picked up and keeps his tooth, namely W.T. King, First Lt. Co. G. 209th P.V."

Daniel would have died July 2, 1863, as troops under Confederate Gen. Joseph Kershaw fought bitterly to dislodge Union soldiers occupying the Rose Farm, near the Wheatfield. The Southerners were buried near where they fell, in shallow, temporary graves.

The note, according to Motts, was written by William T. King, a Gettysburg tailor who served during the war as an officer with the 209th Pennsylvania Volunteers. It was King's descendants who gave the collection to the society. The challenge to Motts, who also serves as a Licensed Battlefield Guide, and to Ben Neely, the society's collections manager, was to learn more about Daniel and to get the tooth back to South Carolina where it belonged. "We don't want to house human remains in the historical society," Motts explained.

Research soon brought them to William L. Daniel, born in the Edgefield district of South Carolina in 1833. He attended South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina, and earned a medical degree from South Carolina Medical College in 1857. He enlisted May 9, 1861, in Co. I of the 2nd South Carolina. By Gettysburg he was serving as first lieutenant.

Motts noted that Daniel's brother, James, a second lieutenant with Co. E of the 7th South Carolina, was mortally wounded in the same action only 100 yards away. During a general disinterment of Confederate remains at Gettysburg in 1872 James's body was taken to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Motts said. But the location of William's remains is not known.

An appeal to the Saluda County Historical Society in South Carolina soon put Motts in touch with John Owen Clark, a descendant of William and James. Clark, of Johnston, S.C., had been studying his Confederate ancestors. His great-great-grandmother was a sister of William and James.

"He's very interested," said Motts. Clark has a photo of James and a special curiosity about the two brothers who died so near each other at Gettysburg.

Meanwhile, someone who saw a news story about the tooth contacted the Adams County Historical Society to say he was familiar with the Daniel family plantation in Saluda in the 1940s. He recalled seeing two Confederate grave markers, one for a first lieutenant and one for a second lieutenant. Motts said he was "waiting for more information."

The tooth will not leave Adams County entirely. Licensed guide Denny Forwood, who works as a dentist, has made a resin copy of the tooth for Motts to keep in the society's collections. The copy will eventually go on exhibit, Motts said. Items rounding out the display will include a sketch of William Daniel dating from 1853, and a photo of William King, who found the tooth.

Motts is collaborating with descendant Clark and the Saluda County Historical Society about proper disposition of the tooth. They are "shooting for July" with tentative plans for a memorial service at Red Bank Baptist Church in Saluda, where several members of the Daniel family are buried.

Motts and Clark will speak and the minister will do an invocation and benediction. The tooth will be presented in a box made from wood that grew near where William Daniel fell.

"And if William does not have a stone we'll get him one," Motts said. "One way or another we're going to make sure this soldier is properly honored."

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