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John P. Townsend Civil War certificate and militaria

Identifier: MSS-011

Scope and Contents

This collection contains four items believed to have belonged to John P. Townsend during his service in the Civil War including a saber (sword), scabbard, writing desk, and certificate of service.


  • Creation: 1863 - 1870


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with Archives & Special Collections staff.

Biographical / Historical

John Phillips Townsend was born in Bridgewater, MA on October 22 or 23, 1836 to Jeremiah H. Townsend and Almira A. (Phillips) Townsend. Jeremiah was the son of Job Townsend and Lucy (Hack) Townsend and Almira was the daughter of Edward and Bethia (Danforth) Phillips. John was educated in Bridgewater public schools and the Bridgewater Academy. He was working as a machinist in Tennessee when the Civil War began.

On September 16, 1892 at the age of 26, he enlisted in the Union Army as a Private in Company K of the Third Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. They mustered September 23, 1862, and mustered out June 26, 1863. On March 2, 1864 he reenlisted and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of Company D of the Fifty-Eighth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, which mustered on March 8, 1864. In 1864 he became 1st Lieutenant of the Fifty-Eighth, and they mustered again on April 17, 1865. John was taken prisoner on September 30, 1864 in Poplar Grove Church, VA, but was freed in an exchange on February 23, 1865. He was promoted to Captain on March 3, 1865, but was not mustered, and Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War indicates he mustered out on July 14, 1865 as 1st Lieutenant of Company E.

In June 1868 John Townsend married Olive Winsor, a resident of East Boston and daughter of a sea captain. They had four children, Eva A. (died at four years old), George H., Flora P. (later named Flora T. Little), and Royal (died at 19 years old).

John for 35 years as a machinist for the Henry Perkins Co., was involved at the Fellowship lodge, the Massachusetts Association of Union Ex-Prisoners of War, and was a trustee at the Bridgewater Academy. At age 54, John joined the Bridgewater chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic. On Tuesday, March 28, 1916 he died in his home on Plymouth Street in Bridgewater, MA.


4.7 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains items relating to John P. Townsend’s service in the Civil War.


This collection is arranged and described at the item level.

Physical Access

There are no physical restrictions on this collection.

Technical Access

There are no technical restrictions on this collection.

Physical Location

Bridgewater Public Library Historical Room

Custodial History

Items were purchased by donor at the estate sale of Flora T. Little, daughter of John P. Townsend.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Peter A. Engstrom, 2021.


The following materials have been removed from the collection:

Record of Massachusetts Volunteers, 1861-1865 Volume II has been removed from this collection and added to the Historical Reference collection


Accruals are not expected.

Related Archival Materials at the Bridgewater Public Library

The following materials may also be of interest:

William H. Cornwell Grand Army of the Republic badges and cuff links Andrew T. Pratt Civil War papers Lewis L. Simpson and Maria D. Simpson Civil War papers Flora T. Little film A Wreath of Memories by Flora T. Little


  • Descriptive Book Bridgewater Post No. 205 Department of Massachusetts Grand Army of the Republic. Bridgewater Public Library Archives & Special Collections.
  • “Had Brilliant War Record.” (1916, March 31). Bridgewater Independent, p. A1.
  • Little, Flora T. (1963) A Wreath of Memories.
  • Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War (Vol. I, pp. 199-203). Norwood, MA.: Norwood Press.
  • Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War (Vol. V, pp. 17-21). Norwood, MA.: Norwood Press.
  • New England Historic Genealogical Society. (1916). Vital Records of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850, Volume 1.
  • New England Historic Genealogical Society. (1916). Vital Records of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850, Volume 2.

Conservation Note

The following conservation and preservation activities have been completed on this collection:

John P. Townsend Civil War certificate NEDCC Treatment Report: Surface soil was reduced using dry cleaning techniques as possible. The solubility of the inks was fully tested in preparation for washing. After confirming that the media would permit aqueous treatment, the object was humidified and washed in a filtered water bath to clean the paper and reduce staining, discoloration, and acidity. Alkalized water was used to reduce staining. Japanese paper was toned for infills. Tears were pre­mended as necessary and losses were filled with toned Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. The object was lined for overall support with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste and methyl cellulose. The object was humidified and flattened between blotters under moderate pressure. After treatment the object was attached to a 100% cotton rag primary backing board with Japanese paper hinges adhered with wheat starch paste. A window mat with standard outside dimensions, in a color sympathetic to the object and made of 100% cotton rag board was cut and hinged to the primary backing board with linen tape. A protective melenex cover sheet was placed inside the mat. The matted object was housed in an archival folder.

John P. Townsend Civil War certificate and militaria
Allyson Sekerke
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bridgewater Public Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

15 South Street
Bridgewater MA 02324 USA