Civil War Bronze Binoculars

Keeping an eye on the troops

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

You won't hear the name Edward B. Burleson (1838–1917) on the roster of Texas leaders who achieved military success during the Civil War.

Burleson, like the majority of Texas’s approximately 90,000 Civil War soldiers, was a rank and file soldier. His one claim to fame was that he shared a first and last name with his uncle, Edward Burleson, who as Commander in Chief of the Texas Volunteer Army, helped Texas win its independence from Mexico during the 1835–36 revolution.

Edward B. Burleson was born in Bastrop. He enlisted as a 23-year old in the Confederate Army’s 17th Texas infantry regiment on May 28, 1862 in Lockhart. He served as an Assistant Instructor of Tactics. In this role, he would have been in charge of training the regiment. Troops had to be taught a multitude of orders, formations, and movements, as well as the bugle calls that commanded the open fire, cease fire, charge, and retreat movements. Regiments drilled constantly so that they could react without thinking when given an order on the battlefield.  

Private Burleson would have used these binoculars to sight locations and keep track of troop movements during battle. While it is unknown if Burleson personally saw any combat, he was armed for battle with a Bowie knife and musket, two objects which are also currently on display at the Bullock Museum.

The 17th Texas infantry regiment fought in two battles in Arkansas (Poison Springs and Jenkin’s Ferry) and several more in Louisiana (Milliken’s Bend, Ft. DeRussy, Mansfield, and Pleasant Hill) between June 1863 and April 1864. The regiment defeated the Union troops at Poison Springs and Mansfield. The battle of Pleasant Hill was determined to be a draw.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Civil War Bronze Binoculars Artifact from Palestine, Texas
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