- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

GLOUCESTER, Mass. (AP) - The Civil War-era coat that once helped a Gloucester soldier return safely to the North after escaping a Confederate prison is expected to be back in the city by the end of the summer.

George and Charles King, the 11-year-old twins and O’Maley Innovation Middle School sixth-graders who researched the coat’s history and have been leading a fundraising effort to restore it, have reeled in more than $4,000 for the project, with the initial restoration cost pegged at $3,500.

So - while admitting she’s awaiting the final go-ahead from Gloucester’s Committee For the Arts, which is behind the restoration project from the city’s and Gloucester High School’s vantage point -the woman who heads the textile restoration company that now has the coat says she sees the work going forward through June and July, with the coat to be returned to Gloucester after that.

“Absolutely (that time frame is possible),” said Camille Myers Breeze, who heads a company called Museum Textile Services in Andover.

“I’m delighted at the outstanding effort of these two young men and the residents in supporting the preservation of this unique artifact,” she said. “I’ll be delighted to carry on with my end of the project and bring (the coat) back to where it belongs.”

The King brothers recently told supporters in an email that their drive had reached the $4,000 mark, but they wanted to continue their efforts to obtain a case that would allow the coat to be better displayed. Their mother, Catherine Ryan, serves on the Committee For the Arts that took a lead role on the coat’s restoration.

The boys were also the ones who, through some extensive online research and working with Sawyer Free Library and Gloucester’s Archives Department at City Hall, were able to trace the coat to the 1860s. The coat was once the property of Gloucester’s Albert W. Bacheler, a Civil War veteran who had been held as a prisoner of war by the Confederates, and escaped the infamous Libby Prison in Virginia.

As Bacheler made his way north, a number of Virginia slave families helped shield him from searchers, including by giving him the coat.

Bacheler later served as Gloucester High School principal from 1884 through 1914, and the coat had been on display at the school for decades before being removed and pegged for the restoration project last year.

Breeze said last week that the restoration is already underway at her facility in Andover.

“We’ve done essential repairs to the coat- repairs so that it does not damage itself under gravity,” she said. Those initial repairs, she said, have included creating small patches of modern thread placed behind some of the areas of the coat’s greatest weakness.

Breeze said the next steps in Andover will be to craft a figure- essentially a mannequin, but with just a torso -on which to hang the coat, and then to further repair the garment itself. Breeze owns a related company called Andover Figures, and that wing will create the figure to give the restored coat a renewed shape for display. Breeze said the $3,500 raised by the Kings will cover the restoration work.

The kids’ fundraising work has thus far included an online pledge drive, private donations from across the city and beyond, and two gifts of $1,000 each- one from an anonymous donor, the other from a group of local history buffs who meet regularly and call themselves The Gathering.

In their letter, the King twins seemed ecstatic about the progress their drive and coat restoration project have made.

“We hoped to have the coat fixed by the time we were in Gloucester High School,” they wrote. “Thanks to everyone who worked towards this goal, the fundraising for the repairs has been completed before we’ve even graduated sixth grade.”


Information from: Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times, https://www.gloucestertimes.com

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