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Memento Mori

April 2024
1min read

Among the bayonets, pipe bowls, buttons, and other familiar mementos of the American Revolution which were recently on display was one real stunner—the knucklebone from Major John André’s big toe.

The grisly relic is owned by Ethel Gove of Northvale, New Jersey. “It’s a small, dried up thing,” she said. “I never touch it, because I’m afraid it will crumble in my hands.” Miss Gove keeps the toe in a bank vault but, in honor of the Bicentennial, she put it on exhibition in the Closter. New Jersey, public library.

In 1820 André’s body was exhumed from the grave at the place of his execution in Tappan, New York, to be sent back to England. David Doremus, an ancestor of Miss Cove’s, served as apprentice to the carpenter hired to build a new coffin for the occasion. Doremus got hold of the piece of bone, built a small wooden reliquary for it, and passed it down to posterity.

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