Pocket Bible

Pocket Bible Saves Soldier’s Life

On Memorial Day, we remember the fallen soldiers. This particular Massachusetts soldier in 1863 has past, but we’d like to spotlight his dramatic pocket Bible story from the Civil War and how this led to a connection from Salem to President Lincoln.

Charles Merrill, carried his pocket Bible in his breast pocket probably like most soldiers of his day. During a battle against Robert E. Lee’s troop in Virginia, that very Bible stopped a bullet from entering his body and is still lodged in the Bible today. That’s the top left Bible in the photo. Talk about God’s protection upon His followers!


Merrill wrote to President Lincoln recounting what had happened. Lincoln responded by sending him a replacement Bible signed and personally inscribed “For Charles W. Merrill of 19th Massachusetts. A Lincoln, May 8, 1863”. It’s more than twice the size of the old one. Guess that would be for double the protection.

The Phillips Library Collection which is owned by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) holds many one of a kind original treasures: art, artifacts and archives. These two Bibles are in the Phillips Library Collection and was in an exhibit called “Unbounded” in 2012.


Peabody Essex Museum and the Phillips Library

PEM has digitized less than 5% of this extremely rich and local American history and more digitization is planned. Having seen this artifact up close and personal, I can tell you a digitized version would not be the same awe inspiring connection to the real original item. To know that President Lincoln has held and penned those words on this replacement Bible and then seeing it in front of you, separated only by a piece of glass, is an amazing experience.

For over 100 years, residents and the general public had access to the Phillips Library with over 50% of Salem specific history. Salemites were the earliest American globe trodders, so the Library naturally included things from abroad. Sadly, the Peabody Essex Museum have in recent years decided to take all of that history and move it almost an hour away out of Salem. Salemites today are making history by working to keep Salem history here in Salem. What happened in Salem, ought to stay in Salem.

The Peabody Essex Museum was the consolidation of two living institutions, the Essex Institute (previously Essex Historical Society and Essex County Natural History Society) and the Peabody Museum (previously Peabody Academy of Science and East India Marine Society).

The original charter of the Essex Institute has specific wording “the cabinets and library must remain in Salem”. A legal brief has been filed with the Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

To learn more, visit the “Save the Phillips Library” page on Facebook 

and/or Sign the petition on Change.org