Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Faces of the Civil War: Unknown III

A Civil War sergeant poses with his sword in this tintype photo.
As is the case with the ambrotype of this Civil War soldier and this tintype and ambrotype of the same officer in my collection, the name of this gentleman is unknown. Unfortunately, there's not a ton of information from the tinytpe above to narrow down the name of the soldier, his regiment and the state for which he served. On some tintypes, Civil War photographers scratched the name and/or the regiment of the soldier on the reverse of the photo or on the proctective mat. Or the name of the soldier sometimes would be written in pencil in the case for the photo. No such luck on this photo, which is part of my collection of Civil War photography.

Here's what I do know:

  • Based on the three stripes on each arm, this soldier was a sergeant. He served in the infantry in the Union army.


  • This is a tintype, a photo made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of metal. In the process of creating the image, the photographer made a couple swipes across it, accounting for the unfortunate marks across the shoulder and neck and near the middle of the soldier's body. The imperfections diminish the value of the image to collectors.


  • A model 1858 U.S. Army hat atop his noggin, he is wearing a frock coat, common attire for U.S. army officers dating to the 1820s. (1)


  • He wore white gloves, a nice fashion statement that this guy might appreciate.


  • The photographer did not use a distinctive background that included army tents or other scenery, a common practice in city studios during the Civil War. This photographer did use a non-descript background, an indicator that this photo might have been taken in one of the many portable field studios that followed both armies during the Civil War.


  • I bought this tintype on eBay about nine or 10 years ago. The seller indicated the soldier was from New York, in the western part of the state if memory serves me right.

    Perhaps by throwing this one out to the public, someone will step up and say: "Hey, that's my great-great grandpa."

    That would be kind of cool.


  • (1) "Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union," By the Editors of Time-Life Books, Page 114.

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