Saturday, March 10, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: David Thatcher

David Hatcher of the First Virginia Cavalry was mortally wounded on Oct. 19, 1863.
at Tuscarora Presbyterian Church in Martinsburg, W.Va., he was only 19 when he died.
(Library of Congress, Liljenquist Collection)
Unfortunately, many Civil War-era photos of soldiers are unidentified, their names lost to history forever. Several unidentified tintypes and ambrotypes of Civil War soldiers are in my collection, including this one, this onethis one and this one.

That's why this Washington Post story of a Martinsburg, W.Va. woman who provided the name of a long-unidentified image of a young Confederate soldier is so compelling.

While scanning the Post's Civil War supplement, Karen Thatcher noticed a photo in a Library of Congress advertisement that bore a remarkable resemblance to a larger, crayon image of a soldier that had been in her husband's family for many years.

Her immediate reaction: “That’s Uncle Dave!”

A farmer's son, 19-year-old David M. Thatcher was mortally wounded Oct. 19, 1863, at the Battle of Buckland Mills, near Warrenton, Va. David, an ancestor of Karen Thatcher's husband, is buried at Tuscarora Presbyterian Church in Martinsburg, where I started my journalism career as sports editor of the Martinsburg Evening Journal about three years after the Civil War ended.

“We’re just tickled to death,” Thatcher told the Post. “There’s something very satisfying about this 19-year-old boy who died in 1863 who was [listed as] unidentified. ... that we’re able to put a name to that face.”

The ambrotype of Hatcher is one of hundreds of Civil War images donated to the Library of Congress in the past two years by Tom Liljenquist of McLean, Va. He and his sons collected high-quality -- and very $$$$$ -- images of Union and Confederate soldiers.

Earlier this week, the Library of Congress replaced "Unidentified" with David Thatcher's name in the description of the photograph. So perhaps there's hope afterall for these nameless soldiers in my collection:. 

Who are these Union soldiers?

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