FRAMED ALBUMEN - THE TIGER REGIMENT PREPARES TO DEFEND AGAINST CAVALRY

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Item Code: 1054-692

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George H. Nickerson was a 27 year-old photographer from Orleans, Mass., who put his talents to very good use in the army. Enlisting on 9/13/62, he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. E, 43rd Mass. Volunteers to date 9/20/62. He was promoted 1st Lieutenant 6/4/63 and mustered out with the regiment 7/30/63 at Readville, Mass. On March 12, 1863, he displayed his photographic abilities in taking a number of photos of his outfit (nicknamed the “Tiger Regiment”) in Camp Rogers at New Bern, NC, that were then printed by Black of Boston. (One can imagine they realized there was a ready clientele among the veterans of the regiment.)

Perhaps the best of the series is this dynamic photo of the regiment drawn up in a hollow square, poised to resist an onslaught by cavalry. In the background their camp is neatly laid out. Sibley tents shaded by trees form rows of company streets. Three tents stand middle distance with a small company or platoon drawn up in front to watch, perhaps the day’s guard detail. The rest of the regiment is formed standing in ranks two-deep at “charge bayonets.” Company commanders are in place at the right of the front ranks. Officers and file closers are to the rear. The field and staff officers remain mounted inside the square to supervise the defense. The drum corps is positioned to the right and the colors are at the left. A small detail seems to be drawn up in two ranks inside as well- perhaps the colorguard itself, troops assigned to medical duty, or a detail assigned to plug any gaps created if enemy cavalry should break the line. We are familiar with formation from the Napoleonic era, but it did come into play on occasion in the Civil War. Buford’s cavalry at Gettysburg is reported by some to have gained time on July 1 by causing some Confederate infantry to form square in anticipation of a charge.

The image has good tones and excellent clarity. Housed in a period frame measuring roughly 14.5 by 16.5 inches, the albumen image itself is 9 by 11 inches (and the mount slightly larger, of course.) Imprinted on the lower margin of the mount is, Camp Rogers / Encampment of the 43rd Regiment Mass. Vols. / Newbern, N.C., March 12, 1863, around a regimental crest derived from that of the Boston Light Infantry (“B.L.I.”) The regimental number has been added in two cartouches on flanking flags and Colonel Holbrook’s name and the regimental nickname in an arc overhead. Photo credit and copyright to Nickerson are printed below the albumen at left and at center. The printing credit to Black is at right.

The 43rd Massachusetts was formed in September 1862 in response to Lincoln’s call for 300,000 men to serve nine months. The nucleus of the regiment was Second Battalion of Mass Volunteer Militia, which included the old “Boston Light Infantry,” nicknamed “The Tigers,” which the regiment adopted as its own. They left Massachusetts November and were assigned to the Amory’s brigade of Foster’s Division in the Department of North Carolina and stationed at Camp Rogers in New Berne, where this and several other very well done photographs were taken in March 1863. They took part in a number of patrols and expeditions, in particular the Goldsboro Expedition in December 1862, a 180-mile jaunt that resulted in fighting at Kinston, White Hall, and Goldsboro Bridge during an effort to disrupt the Confederate supply line along the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. It took part in pursuing Confederates toward Kinston who had attacked New Berne and later crossed the Neuse River in an effort to relieve Little Washington, besieged by D.H. Hill and ended up in a fight at Blount’s Creek. On their way home in July 1863 they stopped in Baltimore, where 203 officers and men volunteered to join the Army of the Potomac and served several weeks at Sandy Hook, Maryland, as part of the Sixth Corps, finally heading back to Massachusetts on July 18, after Lee had returned to Virginia, and mustering out at the end of July. They were fortunate in losing only two men to hostile action, though more were wounded, and another twelve succumbed to sickness and disease.

This is a great photo with plenty of detail that displays very well. [sr]

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