SCARCE TINTYPE OF GENERAL WILLIAM STARKE, LOUISIANA BRIGADE, KILLED IN ACTION AT ANTIETAM WHILE IN DIVISION COMMAND

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This very clear sixth-plate tintype is from the collection of the late Bill Turner and shows William Edwin Starke as Lieutenant Colonel. He is posed wearing an early war Confederate uniform showing both the two stars of Confederate lieutenant colonel on his collar and on a pair of shoulder straps. He wears a single-breasted frock coat with simple chevrons at each cuff, has a thumb resting low down in the lapel of his coat and holds is officer’s kepi against his lower breast. The photographer has delicately tinted his cheeks and has applied some gold to the buttons and bullion trim of his uniform, hat braid and the edges of his straps, but has not overdone it. Starke wears a dashing mustache with slightly twirled ends and a small goatee.

Born in Virginia in 1814, he worked in the family’s stage coach business before moving to Mobile and then New Orleans to act as a cotton broker, becoming successful enough to purchase his own steamship to transport his goods. He acted as aide to the Governor of Louisiana with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel from 1856 to 1860, but returned to Virginia for service in the war. He apparently served as aide-de-camp to General R.S. Garnett in the campaign to hold the western counties of the state, and on the staff of General Loring after Garnett’s death at Corrick’s Ford in July 1861. He was appointed lieutenant colonel from Virginia with directions to report to the 53rd Virginia in September and promotion to Colonel of the 60th Virginia in October. He commanded the regiment in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and then in its assignment to the Army of Northern Virginia, serving in A.P. Hill’s division in the Peninsula Campaign. Starke was lightly wounded at Mechanicsville on June 26 and quickly returned to action, but lost his son Edwin, Adjutant of the 7th Virginia, who died of wounds received at Seven Pines.

Starke was promoted Brigadier General to date August 6, from Louisiana, and assigned to command the 2nd Louisiana Brigade in Jackson’s Army of the Valley District. His file contains a letter of recommendation from Lee, who had not seen him in combat, but regarded him as one of the best colonels in the service and he seemed destined for higher things, twice taking command of the division (Jackson’s old division,) the first time commanding it for much of the Battle of Second Bull Run at the end of August 1862 after the wounding of General Taliaferro. Bradley T. Johnson, commanding another brigade in the division commented, “It was my fortune during the two days of battle, during which he commanded the division, to be thrown constantly in contact with Brigadier-General Starke. The buoyant dash with which he led his brigade into the most withering fire on Friday, though then in command of the division; the force he showed in the handling of this command; the coolness and judgment which distinguished him in action, made him to me a marked man. . .”

Johnson presumably meant Starke was marked for success, and little more than two weeks later, after helping Jackson take Harpers Ferry, Starke was again in command of the division at Antietam after their new division commander, selected to replace Taliaferro was stunned by a shell-burst and carried from the field. Perhaps smarting slightly from accusations men under his command had pilfered public property captured in Frederick, he led his men in a counter attack against Hooker’s advance near the West Woods. While leading forward two understrength brigades that halted Doubleday’s attack, Starke was hit by three Federal bullets and died shortly after. Bradley Johnson added to his praise, “I regretted his early death as a great loss to the army and the cause.” A mortuary cannon marks the place where Starke was hit, one of six marking the spot of a general’s fall on the battlefield. He was buried next to his son in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.

The image is housed in a very nice condition green leather case with gilt blind-stamping and a lyre hinge, with facing pad, mat, glass and frame in place. This is a very scarce image of a fighting Confederate general killed in the single bloodiest day of combat in the Civil War.  [sr] [ph:M]

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