GEORGE WASHINGTON KURTZ, 5th VIRGINIA, WOUNDED AT GETTYSBURG, CAPTURED AT SPOTSYLVANIA, EX-BILL TURNER COLLECTION

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Item Code: 1138-1848

Housed in a “Constitution and the Laws” thermoplastic case, this sixth plate ambrotype shows George Washington Kurtz seated wearing a single breasted gray frock coat with brass buttons, opened to reveal a gray military vest, also with brass buttons, and also open, to reveal a very Victorian multi-pattern shirt. He is bare-headed and wears a short mustache and goatee. The photographer has neatly tinted his cheeks red. He wears no insignia of rank, but looks capable of some authority, and rose pretty quickly to company commander in the Stonewall Brigade, being wounded in action at Gettysburg, but not really taken out of action until captured in May 1864.

Born in Winchester 3/6/1838, he was 23 and a cabinet maker when he enrolled in John Avis’s Company as a sergeant on 4/18/61. This company was the old Continental Morgan Guards, organized in 1855, of which some sources say he had been a member since 1857. The company responded to John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 and was in service until after Brown’s trial and execution at Charlestown. He enrolled with his fellow company members for one year’s service in the wake of Fort Sumter, enrolling on 4/18/61 as a sergeant. The company joined the 5th Virginia, which organized in May and was accepted into CS service for one year as Co. K of the 5th Virginia on June 30, the date of his muster in.

They were assigned to Jackson’s Brigade and served under him at First Manassas in July. Kurtz was appointed company first Sergeant shortly after, on 8/1/61. In early 1862 he re-enlisted for the duration of the war, and was appointed first lieutenant 4/18/62. He was commanding the company as first lieutenant and was promoted to captain on 6/8/62. During this period the regiment fought in Jackson’s Valley Campaign and then in the Seven Days Battles of the Peninsula Campaign, seeing action at Kernstown, losing 9 killed, 48 wounded, and 4 missing; at Cross Keys and Port Republic, losing another 4 killed, 89 wounded, and 20 missing; followed by Second Manassas, where it lost 14 killed and 91 wounded.

Kurtz was sick in the hospital on 12/13/62 and given a furlough, but apparently returned by January, being marked present again on the Jan-Feb 1863 muster roll and thereafter. In May the regiment fought at Chancellorsville, losing 120 men, and in July at Gettysburg took 345 men into action, losing 58, one of whom was Kurtz, wounded in the hip on July 3.

CivilWarData says he was back in the company by August 15 and he is marked present on the muster rolls from September until May 1864, when he is reported captured on May 12, though some of the documents in his service file give the date as May 10. Either would fit the fighting at Spotsylvania, though one file marks him as captured at Wilderness. He was sent to Belle Plain and from there to Fort Delaware, where he remained for the rest of the war. He was released 6/15/65 and returned to Virginia where he continued in the furniture business, with a side line in undertaking. He married in 1871 and fathered at least six children, the last of whom died in 1985. He died in Richmond in 1926 at age 89, reported as one of the last members of the Stonewall Brigade and was buried in Winchester.

The case has some wear and a chipped corner, but presents the image nicely. The photograph is extremely clear and shows only a narrow, fading band of solarization around the edges. This is a strong portrait of an officer with very active service and a good provenance to one of the most well-known collectors and dealers in Civil War artifacts.  [SR] [ph:M]

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