AMBROTYPE OF JOSEPH C. SEXTON, 4th VIRGINIA, STONEWALL BRIGADE, PROMOTED CAPTAIN AND MAJOR, GORDON’S DIVISION COMMISSARY AT APPOMATTOX

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Item Code: 1138-1816

The interior of the back of the case has a period pencil inscription reading “J.C. Sexton / Wytheville Va.” along with some measurements and details such as “Hair Black. . . ,” indicating a photographer was going to enlarge the photo for use in a color portrait. A Victorian card showing the plant Tussilago Fragrans (used in homeopathic treatments) is in the case as well and has a modern note on the reverse reading: “Jos. Carpenter Sexton / 4th Va.” Sexton’s middle name is usually given as Campbell, but there is no doubt it is the same man, born in Wytheville 26 November 1833 and died there 17 December 1907.

Sexton is shown seated, turned slightly to the viewer’s left, with one arm resting on a table to his side and other on his thigh. He wears a unform jacket with seven brass buttons showing and likely one or two more hidden under his long narrow beard. He has combed his hair back for the image. The jacket has no trim or shoulder tabs, but does have a single breast pocket from which protrude a white kerchief. The jacket is open slightly to show a vest underneath and his shirt cuff is visible in his jacket sleeve at left. The jacket seems to be dark, likely a dark gray, and a rather coarse weave. The buttons are convex and metal with some sort of design that has been lightly tinted.

Sexton was 27 and worked with his father, who was a successful saddler (with real estate valued at $22,000 and a personal estate of $5,000 in 1861) in Wytheville, when he enrolled in Capt. William Terry’s Company, the “Wythe Grays” at Wytheville on April 17, 1861. They journeyed to Richmond, where he mustered in April 24 for one year’s service and the company were organized as part of the 4th Virginia on April 26, and accepted into Confederate service about July 1. The regiment became part of Jackson’s brigade and Sexton marked present on the rolls into September and thus likely on the field at First Bull Run when Jackson and the brigade earned the title “Stonewall.” The regiment continued to serve under Jackson in the Valley and earned a fighting reputation with more than 170 occasions on which they suffered casualties of some sort according to CWData.

Sexton had listed himself as a “mechanic” when he signed up and must have gotten some good business training from his father while working as a saddler for he was promoted to Captain and commissioned as Assistant Commissary on Sept. 1, 1861, and confirmed in December. He served on Garnett’s staff as Commissary of the Stonewall Brigade and was promoted to Major in April 1862, but remained in close association, though at higher level, with the regiment and brigade throughout the war. In October 1864 he was promoted to Division Commissary on Gordon’s staff in the 2nd Corps, and was acting commissary of the entire corps in January and February 1865, until returning as commissary of Gordon’s Division in late March and was paroled at Appomattox as Major and Commissary of Subsistence, Gordon’s Division, ANV.

After the war he returned to Wytheville and the saddlery business, living with his stepmother and siblings according to the 1870 census. He does not appear to have married and died at age 74 in Wytheville on December 17, 1907, reportedly in the same house in which he was born.

The image is cased in a thermoplastic case with the scene of a mother, child and family dog. There is a narrow hairline crack at upper right on one side. The photo has only a narrow ring of solarization around the edge, not affecting the figure, which is extremely clear and has great contrast.  [SR] [ph:M]

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