MAJOR THOMAS W. LENDRUM, USMA 1815, HE ARRESTED OSCEOLA IN 1835!

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Item Code: 1138-1958

This 6th plate daguerreotype dates to the early or mid-1840s is a from-life view of Major Thomas W. Landrum, with his name on an old family-written label on the glass and comes from the collection of well-known Virginia collector and dealer Bill Turner. Lendrum was appointed to West Point from Virginia and entered the academy in June 1813, and graduated in March 1815. Heitman says he was 25th in his class of 39, but official rankings do not appear to have been instituted until later. He was appointed a 3rd lieutenant in the Corps of Artillery 2 March 1815 and served at Fort McHenry 1815-1816. He served as battalion adjutant of artillery from 1816 to 14 May 1818, and was promoted to 2nd lieutenant while on that post on 28 September 1817. In 1818 he was on recruiting duty and on commissary duty from 1818 to 1819, when he was promoted to 1st lieutenant 30 May 1819. He was posted to Fort Severn, MD., 1821-1827, and while there was officially posted to the 3rd Regiment of Artillery when the Corps of Artillery was reorganized in 1821. He served at Fort Trumbull, CT., 1827-28, where he made captain as of 31 December 1828, and the was posted to Fort Independence, Mass., 1829-1830 and again briefly in 1833, between which times he was again on recruiting service. He spent 1833-35 at Fort Monroe and then to Florida, where he served in the Seminole Indian War 1835-36, where the 3rd Artillery did service as infantry. He was on ordnance duty September 1836 to March 1837 and then on commissary duty from 1837 to his death 21 October 1852, serving in the Subsistence Bureau at Washington 1837-1838, and gaining appointment as major of staff and commissary of subsistence 7 July 1838, and serving at Baltimore 1838-1848 and New York 1848-1852.

Lendrum had at least two brushes with fame. In 1840 he was one of two officers accused of awarding army contracts, or making purchases for the army, on the basis of political favoritism. Nothing seems to have come of this. From April 1835 to mid-1836, however, while captain in the 3rd Artillery he was posted at Fort King in Florida and is thought to have been the officer commanding the guard that took the Seminole chief Osceola into custody on the complaint of Indian Agent Wiley Thompson in June 1835. Osceola was released several days later and seemed to yield to Thompson’s pressure by signing the Treaty of Payne’s Landing giving up Seminole lands in Florida. In December, however, Osceola shot Thompson with rifle the agent had given him, wiped out a column of some 110 troops near the fort in the Dade Massacre and started a war that lasted two years. Lendrum thus seems to have been in the center of the action. (See Wickman, “Osceola’s Legacy.”)

A date between 1839 and 1847 for the image is suggested by Lendrum’s uniform details, with the lower date raised somewhat from introduction of the daguerreotype. Lendrum is shown seated, wearing an 1839 pattern officer’s forage cap, apparently with a waterproof cover, and a single-breasted officer’s frock coat with epaulets and aiguillette. The single-breasted coat became regulation for officers of infantry, artillery, dragoons and ordnance in 1839, who thus joined staff officers, who had been authorized it in 1832. This corresponds with his use of an aiguillette, which was adopted for general staff in 1839, but ceased about 1847, the same time that a field grade officer would have been authorized a double-breasted coat. Along one forearm Lendrum cradles an officer’s sword with a sword knot wrapped around the knucklebow and he wears a sword belt around his waist with what appears to be a rectangular plate. The photographer has gilded his epaulets, buttons, aiguillette, belt plate and parts of his sword, obscuring details, but the latter appears to be an 1832/34 or perhaps and 1840 pattern officer’s sword, which would correspond to the dating suggested by other details. (See Emerson on the uniform details.)

The leatherette case is embossed with a scene of birds and a flower basket and is in very good condition, with facing pad, mat, frame and glass in place. This is great, early US military photo of a Virginia native and soldier with long record, with provenance to a well-known collector and dealer.  [sr] [ph:M]

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