DAGUERREOTYPE OF HENRY COLES GARRETT

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Item Code: 1138-1895

This sixth-plate daguerreotype comes from the collection of the late Bill Turner, prominent Virginia collector and dealer, and has a note indicating it was purchased from the great-granddaughter of the sitter, Henry Coles Garrett, with the information that he lived in Cumberland, Amelia and Dinwiddie Counties in Virginia and served in the 19th Battalion Virginia Heavy Artillery and the 39th Virginia, and died about 1877. Garrett is shown seated and is well dressed with a tall standing shirt collar and cravat, and holds a cane/walking stick in one hand. The photographer has used a column at the viewer’s left and the back of the chair shows over Garrett’s shoulder. The image seems slightly gold toned, suggesting an 1850s date. He seems to lean slightly toward the camera in a fairly assertive pose and shows a tight-lipped smile.

We find the service record checks out fine: Henry C. Garrett enlisted as a private in Co. B 39th Virginia in June 1861 at Eastville and was present with it until early 1862 when it was disbanded and the men permitted to form new companies. Garrett was officially mustered out Feb. 5, 1862, and the company he joined became Co. B of the 19th Battalion Virginia Heavy Artillery (Atkinson’s Battalion,) with Garrett mustering in for the war on 2/21/62 at Norfolk. Companies of the battalion were reformed and consolidated during his service and on Oct. 16, 1863, he joined the third iteration of Company E, which was composed of men transferred from Co. B. By March 31, 1864, he was a sergeant, and was with the company at least through Feb. 28, 1865, the last muster roll reported in his file.

The personal data we find harder to establish or connect with his service. We estimate the photograph to date 1850-55 and place his birth in the 1820s or 1830s, but the only likely candidate, a Henry C. Garrett of Washington County died in 1859; the Henry C. Garrett we find in Cumberland County was born in 1852, making him too young for the image or the service; and, the Henry C. Garrett of the 39th Va, enlisted at Eastville, which is Northampton County, across the bay from Norfolk. Some further digging might resolve the issue, but there could be some confusion in the family identification of the sitter or link to the soldier. The latter seems more likely. In any event, the image has excellent clarity and the sitter is certainly a pretty well-off Virginian and the family name would seem reliable. It is housed in a nice green leather case with gilt blind-stamped borders. The mat is a fairly plain oval with floral scroll border. The frame, glass and velvet facing pad are in place. [sr] [ph:m]

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