IDENTIFIED MUSICIAN OF THE PETERSBURG MILITIA

$2,500.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1138-1866

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Formerly in the collection of Bill Turner, this sixth plate ambrotype has a great pedigree, having been published as Figure 2 in Albaugh’s landmark “Confederate Faces.” Identified there as a, “Musician named Crowder, of Petersburg, Va., in Militia Uniform,” the image is still in its original case, which bears a period ink inscription in the back: “Capt. Crowder / Peters burg Militia,” obviously the source of Albaugh’s information.

Crowder is shown seated in a knees-up portrait holding a large saxhorn fitted with a lyre-shaped music holder across his chest. He wears a dark, single-breasted frock coat, with larger buttons on the front, two smaller buttons on each cuff, and narrow shoulder straps. The photographer has gilded all the metal elements and his shoulder straps as well.

Crowder’s identification still presents some difficulties, the main question being whether the writer of the inscription knew that Crowder later became a captain in the militia or Confederate service, or was fooled by the shoulder straps into thinking he was an officer and guessed his rank. (The narrow straps were either to retain epaulets or simple additions to dress up a bandsman’s uniform, which we have seen elsewhere.) Other things are possible, too: perhaps he was a captain in one militia company and also chose to serve as a bandsman in another (maybe not too likely,) or he was nicknamed “captain.” In any case, the fragmentary nature of militia records complicates the search. The only Crowder who readily shows up with connections to the Petersburg Militia is John C. Crowder, noted as “a noble youth,” killed in action fighting off Ben Butler’s thrust at Petersburg June 9, 1864. Records do not mention him as a bandsman, though he could have been at some point, but neither does he seem to have been an officer. And, our one Virginia militia Captain Crowder (at least so far,) William H. Crowder of the 28th VA Militia, was from Nelson County, and is also the only feasible Confederate Captain Crowder from Virginia, serving as captain in the 49th Virginia 1861-1862.

The image is housed in an unusual thermoplastic figural case with a geometric and floral border surrounding a central panel of leaves and berries on one side and a scene of a knight and lady playing chess in an arched panel on the other. The case is in very good condition and the mat, frame, glass and facing pad are in place. The image has some solarization around the edge of the mat and some small spotting. It is worth researching further and would be a nice addition to a collection relating to Petersburg, the Virginia militia, or Civil War era military bands.  [sr] [ph:m]

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