ARMED CAVALRYMAN JAMES M. COLEMAN, COMPANY H, BASIL DUKE’S 2nd KENTUCKY CAVALRY, ONE OF MORGAN’S MEN

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Item Code: 1138-1841

Images of Confederate cavalrymen are scarce and those from the western theatre doubly or triply so. This ninth plate ambrotype comes from the collection of well-known dealer and collector Bill Turner and shows a bearded Confederate cavalryman wearing a narrow brim hat turned up on one side, a gray battle shirt with a single large breast pocket, and holding a cavalry saber. There are some spots to the plate and a narrow band of solarization. The image has softened over the years, losing contrast, but the photographer outlined his pocket in yellow, denoted his lapel and some cuff trim, and a trouser stripe. He also touched the guard and pommel with gold. This is housed in a nice Monitor case, with mat, glass and frame intact. A small sword-shaped tie pin is thrust into the red velvet facing pad.

Bill was meticulous in keeping identifications with images and this one still has its label identifying the sitter as James M. Coleman, Co. H, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. The regiment was organized in the summer of 1862 and had men from Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, as well as Kentucky, but used John Hunt Morgan’s “Kentucky Cavalry Squadron.” Coleman’s records are fragmentary, list him with no middle initial, and show only that he enlisted Sept. 1, 1862, at Lexington, to serve three years and that he was left sick at Bardstown on November 2, with no further records in his file on discharge or further service. He may have returned to service in the 2nd, but even during the two months he can be documented with the outfit it was incredibly active, by CWData’s list, seeing action in some 25 engagements in Kentucky. Most of the regiment was captured in Morgan’s 1863 raid in Ohio, so we would expect some further record if he was among them at that point. He does not seem to be the same James M. Coleman who served in Helm’s 1st KY Cavalry, or even Sergeant James H. Coleman (by a mistaken middle initial), but that unit was consolidated with the 3rd KY Cavalry and the James Coleman listed in that unit is accounted for from 1861 to 1863. But he might well have been among the members of Morgan’s initial cavalry squadron, which itself had men from Morgan’s Lexington Rifles.

Further research may fill in parts of his biography. What we have, however, places him firmly in Morgan’s brigade at a point when they were seeing action.  [sr] [ph:m]

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