“LIEUTENANT CARPENTER,” EX-BILL TURNER

$650.00

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Item Code: 1138-2027

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This oval tintype comes from the collection of the late Bill Turner, noted Civil War collector and dealer. Measuring 2.25 by 2.75 inches, the image shows a man in a double-breasted uniform coat with large brass buttons and narrow shoulder straps with plain fields. The image is very clear, though the varnish has darkened and crinkled slightly at top, more noticeable at some angles than others. It was likely housed at some point in an oval case, but has not suffered much without it, showing just a couple of shallow scratches. Bill kept notes on identifications, often supplied by families and descendants, and he noted this as “Lt. Carpenter 9th Ky Vol CSA.”

Family traditions being what they are, something went astray in the retelling and we do not find a likely candidate in the Kentucky Confederate rosters. We do find a Lieutenant Carpenter in the 9th U.S. Kentucky, which caused some immediate celebration here as an easy and very understandable answer, but the party streamers and air horns were put away when some further research indicated that that Lieutenant Carpenter had been born about 1842, making him too young for the man in the image, who both appears older and seems to wear a pre-war hair style.

The uniform also would be a problem for that identification. The large rounded buttons, the button arrangement, and lay-over collar, in fact, suggest we are looking at a Navy officer. The Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy, 1861-1865, yielded no candidates, but a prewar US Navy officer would be very possible and the plain shoulder straps could be those used to indicate a Master from 1852-1858 (according to Todd,) which would fit our impression of the date. Our best candidate meeting those criteria appeared to be Charles Carroll Carpenter, who had a great record, rising to rear-admiral, and was a Midshipman in October 1850, Passed Midshipman in 1856 and Master in 1858. Our champagne bottles, however, have remained corked. We get no Kentucky connection for him; our man looks just too old for him: C.C. Carpenter was born in 1834, making him only 24 in 1858; and, he was literally for just one day- moving up from Passed Midshipman to Mate 1/22/1858, and then to Lieutenant 1/23/1858.

The note with the image certainly links it to a family named Carpenter in Kentucky. Their guess as to his rank was likely based on his shoulder straps, which in turn led to the lieutenant in the 9th Kentucky, which they assumed was Confederate. It would not be the first case of family history being filled in erroneously by well-intentioned descendants. Further research among antebellum and early war U.S. Navy officers might provide viable candidates and possibly a firm identification, but it is a nice image in any case, showing an officer with some character.  [ad] [ph:L]

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