FULL STANDING CDV OF A FAMOUS CONFEDERATE PRISONER AND HIS GUARD – MISTAKEN TO BE JOHN H. SURRATT AND IMPRISONED FOR FIVE MONTHS

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Item Code: 1138-1323

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Image is of Captain John G. Ryan and his guard from the 120th Illinois.

Ryan and his guard are posed side by side and both are striking the usual Napoleonic pose. The unknown guard is a 2nd lieutenant believed to be from the 120th Illinois. He wears a dark frock coat and matching trousers with his sword belt, sash and sword. He also wears his sash diagonally across his chest signifying that he is serving as Office of the Day.

Ryan wears full Confederate uniform, a medium-colored double-breasted frock coat with light colored cuffs and captain’s insignia on the collar, matching light trousers, sash, sword belt with a US Pattern 1851 NCO belt plate and sword.

Contrast and clarity are excellent. Mount and paper are good however the photographer glued the paper image to a mount that had a raised embossed false frame that is now faintly showing through.

Reverse is blank but for a collector’s pencil notation that reads “JOHN G. RYAN “THE MYSTERIOUS PRISONER” AND MR. GUARD OF THE 120TH ILL.”

Image is from the collection of the late William A. Turner.

Records are kind of sketchy for Ryan’s service. Various newspapers say he served in a Texas regiment and others say an Arkansas regiment. Ryan himself in an interview he gave to the St. Louis dispatch in 1875 says that he served in an Arkansas regiment.

His story is that in July of 1865 while stopping in Memphis to visit friends, he was arrested by the Provost Marshall there. After being questioned and searched, he was manacled and locked in a cell in solitary confinement without being informed of the charges against him.

After several days he was taken to a blacksmith and had a ball and chain attached to each leg with a chain running from his manacled leg to his hands. He was transported to Baltimore where he was assaulted by a crowd and almost murdered. Arriving in Washington, D.C. he was put in Old Capital Prison. While there he procured a newspaper stating that he was assumed to be John H. Surratt.

After five months of cruel treatment, he was released and returned to civilian life without fanfare or apology. [ad] [ph:L]

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