ONCE ID’D AS ROCKBRIDGE DRAGOON, LIKELY AN EARLY WAR UNION VOLUNTEER SHOWING OFF HIS NEW UNIFORM, CANTEEN AND HAVERSACK

$175.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 1154-05

This sixth-plate ambrotype was published by Albaugh on page 110 of More Confederate Faces as a member of the Rockbridge 2nd Dragoons, who went into Confederate service as Company H of the 14th Virginia Cavalry. We don’t know the basis of that identification. It may have come from where the image was found. In any case, it was made in good faith at the time, and might be accurate, but we feel more secure in identifying the sitter as a Union soldier.

The young man appears to be wearing a Union infantry 9-button dress frock coat and showing off what are likely his first accouterments: an early war style U.S. canteen with leather strap and his haversack, as shown by its wide tarred or painted canvas shoulder strap. He is bareheaded and the photographer has lightly tinted his cheeks and the backs of his hands, and lightly gilded his buttons. The collar of his coat is rather tall and his cuffs come down a bit far on his hands, illustrating some of the drawbacks of the army’s standard sizing for uniforms, perhaps an example of a, “Size 3 man in a size 4 coat.” The height of the collar also suggests an early war date for the image, as does the leather shoulder strap of the canteen, which for the most part fell by the wayside in favor of cheaper cloth straps by mid-1862. If we are correct in our identification of the sitter, the message to the folks back home was likely, “I’m in the army now.” Of course, the message would be pretty much the same with Albaugh’s identification of him as a Confederate.

The image has a narrow crack along the top, which has been repaired from the back. It has a scalloped edge mat and glass and frame are present, as is the embossed red velvet facing pad. It is housed in an embossed leatherette case showing a few minor scuffs to high points.  [sr] [ph:m]

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Simon Backus Bissell was born in Fairlee, Vt., on October 28, 1808. He was appointed Midshipman on November 6, 1824, Passed Midshipman on June 4 1831, and Lieutenant December 9, 1837. At the beginning of the Mexican-American War, he was assigned to… (870-63). Learn More »

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