Web Faces of War




About the cover carte

The staff of the Johns Hopkins University Press suggested that the book jacket cover feature an image of an unidentified soldier to represent the millions of faces of ordinary men who volunteered to serve in the Union armies. I wholeheartedly approved of the idea, and knew exactly which carte de visite I would choose to grace the cover.

The unknown soldier pictured in this carte de visite sits on a simple chair on a floor made of rough boards and draped by a curtain or blanket, indicative of an itinerant photographer, or a photographer who traveled with the hometown troops and set up shop on the outskirts of camp. In any case, there is no marking on the front or back of the image to tell us who took this image, or any clue as to the identity of the subject. He wears a greatcoat, which covers most of his uniform: A section of his oval waist belt plate is visible, indicating that he is an enlisted man. In plain site is the federal eagle breast plate and belt, which was attached to a cartridge box hidden by his coat. He also wears a standard issue forage cap. His head is ever so slightly turned away from the camera, and his eyes are turned downward.

This is one of my favorite images. I puchased it in the mid-90s from Henry Deeks, a dealer in American carte de visite portraits for more than thirty years, and one of the most knowledgable collectors in the field.

Cover carte Union

facebook_logo facebook_logo   flickr_logo