04 Jan 2015

Civil War Photos

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William T. Beidler

Kuriositas looks at Young Faces of the American Civil War. Apparently, some people collect Civil War photographs and devote considerable research into trying to identify the individual soldier who is the subject of the photograph.

Somehow we expect their faces to be different, not so staggeringly modern looking. Place them in contemporary clothing and all of these young men would not look out of place in a mall or a high school yearbook. Yet these extraordinary ambrotype and tintype photographs were taken during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Almost 150 years separates their lives from our own yet their youthful faces retain a powerful resonance and an immediacy which brings that dreadful conflict in to our imagination.

Who were these young men? What sort of lives did they live during and (one hopes) after the Civil War? The names of many of the young men pictured here are unknown, their fates a mystery. Yet despite the century and a half gap between their careful posing for the camera, some can still be identified. Astonishingly, names can still be discovered, as well as insight in to their character and personality.

Above is William T. Beidler, photographed with an already-archaic flintlock musket. Young Beidler, along with two of his brothers, served in Mosby’s 43rd Virginia Cavalry Battalion. He was born 9 December 1845 and enlisted from Fauquier County 10 February 1864. He served as a 4th Sergeant (not a Captain) in Captain William H. Chapman’s Company C.

He is recorded as having participated in actions: 12 March 1865 at the “Hague” near Kinsale, Westmoreland County, 21 March 1865 at Hamilton, and 4 May 1865 at Charles Town. West Virginia.

After the war, he worked in the wholesale drygoods business in Baltimore, where he died 7 August 1897 (aet. 53).


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