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Friday, September 14, 2012

Civil War Photo Friday: Confederate Cavalryman or Bushwhacker?

I came across this curious photo in the Library of Congress online archive. The caption says this guy is an "unidentified cavalry soldier in Confederate uniform with slant breech Sharps carbine, two knives, and two revolvers."

This is not, however, a regulation uniform. The shirt looks about right except for the decoration on the front and breast pocket. The hat is also nonregulation. In addition, few Confederate cavalry were armed with the Sharps carbine, with only about 5,000 being produced in the South.

So is this really a Confederate cavalryman? As I've mentioned frequently on this blog, rebel uniforms often varied quite a bit because of shortages and the men supplying their own clothes. So this odd-looking fellow could indeed be a cavalryman.

There's another possibility. He may be a bushwhacker. These guerrilla warriors often went heavily armed with multiple weapons. They also liked wearing decorated "guerrilla shirts", a subject I'll delve into further in a post next week.

Whoever he is, I'm glad I didn't have to face him in battle!


  1. Who took all these photos? Were there army photographers? I'd suspect he's a bushwhacker, which could be any disgruntled soldier (from either side). But I bow to your wisdom in these matters.

    1. Photographers followed the main armies and there were photographers in most towns and all cities. Civil War historians are fortunate that the war happened during the first big boom in personal photography! Most people could afford a photo and since the most popular process was the tintype, many of these pics have survived.

      "Bushwhacker" is generally used for rebels, although the term's meaning is sometimes blurred. While it's possible this guy's a Unionist, I doubt it for three reasons.

      Firstly, it's doubtful a Unionist would have posed for a photo in a Confederate shirt. Secondly, the decoration on the shirt is typical of rebel guerrilla shirts of the Trans-Mississippi Theater, especially Missouri and Arkansas. Third, there were many more rebel guerrillas than Union ones. This is because many secessionists found themselves stuck in "Union" states and the shortages of equipment, food, and pay in the Confederate army made it more attractive to be a guerrilla and fight the war "on your own hook".

      Of course we'll never know for sure. . .

  2. I know that shirt, that boy's got Texas written all over him. My gut tells me he's a Texan serving in combat in Missouri. I'd bet the prize cow in it!


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