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Antebellum Warriors

A Prototypical Militiaman on the Eve of War

Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Rick Brown Collection.

Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Rick Brown Collection.
Detail.
Detail.

The uniform worn by this gent is relatively common among mid-19th century militiamen, which can create a conundrum when attempting to pin down his state of origin. His 1851 Pattern shako with an 1821 Pattern eagle insignia are ubiquitous, and the letters O and G indicate his membership in a company that might have been organized in towns and cities on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. The light-toned uniform, likely gray, and the style of his collar and cuffs were popular choices. The presence of eagles on the breastplate attached to the shoulder belt and on the buttons, and the U.S. waist belt plate are not unusual. Pro-secession or pro-Union supporters, or perhaps some other cause, might have donned the ribbon-trimmed badge he wears, distinguished by a star at its center. Taking into account all the elements described here and the format—an ambrotype—suggests a prototypical militiaman on the eve of the Civil War.

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