Armed and Ready for War
Attired in a three-button battle shirt or blouse with thick trim on the pockets and cuffs, this private strikes a determined look as he brandishes a Colt Pocket Revolver. A Sheffield Fighting Knife thrust into his waist belt completes the portrait of a soldier who means business. He is John L. Vanhorn—possibly one of two men with this name from North Carolina who served in the Confederate army. One enlisted in the 32nd North Carolina Infantry on May 1, 1864, which date suggests he was a conscript. Captured about two weeks later at Mine Run, Va., he died on July 4, 1864. The other soldier also enlisted in 1864. A resident of Tyrrell County, he served in Spencer’s Independent Company of North Carolina Cavalry.
North Carolina Boys in Lee’s Army
Key to the identification of these soldiers is the backdrop that depicts a sailboat on a calm lake below a range of rolling hills, flora and fauna. This same bucolic scene is found in other portraits connected with the 20th North Carolina Infantry, a part of the Army of Northern Virginia for the majority of its existence. The metal characters attached to the cap of the man seated on the right, an XX and a B, indicates that he served in Company B of the 20th, which was organized in Carrabus County as the Carrabus Black Boys. The letters on the cap of the other soldier suggest he served in the Fair Bluff Volunteers, which became Company C of the regiment. Both men wear homemade uniforms, and pose with Harper’s Ferry Model 1841 rifles, or “Mississippi Rifles.”
An officer dressed in a dark-colored coat and trousers sits with two sergeants. The cap worn by the man in the middle includes an insignia that appears to be a bird with outstretched wings, perhaps an eagle or pelican feeding its young. Though the sergeants’ uniforms are ubiquitous, the officer’s attire is associated with early war Tennessee regiments.
The unusual ornamental piece around the neck of this soldier suggests Native American origins. The presence of this item and the provenance of the image (Mebane, N.C.) may indicate his service in the Thomas Legion of North Carolina, which includes five companies of men from the Cherokee Nation. He wears a gray uniform with key fob and overcoat, and holds a Colt pistol.
Enjoying a Quality Cigar
Two soldiers brandish cigars—one in a mouth, and the other in a hand. They are clad in civilian shirts complete with suspenders and cravats, and dark-colored trousers with wide stripes—a look common to soldiers of Georgia and South Carolina regiments in the spring of 1861.