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A Militiaman of a Different Stripe


Quarter-plate daguerreotype by an anonymous photographer. Jules Martino collection.
Quarter-plate daguerreotype by an anonymous photographer. Jules Martino collection.

At first glance, the rank insignia worn by this soldier seems at odds. The elongated chevrons appear to indicate his rank as corporal. Yet, his epaulettes suggest that he served as an officer. He is a member of a militia company however, which often used a system of stripes to denote an officer’s rank. The stripe system varied from one company to another. Based on available evidence, this man likely served as an ensign or a lieutenant.

His rank as a militia officer becomes clearer when one considers his waist belt plate. Its spread-eagle and wreath motif is modeled on the U.S. army’s 1834 pattern for regimental officers. Further evidence of his status lies in his sword, which appears to be an infantry officer’s design that features an eagle head hilt, counterguard and bone or ivory grip. Though obscured, the detail of his buttons most likely feature a spread eagle with a shield inscribed with an “I” to indicate his branch of service.

The pattern 1839 forage cap is worthy of note. The white or light-colored band and the base of the cap appears to have the date “1845” set into it.

The image is housed in a mid 1840’s geometric case. The plate is marked “L.B.B. & Co.” which dates it from about 1842-45.

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