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Secess Cap

 

No known record exists of how David Henry Bennett, a corporal in the 28th New York Infantry, came into possession of the Confederate cap he wears in this portrait.

But a scrap of paper inside the photograph case does provide some context.

Sixth-plate ruby ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Matt Hagans Collection.
Sixth-plate ruby ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Matt Hagans Collection.

“Who Ever sees this note first will please answer it and remember that it is from a true hearted Union Soldier if he has got on a Secess Cap, true to the union and to all Who he professes to be true to. Farewell, D.H. Bennett.”

He may have found the cap in the Shenandoah Valley, where he and his comrades had their baptism under fire in the August 1862 actions at Cedar Mountain and Rappahannock Station.

The gist of the note raises questions about his motivations. Addressed to an anonymous recipient and signed “farewell,” it suggests he experienced a premonition of his own death in battle.

If so, it came true on Sept. 17, 1862, at Antietam. Bennett was 22 years old. Born and raised in Canada, his name appears in the records of Mann Cemetery in Keswick, Ontario Province.


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