A soldier brandishes a spear-point Bowie knife as he sits in front of a painted canvas, familiarly known as the Confederate Hill backdrop. Only a few known military portraits with this backdrop exist. The identity of the backdrop is currently a mystery. One supposition identifies the soldier as a sergeant in the 37th Battalion Georgia Infantry, circa 1861. This suggests a Georgia connection, though other students of Civil War photography believe the backdrop has its origins in North Carolina.
The distinctive uniform worn by this soldier is a dead match for portraits of Alabamians who served in the 5th Cavalry Battalion of Hilliard’s Legion. Henry W. Hilliard organized the force in the spring of 1862. He had previously served as Commissioner of the Confederate States to Tennessee. Its five battalions—three of infantry and one each of artillery and cavalry—included approximately 3,000 volunteers. The artillery and cavalry battalions later separated, and assigned elsewhere. The infantry battalions went on to suffer heavy losses at the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga. The identity and fate of this soldier, who holds a .31 caliber Model 1849 Colt Pocket revolver, is not known
The identity of this apparent Confederate cavalry second lieutenant is currently lost to history.
This portrait, found in an estate sale in Murfreesboro, Tenn., pictures a bearded soldier with a Colt Revolving rifle in his hands, and a Model 1851 Colt Navy revolver tucked into his belt. The design of the dark single-breasted frock with light collar and pointed cuffs is consistent with early war uniforms issued by the state of Tennessee. The Quartermaster Department provided the uniforms to the 2nd, 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 23rd, 31st, 45th and 55th Tennessee infantries, and the 3rd Memphis Battalion.
The D-Guard Bowie knife carried by this clean-shaven Confederate inserts into a unique studded sheath attached to his belt. Also tucked into his belt, a Colt revolver. He holds a musket in one hand and a book in the other. The photograph was found in Shelbyville, Tenn.
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