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South Carolina Militiaman?

A yard sale discovery in Florence, S.C., in the 1980s turned up this circa late 1850s image. In antebellum times, the city comprised part of Darlington District. This militiaman might be a private in the full dress uniform of the Darlington Riflemen.

Dr. Elizabeth Hoole McArthur described the members of this company in Bound for Glory: A Brief History of the Darlington Rifles. “These men were in fact skilled riflemen, as their name indicated, and could, it was said, ‘shoot a squirrel through the eye or bring down a wild turkey or any other game with the old-fashioned, long-barreled rifles which were much in favor as sporting guns at that day.’”

Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Ron Field Collection.
Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Ron Field Collection.

During the Civil War, the Rifles became Company A of the 8th South Carolina Infantry. The regiment fought in numerous major battles, including First Manassas, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cedar Creek. The 8th fought with Gen. Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, and 52 of its number surrendered on April 26, 1865.

This militiaman wears a frock coat with three rows of buttons that may be embossed with a palmetto pattern. He also wears buff or white leather waist and shoulder belts, and cradles a brass-handled Model 1855 saber bayonet for the Model 1855 Rifle. His Pattern 1851 cap features a plate bearing the letter “R” at centre, and Pattern 1834 infantry horn insignia with “1830” set in the loop. (The company was founded as the Darlington Volunteer Rifle Corps in the 1830s.)

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