Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Looking Closely at Old Photos

Posted in Media, Memory by Andy Hall on March 19, 2011

One of the (many) things to love about the online collections at the Library of Congress is that many of the images there are made available in high- or very-high resolution, in TIFF format. The glass plate negatives used at the time often captured far more detail that is apparent when the image is reproduced in a book, or at a size that fits conveniently on a computer monitor.

Not long ago I used a Library of Congress image of the ferry connecting Mason’s Island (now Theodore Roosevelt Island) to Georgetown. But looking more closely at that image, I keep coming back to one of the privates at the landing, standing guard while his colleagues check the passes of people coming off the ferry. There’s nothing particular about his pose; he’s standing in profile, facing to the left, seemingly oblivious to the photographer capturing his likeness. But even though I know next to nothing about period firearms, his weapon strikes me as unusual. Is that a patch box on the stock? What sort of bayonet is that? Do these details provide clues as to his unit?

And what’s up with the cut of those trousers?