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Faces of the Confederacy: 125 salt print photographs

(CIVIL WAR.). (English) An Extraordinary Confederate Photograph and Autograph Album of Dr. R. L. C. White, with his signature dated December 23, 1859 in the first volume

Lebanon, Tennessee, 1859-1862

117 leaves with 125 mounted oval salt prints (approx. 2 ½ x 3 ½ in.) and signatures and inscriptions of 139 fellow Cumberland University students and faculty. Two volumes. Original black and brown roan, gilt-stamped “Autographs,” all edges gilt. Bindings worn and shaken, one board detached. Some fading to photographs, occasional stains, but generally in good condition. Half morocco case.

MORE THAN 100 SOUTHERN BOYS WHO WENT TO WAR. This is a unique photographic record of young men, from across the South, most of whom fought for the Confederacy. The collection comprises 125 rare salt prints made in 1859-1862. All but eight of the men represented in these albums went on to serve in the Confederate military, in a total of 88 units. Four fought for the Union, and four remained neutral. 13 were killed in action, 24 were wounded in action, and 24 became prisoners of war. The men fought in many of the war’s major engagements including Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and others. The album is heavily annotated with names, autographs, inscriptions, dates, places, fraternal memberships, and for some, eventual fates.

R. L. C. White (1844-1909) entered Cumberland University at age 16 in 1859. Over the next three years, he assembled in these albums the photographic portraits and/or autographs of 139 fellow Cumberland University students and faculty. In 1862 White enlisted in Company K, 8th Tennessee Cavalry, the “Cedar Snags,” which served as escort to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and later Gen. John B. Hood. Many of those from White’s hometown of Lebanon organized themselves into a militia unit called the Lebanon Greys, later Company H, 7th Tenn., led by Col. Robert Halton. A number of the young men are in the militia uniform of the Lebanon Greys or Wilson Blues. Other classmates went home to join the soldiers of their own states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, and Virginia.

White, who went on to become a physician and a newspaper editor, has annotated these volumes with the units and fates of a number of his Cumberland friends and acquaintances, one-quarter of whom became casualties. This collection was the source for the images in Floyd & Gibson, The Boys Who Went to War from Cumberland University: 1861-1865 (Gettysburg, 2001), which provides biographical sketches of the young men. Among the many noteworthy men and amazing stories represented in these volumes are:

Lt. Gen. A. P. Stewart. A faculty member at Cumberland, Stewart was one of the leading figures in the Army of Tennessee and was Polk’s successor as corps commander during the battle for Atlanta. Stewart was with Johnston when he finally surrendered bringing the war to a close. This may be the earliest extant photograph of Stewart.

Lt. Andrew Willis Gould. Gould famously considered himself dishonored by his commanding officer Nathan Bedford Forrest, who accused him of losing two captured Union guns. In the ensuing confrontation Gould shot Forrest and was fatally stabbed in return.

Sgt. John Ferris. Ferris was nominated for the Confederate Roll of Honor for his actions at the battle of Murfreesboro.

Lt. Elisha Dismukes. Severely wounded at Second Manassas, Dismukes recovered and was wounded again at Gettysburg, where he was captured. After being released in a prisoner exchange, he rejoined his unit yet again at Petersburg before finally surrendering there at war’s end.

Salt print photographs, prized by collectors today, reached their greatest popularity in the late 1850s, when they were eclipsed by albumen photographs. Salt prints of Confederate soldiers are notoriously scarce, and a collection of this size is truly remarkable.

This collection, representing the entire breadth of the Confederacy and set in the context of autograph inscriptions often reflecting the sitters’ youthful ideals and aspirations, is worthy of the finest collections of the history of the Civil War, the South, and photographic history.

$32,000