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Published:June 12th, 2012 08:04 EST
Unidentified Photographs from The Museum of the Confederacy Tell Us So Much About Our History!

Unidentified Photographs from The Museum of the Confederacy Tell Us So Much About Our History!

By John G. Kays

The Museum of the Confederacy, which is located in Richmond, Virginia, is attempting to identify eight Civil War Era photographs (with lost provenance) from their collection of 6,000 images. Who are these little girls? How did their lives turn out after Appomattox? What about the rebel who probably died at Shiloh? Who`s this dignified looking southern belle, with a frilly gown, painted pink blush, golden earrings, and a necklace of gold?  

An Associated Press article (Civil War photos: Help sought to solve old mystery, by Steve Szkotak) , covering these eight photographs that badly need identification, has been making the rounds on the usual suspects of social media. One wonders why people today would be so interested in these photographs, that are more than 150 years old? I`d say, it`s because they are very compelling images, that tell us much about our history, who we were, or what we became as the war tore our country asunder.

The example of the southern belle again (the photo was found with the effects of a soldier known as Joseph Warren), shows a woman who still proudly displays an attitude  upholding the strength of her moribund culture. What I`m trying to say, is by the time this photo was discovered, much of this well-developed culture had begun to crumble to the ground.

The value of this lost keepsake, which we shouldn`t put a price tag on, is that it captures a moment in time that was fleeing fast and would never return! The same goes for the confederate soldier who stands tall and proud; he probably died the very next day at the Battle of Shiloh, while considerately thinking to leave the ambrotype with Mrs L. M. C. Lee of Corinth, Miss.

But who is this man? Or who was he? I`m only speculating, but perhaps he had a strong inkling he wouldn`t survive Shiloh the next day, so he leaves the pic with this woman, believing his memory would be preserved, safe in the hands of this lady, who was possibly his girlfriend. We still have the photo, so his wishes came true; the only problem is that Mrs. Lee didn`t write down his name or identity anywhere. Or maybe she did, but her notes are gone.

As I examined these eight photographs, who are in bad need of finding a home, I paid a visit to The Museum of the Confederacy`s web page, sensing they must have the best collection of southern relics or ephemera, dating from the Civil War Era. One online exhibit of the paintings of Conrad Wise Chapman was most fascinating to me.

The paintings show southern fortifications at Charleston, which were commissioned by none other than Brig. Gen. Gustave Toutant Beauregard, who had retreated at Shiloh (April of 1862) after sustaining heavy casualties. The Shiloh connection to the confederate soldier has been mentioned previously.

I would love to visit The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. I`m glad they put out this request also, asking the public to help in identifying these photos lost to time. This inquiry is inspiring me to study The Civil War once again! We know who these people are, yet we don`t know what their exact names are, what families they came from, or where they lived. I mean, we know what their values are, or what they stood for. This belle is the real Scarlet O`Hara, symbolically at least!

The Associated Press: Civil War photos: Help sought to solve old mystery

Collections & Archives | Museum of the Confederacy