This carte de visite by prolific Tennessee photographer Theodore M. Schleier pictures two Union officers with muddy boots. They stand with swords drawn, a signal of authority over enlisted men. They are identified only as “Capt. Martin” and “Lt. Kile.”
A federal private is seated on Lookout Mountain, his hat laying beside him. This spot was a favorite for soldiers, families and others touring the Chattanooga battlefield during the Civil War, and continues today.
This Union captain is captured in a double exposure photograph, or Photoshop 1860s style. The best brief explanation I’ve found is from an exhibit titled “Early Double Exposure Portraits” on lomography.com:
In the 1860’s photographers were looking for a way to boost their business. Because of this, they thought of a way to make the subjects appear twice in the photograph – thus the birth of double exposure. In the images presented here, you can see that the subject is seen twice in the photo but having a different position. To create this type of image, the photographer would shoot the subject in one position and then the subject must move swiftly to another position before the second image is taken. The photographers also used rotating lens caps and special plates to come up with these double-exposed images.
Samuel A. McCulley (also spelled McCauley) numbered among the thousands of Pennsylvanians who rallied to defend the homeland after Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia invaded in June 1863. McCulley served a 60-day term of enlistment as a sergeant with Company A of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Militia Infantry. The regiment was organized at Philadelphia on July 3, 1863—the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg. It mustered out on September 2, 1863.
This carte de visite is new to my collection. The condition and content is excellent. Clearly visible is the infantry horn insignia pinned to his hat, and the bright brass “A” in the middle. The tip of the plume attached to his hat can just be seen. The edge of his jacket where the buttons attached seems to be double-stitched, perhaps to insure that it holds up under the rigors of campaign.
New to the collection is this carte de visite of two Union comrades flanking a column. Both men wear the chevrons of a sergeant on their uniform; the soldier on the right has a diamond at the inner angle of the chevron, which indicates that he is a first sergeant. Selected by the company captain, a first sergeant was the ranking non-commissioned officer in a Civil War company. It is his job to receive orders from the captain and be sure they are carried out.
I presented a talk about African American Faces of the Civil War at the Polk County Historical Association in Columbus, N.C., on Tuesday. I had a great time thanks to PCHS president Anna Conner, who made all the arrangements, and Al Creasy, who made sure the projector was up and running. (It was!)
This was a homecoming for me. My mother Carol has lived in the area for 35 years. She and my brother Gary and sister-in-law Wendy came out, and I did not heckle me off the podium! Also in attendance was my great friend Allan Pruette, who came with a folder full of clips of my work from my days at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and elsewhere.
I met a number of local folks, including Craig, Garrett, and the venerable James Payne. Thanks to all for attending.
I truly enjoyed my visit, and having the opportunity to share the stories and photos of these men who participated in the Civil War. Book sales were strong, and I appreciate the support.
The talk was captured on video, and will be available on CD for members to borrow from the PCHS library. Kudos to the association for making this service available. Anna pointed out several of the videos that were oral histories of now-deceased citizens of the county.
Fun fact: Polk County is not named for the eleventh president, but William Polk, a Revolutionary War colonel who survived Valley Forge and participated in numerous engagements with Washington’s army.