Thursday, May 30, 2019

Unknown Officer: Photographing the 119th Pennsylvania, Part 5.

In the last few posts, I’ve profiled some of characters in a photograph depicting the officers of the 119th Pennsylvania. Now it’s time to examine this fellow here:

Here’s the thing, I have no idea who he is. I would dismiss him as an inconsequential character except that he appears in two of the other photographs in this series. You can see him standing in front of Company E in this photograph. (You will also recognize Captain William C. Gray from a previous post standing on the left side of the same company.)

Also, you can see this same unnamed lieutenant in this photograph, standing alongside several sergeants and Captain Gray.

Here is a close-up:

At first glance, I assumed he must have been Company E’s second lieutenant, Joseph A. Seffarlan; however, Seffarlan was dismissed from the service in December 1863, before these photographs were taken. Thus, I don’t think it is him. 

Further, not every soldier in these two images belonged to Company E. There is another company (unidentified) in the first photograph and two first sergeants in the second. (One of the first sergeants—the one in the middle—is James Dutton of Company E, but I do not know the other one.)

So, I’m stumped as to the identity of this particular officer. However, I’ve been able to narrow it down.

In the winter of 1864, the 119th Pennsylvania possessed only five second lieutenants:
  • 2nd Lt. Henry C. Warner
  • 2nd Lt. George G. Lovett (who was killed-in-action at the Wilderness)
  • 2nd Lt. Samuel L. Ward, Jr. (who resigned March 12, 1864)
  • 2nd Lt. Edward Ford
  • 2nd Lt. Alfred Hannings (who was assigned on December 23, 1863, but apparently never mustered)

This young officer must be one of these five, but I worry I won’t be able to figure it out. I guess this is part and parcel of the experience of working with Civil War photographs. Sometimes, there are things that will never be known. Yet, for some reason, I feel as if there is another story that needs to be told. Frustratingly, it’s just out of my reach.

Alas, the curse of the historian. Somehow, I must know the unknowable!

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