Cartes de Visite Study

One of the set of 29 Cartes de Visite taken in the fall of 1862

    In early fall of 1862 the majority of the men from Taylor's Battery marched in masse to one of the local photographer in Memphis to have their images struck.  With groups of 5 or 6 seated at a time, 29 cartes de visite were taken.  A total of 147 enlisted men and NCOs had their pictures taken that day.  With this being done we are able to take a pretty good look at the uniforms that were being worn by the battery at this time.

    Taylor's Battery, as most Illinois units in 1861, were dressed in state issued gray uniforms as covered  in the Enlisted Uniforms section.  On the day that the men marched down to have their images made,  they were the picture of what a light artilleryman was to be wearing per Federal Army Regulations.  There are of course some deviation from the rules but this is to be expected. For the previous month the battery had been garrisoned in Memphis.  It would seem likely that prior to the images being taken they were issued new uniforms to replace the worn out ones that they had been wearing during their time spent on campaign. Please check the Battle Honors section for more information on the battles that Taylor's Battery were involved in.  It is safe to assume that the men who attended the photo session wore their best uniforms for the occasion.

    A detailed analysis of the 29 cartes de visite shows us some interesting variations on a few items.  Every private is wearing the prescribed Shell Jacket for a light artilleryman.  Interestingly, every NCO wears a frock coat for rank distinction beyond just placing chevrons on their coats.  The nco chevrons  all comply with the U.S. regulations except for the quartermaster sergeant whose sleeve has a large pair of crossed cannon over three stripes.

    The privates' uniforms show that most of the jackets issued to them were a variant on the standard issue shell jacket.  The jackets that most of the privates are wearing are with 11 buttons not 12.  Examples of this style of jacket were produced at the St. Louis Arsenal.  This of course would be a likely source for western troops.  Several of the coats have shorter than regulated collars.  This could be for one of two reasons.  Either  manufacturer's pattern or a soldiers' field modification. The breakdown of coats worn in the cdvs is as follows:        

Frock coats (all on NCOs)


11 button uniform jackets


12 button uniform jackets


Undeterminable uniform jackets




     The predominant pant style in the Cdvs is the sky blue enlisted man's trousers.  But, there are 3 pairs of dark blue trousers mixed in.  The reinforced mounted trousers are very common.  All 3 pairs of the dark blue trousers are of this style.  Almost all of the enlisted men are wearing boots.  Four of the men are wearing their privately purchased over the knee boots.  In addition to this type of nonregulation footwear at least 7 members are wearing  civilian sport shoes.  These lightweight canvas and leather shoes were popular during the hot Tennessee summer.  One has to wonder though, how popular these shoes would of been after a few hours of stable duty.  The breakdown of footwear are as follows: 

Boots   54
Jefferson bootees (brogans)     4
Civilian sport shoes     7
Civilian leather shoes     1
Unidentifiable   81
total 147

    Most of the men of Battery B are wearing their belts for the camera.  A study of the photos show a strange mix of the following items; issued saber belts, obsolete Mexican War belts and privately purchased officer style belts.  One man even wears his oval "US" belt plate upside down.  This is even more confusing due to the fact that this was considered a Confederate fashion.  Two other members have inverted their eagle plate buckles on their belts to enable themselves to wear their sabers on the right side.  One enlisted man is pictured with a "captured" Confederate belt with a large frame buckle.  Two of the men are wearing revolver holsters on their belts.  These appear to be of smaller caliber non-issued style.  Two other men are wearing cap pouches indicating that they possibly carried side arms also.  The breakdown of belt style is as follows:

Model 1840 Dragoon Saber Belt with oval US belt plate  38
Officer's Sword Belt, private purchase  34
Model 1851 Saber Belt  22
Unidentifiable, with rectangular eagle plate  31
Unidentifiable belt and plate    7
Model 1839 Infantry belt with small oval US plate    2
Confederate Frame Buckle    1
Men not wearing belts   12
total 147

       No military photograph is complete without a sword or two in it.  25 men are pictured holding sabers.  This number can be deceiving.  Sabers with distinctive saber knots are pictured multiple times indicating that the sabers were passed around during this session.  It is hard based on this observation to conclude the percentage of who carried what saber pattern.  Enough sabers appear to conclude the battery was issued a wide range of edged weapons. A rough list of  saber patterns are as follows:

Model 1833 dragoon sabers
Model 1840 dragoon sabers
Model 1860 cavalry sabers
Model 1840 light artillery sabers

    After spending 3 months in Memphis Battery B was on the move again.  Involved in a few battles and the siege of Vicksburg the Battery was to go onto serve with distinction throughout the rest of the war.  In July of 1864 their term of enlistment ended and they were mustered out.  The majority of the veterans with a mix of new recruits were transferred to the 1st Illinois Light Artillery Battery "A".  With this unit they fought and died until the end of the war.  The cdvs taken during this sitting are a great chance for us to study the typical western federal artilleryman.  More importantly, these cdvs are of greater importance because of the fact they were taken, to preserve the memory of comrades and friends.

* Note:  This article is based on an article by Richard K. Tibbals. The Uniforms of Battery B, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, 1862.  Military Collector and Historian, 38 (Summer 1986), pp. 88-92.