Civil War Union Officer Daguerreotype
Sold at auction by Britannic Auctions for $248 in December 2022, this small, oval-shaped blue velvet cased daguerreotype depicts a Union Army officer from the Civil War era. Measuring 2.5” x 2” inches, it offers insight into the lives of soldiers during this pivotal period.
Unfortunately, like so many daguerreotype portraits from the 19th century, this gentleman is unidentified. His name remains a mystery.
Civil War Photography
During the Civil War, photography played a crucial role in documenting soldiers and officers on both sides of the conflict.
Portraits of officers were particularly common, serving as mementos for loved ones back home and as a means of preserving their memory for future generations. These portraits often depicted officers in their military regalia, posing stoically or proudly with their weapons or other insignia of rank.
While some portraits were formal studio shots, like this example, others were taken in camp settings or amidst the battlefield, offering a look at the harsh realities of war.
Original Daguerreotype Case
Antique daguerreotypes tended to be quite delicate and were prone to tarnishing as the images were made on small, silver-plated copper sheets. Thus, the images were placed behind a piece of cover glass and tightly sealed with tape to preserve the plate and protect it from exposure to the air.
Due to the delicacy of the silver plate with the added glass, the pieces were then put into small, decorative hinged cases as seen in this example. This allowed the case to protect the daguerreotype image from potential damage, though after a century and a half of handling, storage and wear, a great majority of original daguerreotype cases show the effects of their journeys through life.
Cased daguerreotypes which are today found in very good condition are typically more highly prized among collectors at auction.