Last week, Buck Zaidel, an acquaintance of mine who is a Civil War image collector and co-author of Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories, shared with me an image from his collection, purportedly of a 48th Pennsylvania soldier, or at least, as he said, that is how it was sold to him. Although there is no concrete identification of the soldier's identity either on or that came with the quarter plate image, I told Buck that "at first glance," this fella certainly "has the look" of a 48th PA soldier.
I think you will agree that it is a rather striking, somewhat unusual image. It shows a young soldier with a sturdy build who has the look of a fun-loving prankster, posing for a photographer, holding up a piece of hardtack, his camp cup, and a spoon with some kind of food (rice?), while his rifle and knapsack lie nearby, making it clear what he believed better depicted or illustrated a Civil War soldier's life.
But if this is, indeed, a 48th Pennsylvania soldier, then who can it be?
[Courtesy of Mr. Buck Zaidel]
There are, of course, a good number of clues. Someone, at some point, tinted the image a bit, and used what appears to be a gold paint to highlight the soldier's hat brass, buckle, and initials on his knapsack. The '48' is clearly visible on his knapsack, as are the initials "W.M." We can also see a company; it looks at first glimpse like "Co. C," although, on closer inspection, it could very well be "Co. E," especially since the "C" in "Co." looks much different than the letter next to it. Another clue, perhaps, is on his right arm; there may be chevrons there, indicating the rank of corporal, or it may just be a fold in his uniform. But let's just go with the initials upon the knapsack.
Examining the roster of the 48th, we find only one--just one--soldier in all of Company C who had the initials, "W.M." and that was Private William Miles who joined the regiment on January 25, 1865, at age 35, who stood 5'7" in height and who, promptly, deserted two months later, on March 28, 1865. It does not seem likely that the soldier in the photograph is Miles, since Miles was with the regiment for only two months and since the soldier in the image appears younger than 35, or at least that's how he appears to me.
So perhaps it does say "Co. E" on his knapsack. Let's look at who had the initials "W.M." within the ranks of Company E, 48th PA. . .
There were seven members of that company with these initials, and they were:
1. William McKay/Mackey: Date of Enlistment: 8/20/1861; Age at Enlistment: 30; Height: 5'4; Complexion: Dark; Eyes: Blue; Hair: Sandy; Occupation: Engineer; Residence: Schuylkill Co.; Notes: Killed in Action 2nd Bull Run, 8/29/1862.
2. William J. Morgan: Date of Enlistment: 8/20/1861; Age at Enlistment: 23; Height: 5'9; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Brown; Hair: Sandy; Occupation: Coal Miner; Residence: Schuylkill Co. ; Date of Discharge: 7/17/1865; Notes: Wounded at Spotsylvania, 5/12/1864; Wounded Petersburg, 4/2/1865; Veteran
3.William McElrath: Date of Enlistment: 2/7/1864; Age at Enlistment: 17; Height: 5'5; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Hazel; Hair: Light; Occupation: Laborer; Enlisted in Pottsville; Born: Schuylkill Co.; Date of Discharge: 2/6/1865; Notes: Wounded Petersburg, 9/11/1864; Arm Amputated; Discharged on Surgeon's Certificate.
4. William Matthews: Date of Enlistment: 3/22/1864; Age at Enlistment: 23; Height: 5'7 ¾; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Grey; Hair: Sandy; Occupation: Waterman; Enlisted in Philadelphia; Born: Ireland; Notes: Deserted, 3/24/1864 in Philadelphia
5. William Moose: Date of Enlistment: 11/24/1861; Age at Enlistment: 26; Height: 5'6 ¾; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Brown; Hair: Chestnut; Occupation: Boatman; Residence: Schuylkill Co. ; Notes: Wounded 2nd Bull Run, 8/29/1862; Died in Pottsville
6.William Mullen (Sr.): Date of Enlistment: 2/25/1864; Age at Enlistment: 45; Enlisted in Pottsville; Born: Ireland; Date of Discharge: 2/15/1865; Notes: Discharged on Surgeon's Certificate
7. William Mullen (Jr.): Date of Enlistment: 3/26/1865; Age at Enlistment: 19; Height: 5'2 ½; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Grey; Hair: Dark; Occupation: Laborer; Enlisted in Pottsville; Born: Ireland; Date of Discharge: 7/17/1865; Born: 1847; Died: 3/13/1919; Philadelphia, PA; buried as William M. Crossen; buried Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon, Delaware County, PA
From these seven possibilities, I feel confident we can strike at least two immediately from the list. William Matthews (who was with the regiment only two days and likely did not have the time nor the opportunity to pose for a photograph!), and William Mullen, Sr., who was 45 years of age at the time of his enlistment.
This, then, leaves us with William McKay, William Morgan, William McElrath, William Moose, and William Mullen, Jr. But perhaps we can also strike Morgan from the list since the roster shows him as standing at 5'9" in height; taller, it would seem, than the soldier in the photograph. If we do eliminate Wm. Morgan from the list of possibilities, then we are left with four: McKay, McElrath, Moose, and Mullen, Jr. And this, of course, is predicated on the thought that the soldier in the photograph served in Company E. . .and in the 48th Pennsylvania.
I would love to get your thoughts on this. . .Based on the descriptions alone, does the soldier in the photograph match any of the four?
Personally, I cannot reach any definitive conclusion, only that it might be McKay, or that it might be McElrath, or Moose, or Mullen, Jr. And that is, of course, if this does show a Co. E, 48th PA soldier.
But please do let me know your thoughts; Buck and I would greatly appreciate any insight here!