Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can You Help Identify This Unidentified 48th PA Image?

Our Unidentified Officer
Company I  48th Pennsylvania Infantry

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Of the more than 1,800 soldiers who served in the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, whether for a few months or for all four years of the regiment's existence, and over the course of my twenty+ years of studying the regiment, I have only been able to locate images of approximately 200 of them, or just about 11%. And of this number, a good many of these images are unidentified by name, which is the source of so much frustration. Some of the unidentified CDV's simply have something to the effect of "48th PVI" or "48th PA" scribbled on the back; in others, we can see "48" written in the hat brass, including in a remarkable collection of tintypes that once belonged to a noted and respected collector which went up for auction a number of years ago and which were featured in a 2003 edition of Military Images magazine (see below). None of the forty-two soldiers in this collection are identified but all are seated next to a kepi with "G" "48" on the chinstrap. Similar images of a soldier--taken at the same time/setting and so seated--have also appeared over the years and one of them, owned by a private collector, I am happy to say I have been able to positively identify as a member of Company G. 

November/December Edition of Military Images

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I will be writing more about this collection of Company G tintypes sometime in the near future but, for now, I wanted to focus on an image of an unidentified officer who, presumably, served in Company I, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. 

Here is the image--and the officer--in question: 

This image is part of the collection of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County. It was taken by A.M. Allen, a noted Pottsville photographer and, clearly, one can see the "I" and the "48" and the infantry bugle on his kepi. The shoulder boards reveal that he was a commissioned officer and although difficult to make out with 100% certainty, it appears he was a lieutenant. There is no date when the image was taken. Throughout the course of the war, there were seven men who served at one time or the other as a lieutenant in Company I--two of them being ultimately promoted to the rank of captain.

Fortunately, I do have images of five of these seven and they are as follows:

Benjamin B. Schuck
(Courtesy of Patriotic Order Sons of America)
Oliver A.J. Davis
(Hoptak Collection)
Francis D. Koch 
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images) 

Joseph Edwards
(Hoptak Collection) 

Francis Allebach
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images) 

At first glance, then, I think we can eliminate Schuck, Davis, Edwards, and even Koch. The officer in question does, somewhat, resemble Allebach--and perhaps he is our man. On the other hand, the eyes look different. . .

If it is not any of these five officers, that leaves two other possibilities. And while I do not have photographs of them, I do have their physical description as provided in the regimental muster and descriptive rolls.

They are:

George H. Gressang: 1st Lt.; Date of Enlistment: 8/23/1861; Age at Enlistment: 24; Height: 5'8; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Blue; Hair: Dark; Occupation: Machinist; Residence: Pottsville; Notes: Drowned 8/12/1862 by the sinking of the steamer West Point

Michael M. Kistler: 1st Lt.; Date of Enlistment: 8/15/1861; Age at Enlistment: 32; Height: 5'11; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Blue; Hair: Dark; Occupation: Farmer; Residence: Ringtown; Date of Discharge: 10/21/1862; Notes: Wounded severely at Antietam, 9/17/1862; Promoted from 2nd Lt. 10/20/62; Discharged due to wounds; 10/21/62; Transferred to Veterans Res. Corps.

So, there we have it. I would love to get your thoughts. Do you believe this to be another image of Allebach? Or of either Gressang or Kistler? And, if so, which would you say was more likely based off their physical description?

Or is there something I am missing entirely here?

1 comment:

Brian Downey said...

Hi John,

I've found a picture of Kistler (possibly in uniform) and his wife Catherine on Or at least a thumbnail. I don't have an account, but you may. If you google search on "052-Michael & Catherine Kistler- (close)", you'll get to it.

Based on that tiny image, I don't think your man looks like Kistler, either. And I agree that Allebach's not quite right for him.

Bon chance!