Sunday, May 20, 2018

Eight from the Forty-Eighth. . .

I remember well when I first read about it; it was quite some time ago, back when I was in high school during one of my many trips to the Pottsville Free Public Library. I would head up there often to read the regimental history of the 48th Pennsylvania--the one compiled by Joseph Gould. I would also take up a few yellow legal pads of paper and a few sharpened pencils to take notes on the regiment's actions, campaigns, and so on, but mainly to transcribed the company rosters. With each name I wrote, with each notation about their date of enlistment, or date of promotion, or where they were wounded or killed or captured, or even just what their age was when they enlisted, it somehow felt as though I was becoming personally acquainted with those who served in the 48th. Yet nothing would make me feel more acquainted with these long gone soldiers then when I would see one of their photographs. At that time, though, aside from just the handful of mainly officers' images in Gould's regimental history and a few other images at the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, I had not seen all that many photographs of the more 1,800 soldiers who served in 48th PA. That is why a very brief passage on page 58 of Gould's regimental history has always stuck out to me, from the very first time I read it, all those many years ago. 

On Page 58 there is a photograph of Captain Philip Nagle, who in the summer of 1861 helped to organize and later commanded Company G, 48th Pennsylvania, a company recruited primarily from Pottsville and nearby St. Clair. Philip was one of the five "Fighting Nagle" brothers in the 48th; his oldest brother James organized the regiment, while brother Daniel served as captain, Company D, and later regimental major, while brothers Levi and Abraham were musicians who served in the regimental band. Above the photograph is the heading: "Captain Nagle Resigns" but it was the text that followed was what really grabbed my attention. "When in consequence of ill health, Captain Philip Nagle, of Company G, 48th Regiment P.V. resigned in 1862, the members of his company presented at Newbern, N.C. June 9th, their portraits, numbering ninety-one, to him, handsomely framed." [emphasis added] 

Ninety-one images of the soldiers of Company G, 48th PA.

Ninety-one. . . .


That was, essentially, the entire company. I wondered how amazing it would be to one day see those images. When the soldiers of Company G sat for these images as a goodbye gift to their captain in the spring of 1862, the 48th had been in the service about nine months and, except for some minor action along the shores of North Carolina, the regiment had yet to be engaged in any serious, major combat. There was something innocent, then, if you will, in those images. . .in knowing that at the time these photographs were taken, none in the company--none, in fact, in the entire regiment--could have possibly known the horrors and hardships that lay ahead, at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and on so many other sanguinary fields. Indeed, when the soldiers of Company G sat for these photographs in early June 1862, the rumors then circulating through their camp in Newbern was that McClellan would soon capture Richmond, that the war would end soon after that, and that they would likely all be home by the Fourth of July. 

I wondered whatever had become of the images; where were they? I actually knew a descendant of Captain Philip Nagle and I asked her if she ever recalled seeing the images and she said no. So, all I could do was wonder whatever had become of all those portraits, "handsomely framed." 

Years went by until, finally, in late 2003 my question was partially answered when I happened upon Volume XXV,  Number 3 of Military Images magazine. Amazingly, on the cover were forty-two framed tin-type images and the caption read, "The Men of Company G." I turned quickly to the cover story and noticed it was authored by renowned collector Norm Flayderman. Forty-two tin-type images, all framed, had been a part of his collection he wrote, "for many years." All the images show the soldiers seated at the same marble table, upon which is a kepi and the letter "G" and number "48" on the chin strap of that kepi (likely the same kepi used in all the photographs). Mr. Flayderman wrote that there was nothing on the tintypes that identified these soldiers as Pennsylvanians but that he had acquired them "from a credible source" who had told him they were all Company G, 48th Pennsylvania images. I could verify that, since I was able to positively identify one of the corporals as Curtis Clay Pollock of the 48th PA So here were 42 of those 91 portraits, about half of all those presented to Captain Philip Nagle in 1862. It was an incredible 'discovery' for me, if you will...having waited so long to see these portraits.  I wrote to Mr. Flayderman and he very kindly and quickly wrote back, enclosing a number of photocopies of the images. In early 2006, he wrote to let me know that he was selling these tintypes and that they would be auctioned. That auction took place and I certainly kept my eye on it....but the price they went for was well-above anything I could have bid. 

These 42 images of Company G, 48th PA soldiers from the collection of the now late Norm Flayderman were not the only ones to have surfaced. A gentleman named Jim Jezorski had also read Flayderman's short article in Military Images and he was genuinely surprised by what he read since, in his own collection of Civil War images, he had eight of the same type of image, with soldiers seated next to that marble table, with the kepi with the "G" and "48" on its chinstrap. He wrote a follow-up article for Military Images and explained that he had acquired the eight in his collection from "an old collector" who had told him that he had originally purchased them at a gun show in central Pennsylvania. "There were dozens of them," said the old collector, but he could only afford those eight. The "old collector" had also told Jezorski that he individual who sold them to him "had personally took them off the wall of a G.A.R. hall in small town near Hershey, Pennsylvania." 

Just this past week, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jim Jezorski, who told me about the history of these eight tintype images (how that "old collector" purchased them many decades ago and they were--get this--just a dollar a piece; turns out that that 'old collector' only had eight dollars that day, which was why he could only afford those eight!) Jezorski had previously asked if I would be interested in acquiring from him, those eight images. . . 


Absolutely, I said.  

Those eight images follow, all depicting soldiers of Company G, 48th Pennsylvania, all taken at the same time, in early June 1862. . . .where all of the other ones are, including those 42 that went up for auction in 2006, I do not know and thus cannot say. Though it would be an amazing thing if someday, somehow, all 91 can be brought back together again.

And it would be great, too, if, somehow these--and all the others from this collection--could one day all be positively identified. Who were these men? Did they make it through the war? What were their stories?

Maybe one day we will find out. . . 

Unidentified Corporal, Company G, 48th PA 

Unidentified Private, Company G, 48th PA 

Unidentified Sergeant, Company G, 48th PA 

Unidentified Private, Company G 48th PA 

Unidentified Private, Company G 48th PA

Unidentified Private, Company G 48th PA

Unidentified Private, Company G 48th PA

Unidentified Private, Company G 48th PA

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Military Images 
Vol. XXV, Number 3, November/December 2003
Featuring 42 Tintype Images of 
Company G, 48th PA Soldiers 

1 comment:

Vince Slaugh said...

Congrats! The number of images that you have collected on one regiment amazes me. I don't think that I have seen more than a couple 79th Pennsylvania images on eBay in the past decade or so.