Sunday, February 24, 2013

Nathan Jones, Camp Metcalf, Va.

Unfortunately, not much information accompanies this photograph. It is only labeled, Nathan Jones, Camp Metcalf, V[irgini]a.

This young man was most likely a runaway to a Union encampment and probably became a camp servant. He is shown with a Union soldier's forage cap, US military belt and buckle, and possibly army shoes and trousers. The photographer's rest (intended to keep their subjects from moving) is barley visible between the youngster's feet.

I have never heard of a Camp Metcalf in Virginia, and an internet search did not reveal much information other than a Camp Metcalf in northern Virginia, apparently near Fairfax and Alexandria, which was part of the Washington D.C. defenses.  The selection I found was from a soldier in the 11th Rhode Island:

"The present camp is in a filthy condition, and a shame to those who have charge of it. The camp was originally located about two miles nearer Alexandria, in the region of what was called the Distribution Camp. When we took possession of Camp Metcalf they were located in the Green Valley. What was filthy before we went there, by the middle of February had become clean, and a very different affair from what it was when the government established it. It was under entirely different regulation. It grew rapidly from a small number to a moderate sized army, and what had been confusion soon became order and system."

It will never be known exactly how many young men like Nathan Jones came into the Union lines in the first years of the war, but the services they provided to its soldiers - and the fact that many later joined USCT units - helped preserve the Union and end slavery.

If any readers have more information on Camp Metcalf or where I can find more information, I would appreciate hearing it.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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