Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Zooming in on a Civil War Sutler's Store

Searching for images of sutlers on the Library of Congress website, I happened across the one above. Unfortunately, not much information is provided as to when and where during the war the image was made. Like most images, some intriguing details can be found when one uses photo manipulation tools to zoom in on its scenes.

In the center of the shot a walk up sales window appears to be made into the side of the sutler's structure. In the background a proprietor peers through the window while holding what looks to be a knife in his right hand while resting his head his left hand. I wonder if he is resting his right hand and knife on wheels of cheese or some type of round boxes? The soldier on the left is sporting a low-crown hat and has visible braces (suspenders).

There are several African American boys and men in the photograph. The boys probably served in a servant role doing camp chores for the officers. One of the soldiers (with some fancy braces!) has his left hand on one of the boy's head. 

Two other boys relax on the far left of the photograph. The boy closest to the photographer is barefoot. Both appear to be wearing Union army forage caps. I wonder if these boys are orphans or if they ran away together. Were they brothers, or perhaps cousins?

The right-center group of soldiers offer a drinking scene. Often sutlers were prohibited from selling alcohol in army camps by officers, while others allowed it at certain times. Here a wooden barrel and a stoneware jug appear to be the vessels for the liquor.

Three young black men are in this scene. The one of the left looks to be wearing a Union issue fatigue blouse. The one in the center appears to be wearing a unique hat of some sort. The white soldier between the two black men on the right is wearing an unusual coat or wrap that has either a hood or a large collar. It appears he is also holding an umbrella. 

I'm not sure what is happening in the above scene. It may be posed. An officer is standing with his right hand out as if he is lecturing the groups of drinking men. Behind him a man in a duster is either mocking the officer or may be playing an air trumpet. Ha!

The roof of the sutler's structure has a piece of canvas over the center. There doesn't appear to be writing on it that would indicate it being a sign. Rather, the roof probably leaked and the canvas served as an additional barrier against the elements.

The TIFF image can be down loaded here. Can you find any other interesting details?

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