1863 American Cartes de Visite

Value (2005) | $10,000 Auction$16,000 Auction

When my mother passed away, we started going through some of her possessions, and there was a trunk that she had gotten from her aunt. My great-aunt Laura had been kind of a collector, and in my mother's history, there are a lot of people from the South, the plantation, Civil War, officer corps type of people...


So that a lot of these people are actually part of my family and in addition, we have General Lee and people like that. In this trunk there were these pictures along with some other kinds of documents.

Civil War period letters?

That and before.


We have some papers from 1840, something like that.

Okay, so it's just a hodgepodge of stuff--


--along with this group of photographs. A photograph collector would call these "CDVs." Now, a CDV is short for "carte de visite." Now, carte de visite photographs were introduced to the United States from France right about the time that the Civil War started, and they could not have come into existence in the United States at a better time, because everybody was going off to have their picture taken if they were a soldier, and these photographs were put in little albums and they're almost like baseball cards of the time. This is an interesting group because there are civilian photographs like this guy here and this woman, and then there's a Sam Houston, who is a great figure from Texas, but I've got to tell you what caught my attention are the photographs along the bottom row. These carte de visites represent men who participated in John Hunt Morgan's cavalry, the so-called "Morgan's Raiders." Now, Morgan was a dandy from Lexington, Kentucky, and he organized, at the outbreak of the war, a group of cavalrymen, and in 1863, he, against orders from the higher-ups, crossed the Ohio River at Brandenburg, Kentucky, and invaded Indiana and Ohio and for a 40-day period between about June 11 and July 26 or so, these guys rode a thousand miles across Indiana and Ohio, burning bridges, looting stores, striking fear into the heart of the North, before they were finally captured-- a big portion of them-- at a place called Buffington Island, way in eastern Ohio, and a few days later, the majority of them were captured and they were all sent down river on steamboats to Cincinnati. And once they were in Cincinnati, the officers went to the Ohio State Penitentiary, and some of the other soldiers went to a Union prison camp up north. This is very interesting, because here's a guy who has a photographer's back mark from Allegheny, Pennsylvania. That says to me that before these guys may have been shipped off to Cincinnati, somebody trotted some of the officers over to Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to photograph them. If you look at this one, it says "Camp Douglas." Camp Douglas was the Union prison camp in Chicago, Illinois, where the majority of the enlisted men ended up. I did a little bit of homework on these guys. One of the guys is from the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, one is from the 11th Kentucky Cavalry. And there were about 2,500 of these guys that Morgan took with him. These are very, very desirable to Civil War collectors. A normal Civil War photograph of a Union officer might be [worth] a couple hundred dollars. Because of who these guys are, I think a good auction value would be between $1,500 and $2,500 each--


--for these six photographs. And there's probably another $1,000 worth of photographs here. So it's quite a find, and it's an exciting find. Thanks for bringing them in.

Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
Cincinnati, OH
Appraised value (2005)
$10,000 Auction$16,000 Auction
Bismarck, ND (July 30, 2005)

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