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Outdoor view: Medical Staff 39th Ill. & flag fragment
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Outdoor Albumen Photograph of the Medical Staff of the 39th Illinois Infantry taken mid-1863 on Morris Island, S.C. Matted and framed with a flag fragment and medical order regarding a member of the regiment.

The photo is clearly captioned on the mount in period brown ink: "Medical Staff, of 39th Ill. Vols. Inft." The officers are seated in front with various members of the detail behind them and posed for action. This image was published in the 1889 history of the regiment by former Surgeon Charles M. Clark and captioned there as having been taken on Morris Island, SC, in 1863. The regiment was there from June 11, 1863, to the end of October, as part of the attempt to take Battery Wagner and secure the island for Federal forces in the campaign against Charleston.

Surgeon Clark himself is visible seated in the right foreground wearing the field grade frock coat of a full surgeon and showing the oak leaves of a major on his shoulder straps. Compare the then and now photo of Clark published in the regimental history with the officer in the photo.

Seated opposite are Clarks two assistant surgeons wearing single breasted frock coats and shoulder straps with Medical Staff MS insignia between the single bars of a first lieutenant on their straps. The MS is more obvious on the nearer figure, but present on both. These men must be First Assistant Surgeon James Crozier and Second Assistant Surgeon William Woodward, though I cannot be sure which is which.

Immediately behind them stand five men from the hospital detail. The man on the left holds the closed wood box of an operating kit under his arm. The middle figure seems to hold a small bottle in the palm of one hand and something else in the other, perhaps a spoon. One of these may be Hospital Steward Anthony De Normandie, though he is recorded as having been detached to the post hospital on Folly Island in 1863.

At the left edge of the photo in the background an officer standing sideways seems to gesture at the camera, and another officer sits opposite him smoking a cigar. They seem to be bystanders to the photography session.

The main action takes place in the middle distance just above the seated officers. Two stretcher teams are pictured. The team on the left carry their stretcher up the sand dune. Each man is equipped with a leather shoulder harness that loops around the handles of the stretcher. Beside the rear bearer an orderly carrying the large medical knapsack trudges uphill with them. Just below them on the right a second team has paused and set down their stretcher. The two men take a break, sitting on either end of the stretcher. The leather carrying strap is visible draped over the lap of the left figure.

Visible along the top rim of the low sand dune are two of the officers horse attended by a white orderly on the left and two black officers servants on the right. The figures at left and right each hold a large satchel or valise by its handle. The figure at center right, holding one of the horses, seems to carry a haversack at his side.

The image is matted with an order from a Surgeon at a US General Hospital in Washington returning a member of the 39th Illinois to duty, and with a small flag fragment of red and white silk. The frame is 13 by 13 inches overall. Mat opening for the photo is 9 by 7 1/8, and the albumen image, excluding its border, is 8 by 6 1/8 inches. The medical order measures about 7 by 3 inches and the flag fragment 2 inches square.

The piece originated as a gift around 1970 from author Bruce Catton to the person from whom I obtained it. It had apparently been sent to Catton by an admirer and when Catton was closing his office at American Heritage he decided to pass it on. The cover is actually plastic, not glass, and I would guess the whole was framed sometime between 1960 and 1970. I assume the mat is not acid-free, so the next owner may choose to redo the presentation, but I have not touched it. My guess is that a descendant of one of the surgeons, perhaps Clark, gave it to Catton and the document in the frame was simply in his papers rather than indicating who the ancestor was.

The condition of all the elements seems very good. I have tried to match the tones of the photo in my images. The only damage I see is a small abrasion on Surgeon Clark's left arm at the elbow.

The 39th Illinois served from 10/11/61 to 12/6/65. Nicknamed the Yates Phalanx after the state governor, the regiment served in the eastern theatre: in West Virginia and the Shenandoah before joining the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign and then transferring to the Department of North Carolina, the Department of the South, and lastly the Army of the James. During its service it was part of the 5th, 4th, 7th, 18th, 10th, and 24th Army Corps. It lost 12 officers and 129 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, earning it a place in Foxs 300 fighting regiments of the war. Civil War data lists 41 points when it suffered casualties. Its heaviest losses were at Drewrys Bluff, Deep Bottom, Darbytown Road and Fort Gregg.

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