Naming An Unknown

With as many years that have passed since the Civil War, most unlabeled photographs from the era will have to remain as they are. Very seldom is there an opportunity, be it from cross-reference with other photos, is anyone able to properly label a photograph with the identity of who is pictured.

This brings me to share a mystery of my own.

In 2007, I was given the photograph below of an army officer from the Civil War. Unlabeled, yes, but there are clused. A close examination shows the numerals "18" on the front of his cap, along with the bugle that denotes infantry. On the back, the studio is labeled "Bogardus Photographer, 363 Broadway, New York" so one can assume this officer is from the 18th New York Infantry.

My next move in finding a possible identity was to assume this was indeed an officer from the 18th New York Infantry. I took a fine look at his rank, an oak leaf, but without color distinction this means the rank is either a major or lieutenant colonel.

I turned to my roster and made a list of everyone who was ever a major or lieutenant colonel in the regiment. Luckily, there were only four:

William H. Young (Lt. Col. May 14, 1861-Nov. 11, 1861)

George R. Myers (Maj. May 14, 1861-Nov. 11, 1861; Lt. Col. Nov. 11, 1861-Dec. 9, 1862)

John C. Meginnis (Maj. Nov. 11, 1861-Aug. 14, 1862; Lt. Col. Aug. 14, 1862-May 28, 1863)

William S. Gridley (Maj. Aug. 14, 1862-May 28, 1863)

Pushing the wheel of luck, several different photographs of Young, Myers, and Gridley exist, but I've never seen one of Meginnis. Could this be him? Meginnis was 33 years old when he enlisted in 1861, mustering out at the age of 35. If this indeed in Meginnis, this photograph would have to have been taken in New York City, circa 63-65, and the rank of lieutenant colonel would match. Meginnis did not serve in uniform for another unit, but did serve in Nashville working as a civilian contractor operating on the railroads.

Is this Meginnis? I want to think so.

The 18th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment History Website

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© 2020 by Ryan A. Conklin