More Addictions to History

Unknown Private, Co. F, 4th MVI This photo is an excellent example of what being addicted to History is all about. The only identification attached to the photo stated that he was a private in Company F, 4th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. A close examination will not reveal who this man (boy?) is, where exactly he is standing, or exactly when the photo was taken, but we may make some other reasonable assumptions.

First, note both the obviously homemade, very clean shirt and shined, new appearing shoes. The man appears to be well-tanned in the face, relatively well fed and in reasonable good health. In his belt is thrust a new, unused and rather large "Bowie" type knife. Lastly, note the unusual, turban or fez style of headgear he wears.

From these observations, we may reasonably assume that this is a young farmer, probably 18 to 20 years old, that his mother, wife or girlfriend made this uniform for him, that he admired the Zouave style of uniforms, and that the photo was taken before this unit went into combat in early 1862.

Unreasonable assumptions? Not at all! The vast majority of infantrymen, Union or Confederate, were between 18 and 22 years old, and the overwhelming majority of Southern men were farmers by trade. The shirt pockets are of a style seen on many homemade examples, but were too difficult to manufacture economically, and the armpit area and collar are ill-sized. The 4th Mississippi was a regular infantry unit, but this mans headgear is more typical of the guady Zouave units. The knife is of a type commonly seen in early war photos, but proved to be too heavy and unwieldy to stand much field use. Most soldiers either gave them away, sent them back home, or chucked them on the side of the road after the sport of looking so fiercesome grew weary.

For more on the 4th Mississippi, see Mississippi Civil War Units: 4th Infantry Regiment

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