Portrait of an unknown soldier

Paul Wright, a Kingston, MA, resident, is attempting to solve a 142-year-old mystery, according to a Vermont Civil War website, Vermontcivilwar.org .

The New Englandbased researcher is attempting to track down the identity of a shadowy Civil War soldier from Vermont that appears on an 1865 makeshift one-cent photo postcard. The man may be one of Wrights ancestors who served in the War Between the States.

The back of the photograph, originally taken as collodion-on-glass (wet-plate) negative, bears an October 1865 postmark. What appears to have been an address label affixed to the back of the picture no longer survives. An intact address label might have made identification of the unknown soldier easier.

The faded Civil Warera photograph, taken by S.F. Serlin, of Woodstock, VT, was found in a box with other photographs that were originally owned by Wrights great-grandfather Nathaniel Thomas Wright, of Kingston, MA.

Nathaniel Thomas Wrights first wife was Cora Tiffany (1861-1884); Coras father was Otis E. Tiffany. Coras father appears to have been a 19th century resident of Chelsea, VT.

The U.S. Armys 1864 Adjutant General's Report and 1892 Revised Roster listed a 34-year-old Otis Tiffany as a resident of Chelsea, VT. However, Wright is not sure if Otis Tiffany is the mystery man in the photo since no image of him has ever been identified.

According to Vermontcivilwar.org, Tiffany enlisted in the Union army on July 21, 1862, as a private in Company G of the 10th Vermont Infantry. He was first listed as missing-in-action in July 1864 after the Battle of Monocracy, near Frederick, MD. However, Tiffany soon turned up as a prisoner of war after the Confederate victory.

Tiffany must have been released by his Confederate jailers because he is listed as having died of disease in Staunton, VA., on Aug. 30, 1864. Federal troops under Maj. Gen. David H. Hunter had taken control of the rebel -held city of Staunton in June 1864. Curiously, Union officers in Staunton at the time of Tiffanys death included future U.S. presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley.

Despite the tantalizing albeit weak tidbits that seem to link the Woodstock, VT, photograph to Otis Tiffany, Wright still cant be sureTiffany died a year prior to the photos 1865 posting and the soldier in the photograph has corporal stripes stitched on his jacket sleeve. There is no record of Tiffany ever having been promoted beyond the rank of private.

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