CDV of Sgt. William Crawford Smith, Flagbearer of the 12th Virginia Infantry
CDV of Sgt. William Crawford Smith, Flagbearer of the 12th Virginia Infantry –This incredibly important and rare Carte de Visite originated in the collection of noted Civil War historian and chronicler of Virginia’s Confederate troops, Lee Wallace, Jr. One other extant example of this same image, once owned by the renown collector, Bill Turner, now resides in fine collection of the Texas Civil War Museum, in Fort Worth, Texas. Mr. Wallace’s fine image appeared in his seminal work: A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations; 1861 – 1865.
The impressive, Confederate sergeant in the image is Sergeant William Crawford Smith, flagbearer, or ensign, of the 12th Virginia Infantry. Crawford, who enlisted in the 12th Va., in Petersburg, at age 31 and remained in the 12th Va. throughout the entire war, was paroled, at Appomattox, in April, 1865. During the course of his service, Smith was wounded and captured, during the Battle of Crampton’s Gap, in September of 1862; he was later paroled, and returned to the 12th Va. He would be wounded again, at the Battle of the Wilderness, in May of 1864. Sergeant Smith’s valiant participation, on July 30, 1864, with Gen. Wm. Mahone’s troops, during the Confederate counter-attack to retake the Confederate lines decimated by the Union mine explosion, during the well-documented Battle of the Crater, was immortalized in the monumental painting by artist John Elder. The painting, completed in 1869, is probably the most famous depiction of the Crater. Sergeant Smith, the ensign for the 12th Va., is idealistically depicted, by Elder, at the forefront of the Confederate charge, carrying an Army of Northern Virginia battleflag.
Artist Elder was born in 1833 and studied under Daniel Huntington in New York. His Battle of the Crater painting was commissioned by former Confederate General Mahone, best remembered for leading the successful Confederate counterattack that resulted in the retaking of Elliott’s Salient, site of the infamous mine explosion, on July 30, 1864. The Crater painting measures 38” x 61” and now hangs in the Commonwealth Club, in Richmond. In addition to the painting of the Crater, Elder also completed studies of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and a monument of a Confederate soldier that stands in downtown Alexandria, Virginia.
William Crawford Smith (November 26, 1837, Petersburg, Virginia – February 5, 1899, Manila, The Philippines) was an architect and after serving in the Confederate Army, he served in the United States Army, during the Philippine–American War. During the course of his architectural career, Smith designed many buildings in Nashville, Tennessee, including Kirkland Hall, the first building on the campus of Vanderbilt University, and The Parthenon in Centennial Park.
For the most apt description of this image, we defer to the words of Ronald S. Coddington, noted editor of Military Images Magazine, as noted in his book, Faces of the Confederacy: An Album of Southern Soldiers and Their Stories. Mr. Coddington used the Smith CDV from Bill Turner’s collection, for the cover of his fine work; Coddington commented upon the publication of his book: “The cover image selected by The Johns Hopkins University Press is an identified soldier, Sgt. William Crawford Smith of the Twelfth Virginia Infantry. His story appears on pages 151-153 in the book. The choice of this carte de visite contrasts with Union Faces, which features an unidentified soldier to represent the millions of volunteers who served. Although this portrait is of a known soldier, Sgt. Smith’s likeness is representative of the men who enlisted in the Confederate armies after the opening shots were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
Sgt. Smith stands in the studio of E.S. Lumpkin (life dates unknown) & Co., of Richmond, Virginia, grasping a battle flag in his right hand and holding a forage cap in the other hand. He appears to be dressed in his best uniform, complete with tassles, matching buttons, and a fine leather waist belt. His footwear is little worn, and his leggings are clean and un-frayed. The pristine quality of his clothing and the flag suggests that this photograph was taken soon after the end of the war. Lumpkin or an employee tinted the flag and other elements of his uniform. Although this black and white reproduction does not capture the added color, the careful observer will note the saturated tones and sharp edges of the banner.”
This specific CDV is in remarkable condition – the image is extremely clear, clean and sharp; the tinted coloring is vivid. The cardstock edges behind the image are sharp, although the corners were trimmed, long ago, to fit into a CDV album. The Lumpkin back mark is equally vivid, as is the tax stamp, which was canceled, per Federal law (applicable until the end of the year 1866), by the photographer – E.S. Lumpkin & Co.; the cancellation is clearly dated June 18, 1866.
William Crawford Smith
|Residence was not listed; Enlisted on 5/17/1861 at Petersburg, VA as a Private. On 5/17/1861 he mustered into “B” Co. VA 12th Infantry He was Surrendered on 4/9/1865 at Appomattox Court House, VA He was listed as: * Exchanged (date and place not stated) * Paroled (date and place not stated) * Hospitalized 6/15/1862 (place not stated) * Returned 7/15/1862 (place not stated) * POW 9/14/1862 Crampton’s Gap, MD * Wounded 9/14/1862 Crampton’s Gap, MD * Hospitalized 9/15/1862 Burkittsville, VA * Hospitalized 10/15/1862 Richmond, VA * Returned 11/15/1862 (place not stated) * Wounded 5/6/1864 Wilderness, VA Promotions: * * Corpl 3/1/1863 * Sergt 8/1/1863 Other Information: born 11/26/1837 in Petersburg, VA died 2/5/1899 in Manilla, Philipines Buried: Mt Olivet Cemetery, TN|