May 07, 2020 - Sale 2534

Sale 2534 - Lot 316

Price Realized: $ 6,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(MILITARY--CIVIL WAR.) Newell, Lafayette V.; photographer. Carte-de-visite punishment scene of a "Negro prisoner" at Point Lookout. Albumen photograph, 3 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches, on original mount with photographer's backmark on verso; minor wear; captioned in manuscript in lower margin of mount. [Point Lookout, MD], circa 1863-65

Additional Details

Lafayette V. Newell (1833-1914) was a New Hampshire photographer who during the Civil War established himself at the large Union military base in Point Lookout, Maryland at the mouth of the Potomac River. The base included a hospital, a prison for captured Confederates, and Fort Lincoln, which housed several regiments of "Colored Troops."
This photograph shows a common device used for punishing soldiers during the Civil War, variously known as "the mule," "the wooden horse," or "riding the rail." The soldier would be forced to sit with his legs straddling a rough rail suspended in the air, often with weights affixed to his feet. This particular image is captioned in an early manuscript hand "Negro prisoner." The soldier guarding the prisoner appears to also be African-American. The prisoner was likely a Union soldier who had run afoul of his commanding officer.
One of these cruel devices was in regular use at the Confederate prisoners' camp at Point Lookout. It is described in the memoir of Byron Smith, who served in the 1st Georgia Cavalry: "Old Bald was a scantling 4x4x12 feet long with four legs ten feet long, making a trestle seat ten feet high to punish offenders. A ladder was placed against it, and the fellow to be punished was made to walk up it, straddle old Bald and ride him without stirrups two, three or four hours. If he did not fall off when his time was out they placed a ladder for him to come down" (Gloster Record, published in Amite County, MS, 27 January 1939). The same device might well have been used on wayward Union soldiers at Point Lookout.