This early 1860s Civil War CDV (carte de visite) portrait captures General Elon John Farnsworth, a Union Army general killed at Gettysburg. Photographed by Whitehurst Gallery, Washington, D.C.
At the outset of the Civil War, Farnsworth joined the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. He rose to company commander and was present for more than 40 battles or skirmishes which his regiment participated in through mid-1863. He joined the staff of General Pleasonton, commanding a cavalry division in the Army of the Potomac, eventually earning a promotion to Brigadier General of Volunteers.
Farnsworth’s men were attacked during the Gettysburg campaign and and nearly routed by troopers of J.E.B. Stuart. Following Pickett’s Charge, Farnsworth was ordered by General Kilpatrick to lead a suicidal assault upon the Confederate infantry and artillery positioned on high ground behind a stone wall. Farnsworth balked but, when his courage was questioned, he obeyed the order, losing a quarter of his command in the process.
Though unscathed after a ride around the Confederates, Farnsworth was killed when retracing his path.
Many CDVs and photographs of various types exist which depict participants of the Civil War from both sides, however not all can be identified. Through the helpful captions added by those who originally possessed such an image, we can often ascertain the name of the person pictured – but not always. An identified person with an important role in the war between the north and south can sometimes add considerably to the value of a Civil War CDV.
If you’re interested in selling a Civil War CDV or collection of CDVs at auction with us, check out our antique photography consignment page for more information.