With a note and a name, researcher may have identified Civil War soldier

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 11, 2010; 6:44 PM

The lock of blond hair was probably clipped when the soldier was a child, tied in a knot and placed with the photo of him as a little boy, along with a note written years later by his stricken parent.

"My beloved son Carl," the note read, "taken from me on April 1, 1865 at age 18 killed at Dinwiddie" during the Civil War. "Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

But who was this mysterious boy, pictured in a Library of Congress acquisition? Where was his home? And what of the grieving mother or father who cherished his memory?

A Virginia researcher has come forward with a possible identification of the boy in the photograph, which is among the most intriguing in a huge collection of Civil War portraits just donated to the library.

The soldier may have been Carlos E. Rogers, a Union infantryman from the Syracuse area. He was killed in battle in Dinwiddie County, Va., fighting with the 185th New York infantry regiment in the closing days of the war.

So theorizes Nancy Dearing Rossbacher, managing editor of North South Trader's Civil War magazine, who researched the photo when the library announced the donation in October.

"I'm relatively sure it's him," she said.

The photograph, encased with the hair and note, was one of about 700 in the collection donated by Tom Liljenquist of McLean, who operates a chain of Washington area jewelry stores. He and his sons have been buying Civil War photographs for 15 years.

The bulk of the images, most of which depict young, unidentified Union soldiers, are posted on the Library of Congress Web site and have been added to the photo sharing Web site flickr.

The library, which also reports Rossbacher's findings, said that more than 200,000 online views of the collection were recorded, just on Monday.

Rossbacher, of Orange, Va., who is also a genealogist, said she became mesmerized by the "Carl" picture when her magazine reproduced some of the photographs with an essay by Liljenquist's son, Brandon.

"That young man called me," she said of the boy in the photograph. "He cried out for some kind of identification."

Rossbacher pored over Civil War records to find people killed in or near Dinwiddie in late March or early April 1865.

"I tracked down every Yankee and rebel who would have been in the vicinity at that time," she said in a phone interview.

"After trawling through numerous Civil War-related databases, the only 'Carl' I could locate with any unit, North or South, who lost his life in the conflict in the geographic area and time period mentioned in the note" is Rogers, she said in an e-mail.

Rogers, she found, was killed March 29 at a place called Quaker Road in a battle that occurred as the Union army was prying Confederates from their entrenchments outside Petersburg, Va.

A series of chaotic battles took place as the desperate and outnumbered Confederates fled toward Appomattox, eventually surrendering April 9.

Records show that Rogers was 20, Rossbacher found, and enlisted at Lafayette, N.Y., south of Syracuse, on Sept. 5, 1864.

He served in Co. K., and his regiment lost more than 50 men at Quaker Run.

Rossbacher, who specializes in Civil War research, acknowledged that "Carl" and "Carlos" don't match perfectly, nor do the April 1 date of death in the note and the March 29 date of the battle. And she cannot account for the age discrepancy.

She said that Civil War record-keeping was notoriously uneven as to dates, ages and spellings of names, but her examination, for now, points to Rogers.

"He remains the only Carl . . . or Karl or any other permutation who I could verify was a casualty there at the time," she said in an e-mail. And the identity of the parents remained uncertain.

Rossbacher said that Rogers was first buried near the battlefield and later in Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg.

Tom Liljenquist, the donor, said that Rossbacher's theory was exciting, although "I can't speak for the veracity of her conclusions. . . . We just collect the photographs."

"She's pretty savvy" though, he said. "There's an excellent chance that's who it is."

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