A 'beloved son' of the Civil War

A grief-laden note accompanies a lock of hair and photo in a Library of Congress collection.
A grief-laden note accompanies a lock of hair and photo in a Library of Congress collection. (Courtesy Of Library Of Congress)
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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2010

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."

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