|LARGE & COLORFUL CIVIL WAR RECRUITMENT BROADSIDE FOR THE 16TH NEW YORK VOLUNTEER CAVALRY, A.K.A. "SPRAGUE'S LIGHT CAVALRY,” WITH A AMAZING BATTLE SCENE DISPLAYING BOTH CONFEDERATE AND UNION FLAGS, EXCEPTIONAL AMONG ITS COUNTERPARTS, MADE IN 1863. A CONTINGENT OF THIS REGIMENT AVENGED LINCOLN'S DEATH, CORNERING AND KILLING JOHN WILKES BOOTH IN A VIRGINIA TOBACCO BARN ON APRIL 26TH, 1965
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 52.5" x 40.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|41.5" x 29.5"
|This amazing Civil War recruitment broadside, made for a cavalry unit raised in New York City, is among the most elaborate and colorful of any produced. Across known examples, including both those in museums and in private hands, hardly anything can match the combination of the verbiage, number of colors employed, and the elaborately detailed illustration presented here. With a fanciful array of fonts, indicative of late 19th century advertising, the text reads as follows:
"Sprague Light Cavalry! The Finest and Most Dashing Arm of the Service; Now is the Time to Join the Best Regiment Organizing. This new and splendid Regiment is rapidly organizing at the fine New Barracks, "Camp Norton," Plattsburg, N.Y., under the immediate supervision of Adj't Gen. Sprague; Of this State, whose name the Regiment bears. Largest Bounties Paid! Relief Tickets for Families. Splendid Horses and Equipments; handsome Uniforms; best of Subsistence furnished by the experienced Contractor, Capt. Lot Chamberlain, of Plattsburgh (sic), N.Y. who has previously subsisted Three Regiments during organization, and received for his uniform kindness and good treatment, the approval and thanks of the Officers and men. The Barracks are the finest and most comfortable in the State; built of Stone, and fitted up in near rooms, well lighted and warmed, with clean bunks, well arranged by Quarter-Master A. Laude. The Officers are men of experience, having seen service in the field, and the men will be properly cared for. Promotions made from the ranks for good conduct and bravery. The Union Must and Shall be Preserved. Come Forward, enlist in this fine Regiment and take the Bounty; and Don't Wait to be Drafted. Spencer H. Olmstead, Colonel Com'dg.; R.W. Winfield Simpson, Lieut. Col.; 1st Major. Morriss Hazard, Jr.; 2d Major, Giles G. Horton. Adjutant, Henry M. Gaylord; Quarter-Master, A. Laude. Head-Quarters, Eastern District, 421 Broadway, N.Y."
All of the lettering appears in red and blue, which is highly unusual.
The image features a magnificent battle scene with mounted Union Cavalry, led by a gallant commander on a black horse, riding down upon a battery of Confederate artillery with cannons blazing. One particularly interesting element is that men are falling on either side, which doesn't seem like great advertising in light of the accompanying text. Also of interest is the illustration of both Confederate and Union flags. The former is a 7-star, early war version of the Confederate First National design (a.k.a., Stars & Bars), with its stars arranged in a random scatter. The latter has a complement of 12 stars and 13 stripes. Likely a count of 13 stars was intended. We have made 13 star flags throughout American history for all manner of purposes. During the Civil War this star count drew a parallel between the present struggle for liberty and that which took place during the Revolution. Union ground forces would have carried this star count seldom, but it was commonly encountered in flags of this era both at sea and in private use, including political campaigning, and it was frequently present in patriotic ephemera printed on paper. The engraved, battle scene image is rendered in black, red, yellow, green, and blue, with varying shades creatively accomplished by overlaying the colors.
Because almost nothing in the way of broadsides and posters of the 1860's seems to have been produced that achieved this degree of graphics, scale, and color combined. The largest collection of Civil War recruitment broadsides that I know of survives at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Although there are some wonderful examples included, nothing among its holdings rivals this one.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only known example of this particular broadside. It is of interest to note that a similar variant is known, also surviving as one-of-a-kind. previously in Flayderman's collection, which included a maker's byline along the bottom margin that read: "Clarry & Reilly, Printers & Engravers, 12 & 14 Spruce-st. N.Y." It seems likely that Clarry & Reilly produced both versions. This was a veteran printing house, in business since well before 1840.
Brief History of the 16th New York Volunteer Cavalry, a.k.a. Sprague's Light Cavalry:
Sprague's Light Cavalry received its numeric designation as the 16th New York Volunteer Cavalry. Organized initially at Plattsburg, far Upstate, along its northernmost border, it was nonetheless recruited all over, from there to Buffalo to New York City. Beginning on January 17th, 1863, men primarily enlisted from Clinton, Onondaga, St. Lawrence, Erie, Rensselaer, Albany, Monroe, Schoharie, Westchester, and Kings Counties, and from New York City. Mustering at several locations between June 19th October 23rd of that year, including Staten Island, it was eventually comprised of 13 companies.
Companies A-D left first and were at Gettysburg in the rear guard, probably because they were new, and late in arriving, and on alert for the suspected arrival of Confederate Cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart, known to be in the vicinity. Joined by the remainder of the companies between August and October, the regiment proceeded to Washington, D.C., where it participated in the defense of the capitol between that time and 1865. During this period, it was repeatedly engaged throughout Northern Virginia, often with Stuart's men, particularly Mosby's Raiders. The 16th saw action at Lewinsville and Bristoe Station (1863), Centerville, Falls Church, Rapidan Station, and Lewinsville again (1864), as well as in Warrenton, Fairfax Court House, and Vienna (1865).
It was in the war's final year that the regiment earned everlasting fame, when Acting Assistant Adjunct General A.R. Sewell called upon Captain Joseph Schneider of the 16th New York Cavalry, to organize a group of men to discreetly hunt down Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who had been on the run for 10 days. Schneider selected Irish American Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty, close friend of Lincoln confidant, General Michael Corcoran. The two Irishmen had served time in a Confederate prison following the 1st Bull Run, then together in the Corcoran Legion, where Doherty had proven himself a worthy officer. Among the men who Doherty selected was the devout Christian, often outspoken, and fairly eccentric, Sergeant Boston Corbett of Company L. After the contingent cornered Booth in a tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia, Corbett shot and killed him while aiming through cracks in the siding--or so it is alleged. Some of those present contradicted the story, but Booth was dead and all of the men of the specially designated unit were awarded roughly $1,650 in reward money and Corbett went down in history as the man who avenged Lincoln's murder.
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|1861-1865 Civil War
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