Tennessee Militia General Stephen H. Bass, Quarter Plate Tintype with Two Family Portraits

A related group of three family photographs highlighted by a rare antebellum portrait of Brigadier General Stephen Hicks Bass (1806-1866) in uniform accompanied by a sixth plate tintype thought to include the general’s son, Private John M. Bass (seated right) in uniform, with a trimmed cdv partially identified in ink as the general’s wife, Mrs. Almira R. Bass (1816-1880), housed in a sixth plate case. The images of General and Mrs. Bass include period newspaper obituaries.

General Bass of Giles County, Tennessee wears a militia tailcoat with narrow plastron decorated with two rows of eight buttons spaced in four pairs and typical bullion rank epaulettes embellishing the shoulders. The high collar appears to be white. No record governing this early Tennessee State uniform could be found. According to his obituary, Stephen Bass became Captain in the 37th Regiment Tennessee Militia in 1830 and Lieutenant Colonel in 1834; both commissions would have been tendered by perennial Governor William Carroll, a former soldier and protégé of Andrew Jackson. Bass was promoted to Brigadier General commanding the 11th Brigade of Tennessee Militia later the same year. Fragmentary records purport to show that Bass might have served during the Civil War as a corporal in Company D, 14th (Neely’s) Tennessee Cavalry. Neely’s regiment was effectively a battalion size unit of partisan rangers organized in Okolona, Mississippi in August 1863. Indeed, both HDS and CWSS list a corporal named S.H. Bass who survived the war, however this soldier may simply share a similar name as HDS gives the man’s date of death as “1871” instead of 1866 as confirmed in Bass’ obituary. Moreover, two completely different burial locations are cited.

The sixth plate tintype of the two seated pards lacks any written identification. The seated soldier wearing a shell jacket bears a strong resemblance to General Bass and is thought to be the general’s oldest son, twenty-year old John M. Bass, based on the 1860 Census. His course wool jacket bears eight high-domed state buttons with a single row of narrow light colored braids around the top of the high square collar, placket, and cuff edges. Two men named John M. Bass and four serving as J.M. Bass are listed in the Tennessee rosters in HDS, all but one in an infantry unit. The visible details of the uniform do not immediately correlate to a particular Tennessee Confederate unit.

The trimmed cdv of Almira Bass (1816-1880) shows a pleasant, matronly looking woman who bore twelve children according to her obituary. The carte bears a partial ink identification.

Condition:Both varnished tintypes near EXC. with strong clarity, housed in separated composition cases, damaged sixth plate case missing top edge. Quarter plate with one noticeable abrasion at 8 o’clock adjacent the general’s left arm. Sixth plate flawless with bottom half just a tad dark. Cased CDV trimmed as noted; in damaged and separated composition case.

Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000


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