Two CDVs of Enlisted Sailors - USS Benton & USS St. Louis

Lot of 2 sharp, full standing portraits of young tars identified by their cap tallies as crewmen from the USS Benton and USS St. Louis. Both uncredited, n.d. Both sailors are uniformed in dark blue wool prescribed by regulations with cap and tally, plain pullover frock coat with yoke and black silk neckerchief, and wide bottom trousers. The St. Louis hand carries a fold-over navy jack knife tucked into the front of his trousers with a length of braided cord visible under magnification. 

The Benton was taken up from the civilian trade and converted to an ironclad in 1861. She served as Admiral Porter's flagship and saw considerable early action on the upper Mississippi at Island No. 10, the battle of Plum Point Bend, Memphis, and against the CSS Arkansas below Vicksburg. Benton was penetrated by a shell and badly damaged passing the Rebel shore batteries at Vicksburg on April 29, 1863 causing 25 casualties. She was quickly repaired and rejoined the Brown Water fleet for bombardment operations against Vicksburg until the citadel surrendered on July 4. In 1864 Benton participated in the ill-conceived Red River Campaign and was very nearly stranded and lost before an impromptu feat of engineering - dams built across low points in the river - allowed the fleet to escape back to the Mississippi.  

USS St. Louis was an older sloop-of-war launched in 1828. With the advent of war she was ordered to Pensacola and later patrolled the Gulf where she captured a Confederate blockade runner off the mouth of the Mississippi. St. Louis was refitted and rearmed at Philadelphia in 1862 and thereafter took up the Atlantic station in search of Confederate high seas commerce raiders. In November 1864 she joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron taking part in a combined operation under Commander Preeble in conjunction with Sherman's approach to Savannah.

The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection 
Lots 133-162 

Cowan's is pleased to offer the first contingent of an unparalleled assembly of Brown Water Navy images archived over a lifetime of study by consummate collector Richard B. Cohen, a familiar name to many in the field of Civil War photography. To those who knew him best, Richard B. Cohen will be remembered as a "disciplined collector who maintained a relatively narrow focus having built an important, perhaps unsurpassed collection in his area of specialization." Richard was particularly well read and his historical knowledge informed his collecting as reflected by the photography that follows. The array of carte-de-visites and albumen photographs gathered here include a number of identified naval officers - both famous and obscure - along with a handful of enlisted sailors and Mississippi Marine Brigade images, and, significantly, many views of unique Brown Water Navy sidewheel and sternwheel warships - no two vessels looking exactly the same. Subjectively, the most appealing aspect of the Cohen Collection are the photographs of these gunboats, transports, and impressed vessels quickly converted at St. Louis, Cairo, and Cincinnati for duty on the waters of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The gamut of improvised warships range from the earliest types of steam powered vessels first taken up by the Army to create a small timberclad flotilla, to the several purpose-built War Department Ellet rams, and later, the more numerous classes of tinclads, some converted but all built for and crewed by the Navy. A few captured Confederate vessels impressed into Union service are also present. It is supremely evident that Richard B. Cohen's collecting instincts were always evolving, but uniformly refined. We trust that both advanced and neophyte collectors will find something to pique interest now that the time has come to inevitably recycle these exceptional images to a new cadre of aficionados.

Provenance:The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection


Both cartes with strong clarity showing moderate soiling and rounded corners, VG. The bottom of the Benton carte trimmed up to the albumen.

Estimate: $400 - $600
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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