Hiram & Charles Cotton, 1861
Hiram B. Cotton was almost the same age as his younger sister's husband, John Cole, when they both enlisted in the 1st Massachusetts Calvary. They were mustered in September, 1861. Hiram was 23, John 22. Charles enlisted in the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry several months after his younger Hiram. South Carolina seceeded in October.
Each of these images is encased in a small display box and set inside an ornate metal frame. Thousands and thousands of similar images were made of the men entering the coming conflict. The photographs inaugurated a new class of public records that were taken for the purpose of visual identification. However, unlike the the institutional uses that would follow (for instance the creation of galleries of criminal mugshots), these images were taken for the benefit of the families of the newly enlisted. The photos were privately contracted in an acknowledgement it might be the last, if not the only, fleeting glimpse of a life cut short. The images have a haunting quality of time out of joint. For many men, this moment in the studio of the local photographer captured a dawning recognition of mortal limits.