Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Mysterious James Deshler Photograph

Brigadier General James Deshler

       Above is a photograph of Brigadier General James Deshler that appears in all Civil War books that furnish a picture of the man. It shows heavy signs of being retouched, which means an artist took the photograph and painted over the picture covering up any blemishes and most likely painting on the officer's coat. Ironically, he wears the coat of a Confederate brigadier general which is exactly what his rank was at the time of his death. He was only a brigadier for a couple of months before being killed at the Battle of Chickamauga and probably never had his image taken in that particular uniform. This is actually a quite common occurrence for the time. 

Two photos of Brigadier General John Adams

       In the photo of General John Adams above on the left is an original photo of the man without retouching. The photograph on the right is the same man but the picture has been heavily retouched by an artist. The artist did an excellent job of making Adams eyes clearer, skin extremely smooth and his mustache is about five times as thick. The coat he has painted on the man is obviously not a coat at all. Notice how perfect the collar is, how smooth the coat lies across his chest and shoulders. 

James Deshler Mystery Photo

       A few months ago, a friend of mine, Historian Richard Sheridan provided me with a copy of the above photograph that he obtained from some of Deshler's living relatives. This picture has given me a headache attempting to figure out what it is. In the original, the coat looks real, it doesn't appear to be retouched. The above photo doesn't do the original much justice. The next problem is the fact that he is wearing a coat that would be worn by a major general or above because the buttons are grouped in three's. If you notice his face shows heavy signs of being retouched and most troubling of all, his head seems a little off centered with his neck. The mystery remains about the history of this photograph. Did he borrow a senior officers coat to have his photograph taken? Did an artist paint Deshler's face over another general officers so the family would have a uniformed picture of their lost loved one? There's a very good possibility that we will never know.


  1. I have studied these photo's until I've given myself a headache and here is my personal opinion and it's worth what you're paying for it. The first photo is an actual photo of Deshler with a uniform painted on. The second is a Confederate general's photo with Deshler's face painted on. The next thing I'm attempting to accomplish is finding who the general is that had his face removed.

  2. I agree. When you look at how off his head is with his neck, it is obvious someone has really retouched this photograph. Love this General!!!!