Caroliniana Columns
Newsletter of the University South Caroliniana Society
Spring 2001
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Unknown Soldiers:
Mystery Photo Closer to a Solution

The Fall 2000 issue of Caroliniana Columns featured a photograph of five early-twentieth-century soldiers and solicited reader suggestions as to the identity of the individuals. The names of the soldiers and the precise date and location of the image have yet to be determined; however, thanks to reader input, the photographic mystery is closer to a solution.

Edward Sloan of Greenville, South Carolina, established that the jacket shown was a blue, five-button military jacket identical to those worn by South Carolina Volunteer soldiers in 1898. Virgil Lawrence, a graduate student assistant at the South Caroliniana Library, suggested that the Maltese Cross insignia might have a connection to the St. John Ambulance, a foundation under the Order of the Hospital of St. John.

Detail of albumen print
discussed in Autumn 2000 edition of
Caroliniana Columns.
Print of the Unknowns - 12188 Bytes

Around the time period of the photograph, the international humanitarian aid organization provided medical assistance and charitable relief to countries affected by war. This proved a shrewd guess, since it turned out that the insignia was the St. John's Cross, and in the early twentieth century, the symbol was used as the United States Army Hospital Corps' insignia.

Walter Budd, a military history enthusiast from Durham, North Carolina, claimed that the soldiers were United States Army Hospital corpsmen, probably photographed in Puerto Rico or the Philippines early in the twentieth century, but after 1904. Their "Hospitalers" cap insignia was the one adopted by the United States Army for its medics in 1901. Their caps and waist belts are standard United States Army issue circa 1902; however, their blue, five-button coats are out of date and were possibly issued from the Army's overstock. The additional strap worn under their equipment harnesses is a litter-carrier, and attached to the waistbelts are hospital corps pouches probably containing scissors, bandages, and other first-aid essentials. The oversized, curved blades at their sides are examples of a 1904 model Hospital Corps knife.

The Library thanks readers for their input.

--Joe Long

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