Posted December 2014

If you have a Civil War item that you can't identify or something you want to know the value of, contact John (mail: Box 510, Acworth, GA 30101; email John at with Civil War in the subject line or call 770-329-4984 or 770-974-6495). John needs a good description of the item, condition, manufacturer's marks and any other markings, and photos. Please Note: All questions MUST be accompanied with a Photo, it should not be more than 200k in file size.

We spoke on the phone, and I asked if you would be able to evaluate theses two cabinet cards for me. Unfortunately, these are the only pictures I have of them for now; I hope you can still manage to figure out what they could be worth.

J.S.: Your photographs are known as cabinet cards and date circa 1885. Both appear to be NYC militia soldiers, one an officer and the other enlisted men in the 6th New York National Guard, most likely. The officer was photographed by Sarony, a well-known New York City photographer in the late Victorian Era. The quality of his photographs is among the best; his imprint can be found on images of many famous celebrities of the day—there are several views of George Armstrong Custer known.

Unless either of these figures turn out to have an interesting history and can be identified, unidentified cabinet cards of militia soldiers of this era are typically priced at trade shows between $25 and $50 each. 

I have a pre-war/war-era Kepi that I need some help identifying.

JS: Kepis can often be difficult to date. Certain characteristics overlap eras, and headgear that postdates the Civil War even slightly has considerably less value in the market. Because they can be so close in appearance, numerous "Civil war kepis" sold in the marketplace are postwar or fabrications.

This kepi dates circa 1875 due to some of these characteristics. The hat is more in the style of a French chasseur kepi that was used in the war but more popular in the 1870s and after. Characteristics that postdate the hat include a drawstring closure in the crown; there are Civil War examples of this, but they are unusual, and this is typical of post-war kepis. The lower height and finish of the sweatband is typical of 1870-1890 and not the Civil War. The hat insignia of crossed rifles was not adopted until well after the war. If we could see the maker of the button (the backmark), it could be dated also.

Post-war kepis of this style are often sold in auctions, and most sell for about $200-$400. 

My wife found two letters hidden in a cover of a book from her grandfather from General Clapp, Union Army. My research indicates that John Clapp was captured at the Battle of Plymouth. The letter is written in 1862 while en route to a Confederate prison in Macon, Ga. He was going on a hospital ship, but was not wounded too seriously. He had to be careful while writing since he was being watched, and paper was scarce.

My interest is to have the letter appraised. I would hope that a letter written by a captured adjutant on his way to prison may be worth more than if leaving prison. How many people were ever able to write a letter while in transit to a Civil War prison? An Internet search for John Clapp documents the letter and his imprisonment for one year in Macon.

J.S.: Prisoner of war letters are quite collectible and valuable, especially the covers, the envelopes with both US and CS stamps and various postal marks. Your ancestor was an officer, and officers were imprisoned at “nicer” facilities than enlisted soldiers.

Your two letters and covers, however, have no interesting content, unfortunately. John Clapp speaks of nothing that might scare or upset his wife as to his fears or any poor treatment while on his way to Americus, Ga., where he must have thought he was going to the hellhole of Andersonville. He was quite fortunate in going to the officers’ prison in Macon where he had access to more comforts, especially since he could get money sent from home to buy some of the luxuries not accessible to enlisted men. Even his letter from imprisonment just states he is in good spirits, “…waiting to be exchanged.” Many officers from both sides were regularly exchanged, especially if they were politically connected early in the war. This was not as common late in the war when Lt. Clapp was captured. He was not paroled until March 1865, just a month before the war’s end.

The first cover has stamps removed, unfortunately, making its value $25-$50 instead of up to a few hundred dollars. The letter is maybe $100. The second letter and cover both are torn in half, stained and have taped repairs, making this letter about $100, maybe. Condition is the utmost qualifier of value in the philatelic world, as in most antiques.

Your ancestor had quite an interesting history.

John Sexton is an independent appraiser and expert of Civil War memorabilia. He is an accredited member of various appraiser organizations. He can be contacted at 770-329-4984 or If you have a Civil War item for him to appraise, email a photo and a description to .




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