Civil War Blog

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Was William H. Harman a Civil War Soldier?

Posted By on December 10, 2013


In the Civil War Exhibit at the Gratz Historical Society there is a framed picture of a soldier in uniform with the caption, “William H. Harman, Zouave Vol Unit, Civil War.”  The origin of the picture is uncertain, but further research has confirmed that the original photograph was taken at the the Smith Photography Studio of Lykens and Williamstown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  A photocopy of the original photograph is shown below.


The two-sided photocopy shows the name “William H. Harman” written at the top as it appeared on the original.


The photocopy was probably made from the original and a hand-held camera took a picture of the original and it is the photographic copy of the original that is displayed at the Gratz Historical Society Museum.  This practice of taking photographs of originals was commonplace at the Gratz Historical Society before scanners were readily available and in addition to the photograph of the photograph, a photocopy was made of the front and back of the picture.

The original has not been recently seen and there was no record found indicating who provided the original for copying.

It is not known how this photograph was identified as a “Zouave”.  The uniform is not characteristic of Zouave dress, which usually featured balloon-type pants tied above the ankle.  A typical Zouave uniform, from the 95th Pennsylvania Infantry of the Civil War,  is shown below.

In searching for a William Harman in the Civil War records available on Fold3, three men were found in Pennsylvania regiments:

William Harman, also known as William Herman, served in the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F.  He died during the Civil War and 65 pages of the widow’s pension application are available on-line.

William Harman served as a Sergeant in Company I of the 49th Pennsylvania Infantry.  He died on 21 November 1927 at Attica, Ohio.  He applied for an invalid pension on 5 March 1869 – which he eventually received and collected until his death.

William Harman, also known as William Herman, served in the 172nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company B.   He applied for a pension on 16 February 1910, which he received – but his death date is not noted on the Pension Index Card.

In searching for a William Harman in the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Card File, available from the Pennsylvania Archives, several additional persons named William Harman appear – including some with the name William H. Harman.

Examining the records of these various persons named William Harman is time consuming and may not result in the identification of the soldier who had his picture taken at the Smith Studio in LykensWilliamstown.

A better path to take might be some research on the Smith Studio to determine when it was in business as well as the usage period of this type of carded photo.  Photographs of this type have not been seen during the Civil War period and were generally produced 20 to 30 years afterward.  It is entirely possible that this William H. Harman was a soldier in the army in the post-Civil War period and that the “Civil War” caption on the photograph in the Gratz Historical Society Museum is completely wrong.

Readers are invited to submit ideas about how to correctly identify this soldier.  Comments can be added to this post or an e-mail can be sent to the blog.


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