Item #27892 Camp of the First N.Y. Mounted Rifles Suffolk Va. Poker Painting on varnished board. Civil War Folk Art, New York.
Camp of the First N.Y. Mounted Rifles Suffolk Va. Poker Painting on varnished board.

Camp of the First N.Y. Mounted Rifles Suffolk Va. Poker Painting on varnished board.

Suffolk Va: 1863 July 5th. A poker work image of the camp of the First N.Y. Mounted Rifles, known as "Dodge's Rifles". The artist, T(homas) Place was a private in Company H of the First. The wooden board, possibly the lid of an ammunition box, measures 20 x 25" and depicts the camp, tents, troops and the American flag. He dedicates the artwork to C. C. Dodge, Charles Cleveland Dodge, who started in the First as a captain and advanced to brigadier prior to his resignation in June 1863.

PBA in 2015 auctioned a letter from Place that reads:
"Camp near Portsmouth, Va. Sunday July 5th, 1863. Mr. C.C. Dodge. Sir, By express, I sent on friday to you, a small token of reguards [sic], which I hope will be accepiable [sic]. It is a sketch of the late camp of the First New York Mounted Rifles as it was when you was our Colonel. It is what is called "Poker Painting," for it is made with a hot poker. It could be greatly improved, by one coat of white varnish, which I could not get in Suffolk. Our Lieut. Colones. [sic] Mr. Patton and Captain Ellis, being pleased with them, I thought that you would be pleased with one allso [sic], and have therefore take the liberty to send you one. I am yours to command, Thomas Place. Troop H. 1st N.Y. Mounted Rifles. Portsmouth, Va."

Place enlisted in September 1862, and so would have been in his his third month in the regiment if the date is indeed December 1862. Place survived the war, mustering out in June 1865.

The Virginia Historical Society holds a scrapbook compiled by Thomas Place. According to a description on the society's site, "The bulk of the pencil drawings by Place depict activities and scenes around Suffolk in the winter of 1862 and during the siege of April 1863. Included are sketches of military camps and fortifications, scenes of camp life, and drawings of the towns of Providence Church, Waverly, and Windsor, and the Dismal Swamp. Other Virginia locations sketched by Place include Yorktown, Jamestown, Williamsburg (including the College of William and Mary and a view of the town from the courthouse to the college), and Libby Prison in Richmond."

Dodge was young, well connected New Yorker and a controversial figure. He had performed commendably, but there was obviously difficulties between Dodge and his superior Major General John J. Peck and his Corps commander Major General John A. Dix... In a letter to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, dated 28 March 1863, Dix wrote:

"There is another subject I would like to mention. Col. Dodge of the New York Mounted Rifles has been made Brigadier General. This regiment has given me great trouble. It is known as “Dodge’s Rifles”. They have plundered in all direction, and since the first of October thirty-five have deserted to the enemy, from ten different companies, most of them from outposts, carrying away their horses, arms and equipment; a thing unprecedented in any Regiment in the service. General Peck refused to recommend his promotion, and I felt it my duty to censure him in General Orders. General Peck does not want him, nor do I. His influence with his regiment is not salutary.... I beg of you to put General Dodge on duty elsewhere. He is very young, and should be under an experienced officer if he to be continued in the Cavalry service. [Wikipedia]

Dodge resigned in June 1863 in protest. In early July 1863, three important Union victories occured, at Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Port Hudson. It must have been gauling to him to be sitting on the sidelines. He briefly returned to service with the militia to suppress the New York City draft riots. Very good overall, with some scratches. Item #27892


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