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Brandy Station: 1864

Brandy Station: 1864

February 1864. Brandy Station, Virginia. Secret Service officers at Army of the Potomac winter headquarters: Col. George H. Sharpe, John G. Babcock, unidentified and Lt. Col. John McEntee. 8x10 glass-plate negative from a collection compiled by Hirst Milhollen and Donald Mugridge. View full size. Alternate caption information, which records the date of creation/publication as August 1863: "Bealeton, Va. Members of the Bureau of Military Information."


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Doesn't look like February to me

The February date attribution is suspect. Looks like plenty of leaves on the trees. While some oak trees do not necessarily drop all of their leaves in fall, this appears to be late summer to early fall. Possibly this was taken closer to Warrenton in 1863 or Petersburg in 1864.

Bureau of Military Information

John C. Babcock was an architect from Chicago, Illinois and initially joined the Sturgis Rifles. The 'Rifles' were an early body guard for McClellan during which time Babcock became familiar with or renewed a friendship with Pinkerton (also from Chicago).

Upon his discharge from the 'Rifles' Pinkerton asked Babcock to join his organization, which he did, and he began collating intel.

When McClellan was sacked (2nd time) Babcock remained at his position until Col. Geo. Sharpe took over the Bureau of Military Info.

Babcock remained in his civilian employment throughout the course of the war and was present at Appomattox. (Sharpe, I am told signed Lee's parole).

After the war Babcock returned to his original home in Rhode Island and blended into obscurity. My aunt descends from his family.

John Babcock

His name is recorded as both John C. and John G. Babcock in the Library of Congress Civil War collection, and he's shown (below) with Allan Pinkerton. Middle and top photos: "October 1862. Antietam, Maryland. Seated: R. William Moore and Allan Pinkerton. Standing: George H. Bangs, John C. Babcock, and Augustus K. Littlefield." Bottom photo, dated October 1862: "John C. Babcock, a Secret Service man and Gimlet, a celebrated war horse of the Rappahannock."

John McEntee

Speaking of McEntee (well, his eye), here's his obit (1903) which I coincidentally noticed while looking for something else.

John C Babcock

I think it is in fact John C. Babcock, a Civil War Pinkerton operative who is mentioned on this page:

also here he is with his horse:

although to be fair to Anonymous Tipster, according to this book: Babcock was in fact a Private before he joined Pinkerton's secret service.


Brent, I'm a different AT than the one addressed below...

But the Babcock pictured is obviously not in the uniform of a soldier or officer. Perhaps he was a local living near the camp of the Union troops and was so impressed with their stories that he joined up.

There's also this bit, found in the Journal of the 44th Senate of the State of NJ, being the 112th Session of the Legislature. Trenton, NJ 1888...
"Senate Bill No. 34, entitled 'An act to provide compensation for one John G. Babcock, for loss of pay, caused by transfer from New Jersey state troops to regular army,'"

BTW, is McEntee missing his left eye, kinda...or is that a spot on the glass?

[It's how blue eyes looked in a lot of 19th-century photographs, in the days before panchromatic emulsions. - Dave]

Private Babcock?

Not meaning to pick nits with Anonymous Tipster's identification of the John G Babcock in this photo, but I have to ask how likely it would be for a private soldier like the John G. Babcock buried in New Jersey to be seen in such a relaxed posture (feet up on a makeshift table) with two colonels and a third officer (the man with the pipe)? In other words, could this be a different John G. BabcockÉ

John G Babcock

This is fantastic, I love the Civil War pictures where you can see people's faces clearly. This is a great one.

It appears that Private Babcock died 6 years after this picture was taken, and is buried at the Pompton Reformed Church Cemetary in New Jersey.


The Secret Service was commissioned on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C.

[Did you read the next comment down? - Dave]

Secret Service?

Did the Secret Service have other duties at that time in addition to protecting Lincoln? I know about counterfeiting.

Three of the 4 are in uniform, hardly "Secret" anything.

[Secret service is a generic term. The was General Grant's secret service, in charge of intelligence-gathering. Not the Treasury Department secret service, formed in 1865. There was also a Confederate secret service. - Dave]

Good God...

Good God, what a picture could author makes if he can use todays cameras?

[Not as good and less sharp. This image was recorded on an 8-by-10-inch glass negative -- 80 square inches, as opposed to the one-square-inch sensor on a good digital camera. - Dave]

Are you from Charlottesville?

"Brandy Station is less than an hour from where I live, it's straight up Route 29."

I was born/raised in Charlottesville, though I do not live there now...

Small world, and lots of history!

Up the Road

Brandy Station is less than an hour from where I live, it's straight up Route 29. This picture has amazing detail.

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