Frances Clalin Clayton

Samuel Masury American

Not on view

The role of the camera during the American Civil War endures as one of the most studied and exciting subjects in American cultural history. This pair of carte-de-visite format portraits of the same individual, one presenting herself as a woman, the other as a man, illustrates the point. Frances Clalin Clayton, a woman, served in the Union army as a soldier by disguising herself as a man. In these cartes de visite, an affordable type of photograph collected by soldiers and civilians during and immediately after the the war's end, Clayton poses as herself and also as "Jack Williams." As a soldier, she suggestively holds the handle of a cavalry sword between her crossed legs. The facts of Clayton's life story and military service are difficult to confirm, but it is believed that she served in the Missouri cavalry (or infantry) beside her husband, who died at the Battle of Stones River in late December 1862.

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