Sepia Saturday – Is This My John Sylvester Strange?

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs.

Sepia Saturday Theme Image 415

The theme photo this week pictures Enginists of the Finnish State Railways playing chess on call duty. (1951) With back to the camera, caps pulled low, and several profile views, one might be hard pressed to identify these men. And that is my last-minute take on the theme:

Who is this man?

This week I found a couple of photos on identified as my 2nd great-grandfather, John Sylvester Strange. One of the photographs was obviously him – looks like other photographs in the family archive and a couple of cousins think they have copies of the photograph.

This photograph also appears in Lincoln – that County in Kansas by Dorothe Tarrence Homan. My copy arrived in the mail just yesterday! I took this photo right from the book. So that is definitely my John Sylvester Strange on the right.

It was the other photograph I found on ancestry that day that caused a lot of discussion among the cousins once I posted it on Facebook for everyone to see.

This second photograph is identified as John Sylvester Strange and one of his wives. JSS was married first to Elizabeth Hendrickson. She died while he was away during the Civil War. Upon his return home, JSS married Elizabeth’s sister, Susan, who is my 2nd great-grandmother.

My cousins have serious doubts that this is our John Sylvester Strange. And it is all about his eyes. JSS had blue eyes and this man’s eyes do not look blue. At. All. Other features are similar to our guy – but those eyes! Could the photo have been tinted and the eyes darkened?

I asked the person who shared the photo to ancestry where she got it and she said she found it on I finally found it and messaged the person who shared it there. I asked her a few questions about where she got the picture and how we would be related –  there have obviously been more than one man with the name John Sylvester Strange. Her linage fits our family tree to a T. We are related to the same man. She said that her father and grandfather said this was JSS.

So, I give you the photos we know to be our JSS with this man added to the mix. What do you think?


It is hard to tell with that pesky beard, but the cheekbones, forehead, hairline, and nose seem to me to be very much alike.

Besides your input on the facial differences/similarities, I have another question for you. The woman with the photograph kindly provided me with her phone number so that I could call with any further questions. What would you ask her?

By the way, we can’t really go by the wife to make the identification. No one has a picture of Elizabeth and the only one we have of Susan was much, much later in life. And, well, our attention is focussed completely on John.

Looking forward to your input!

Be sure to visit others who have participated in Sepia Saturday this week!

John Sylvester Strange has appeared here before: Strange in a Strange Uniform



Sepia Saturday – Strange in a Strange Uniform

Okay – I know this isn’t the prompt for this week, but I spent too much time on it to just let it sit here. If I find the time, I’ll work on the one I’m supposed to do for this week. 🙂

The Sepia Saturday prompt for Oct. 13th brought to mind a photograph of my paternal 2nd great-grandfather, John Sylvester Strange. I had a terrible time pulling the post together, and finally went with something completely different. I was making it too hard. Allow me to begin again….

John Sylvester Strange served in Company K of the 49th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War. The unit mustered in on November 21, 1861 and mustered out on November 28, 1864. As an infantry unit, they traveled 8,000 miles during those three years.

But this post is not about the details of John Sylvester Strange’s military service. This post is about his uniform.

John Sylvester Strange 
















One of my cousins has this picture hanging in her home (hopefully a better copy). A painter, working in her home, took an interest in it because he is a Civil War re-enactor. He thought the unusual design on the jacket indicated that J. S. Strange was a musician. We had heard that our ancestor was a chaplain, but never that he was a musician.

I scoured lots of Civil War images online and finally found a clue on a website (now inactive) about the 12th Indiana Regiment.

Man in 12th IN Zouave uniform

The unidentified man pictured left had the same trefoil design on his uniform jacket. The picture was listed under the heading “2nd Issue, or Zouave uniform.

“Manufactured by tailor Jacob Staub, on [sic] Indianapolis, Indiana and purchased by the men of the 12th IN in December 1863. They wore their veteran zouave jackets with their false-vests for the duration of their enlistments. Officers and enlisted men both wore the zouave jackets. Officer’s jackets had 3 small brass buttons on the cuffs Some men wore dark blue trowsers with their jackets, but this is a large minority of the regiment. The men wore plan [sic] forage caps with the uniform, as per a standing order from their Brigade commander.”

John Sylvester Strange


The 1st Issue, or Regulation Uniform, it continued, “was issued by the Federal government and consisted of the Army-issued sack coat or frock-coat and a forage hat.”

In the picture on the right, J. S. Strange is wearing his Regulation Uniform frock coat. Before muster, many men had studio pictures taken in their uniforms. It is interesting to me that J. S. Strange was not photographed with any of the accoutrements of a soldier. No hat, no gun – just the coat and pants.

Union Musician on left


Rather than indicating status as a musician, J. S. Stange’s jacket in the first photograph was part of a Zouave uniform. The soldier pictured at left is wearing the uniform of a musician and carrying a musician’s sword (and forage cap).

So what is a Zouave? And why were North American Civil War soldiers wearing Zouave uniforms?

French Zouave, Crimean War


The New York 5th Infantry is one of the more famous Zouave units. As explained on their website:  “The Zouave movement began in Algiers, North Africa, which French forces captured in 1830. Indigenous troops from the Zouaoua tribe who offered to serve in the occupying army were accepted into two battalions under French officers in order to protect the city and maintain peace. By 1831, King Louis Philippe of France sanctioned the use of these special Algerian Arab regiments which became known as Zouaves. The 

Jules Marie Deluen, Papal Zouave uniform, Nantes, France

French Zouave corps adopted the military tactics and non-western clothing of the North African troops which featured baggy trousers, short open jackets and Arab headgear – the dress of the local Turkish and African population. The ranks filled quickly with soldiers who were attracted to the adventurous life of the Zouaves, their unique esprit de corps which bound them together like a family, and relative freedom compared to the garrison life in France.” 

“Of all the Civil War soldiers, the ZOUAVES (zoo’-ahvs) stand out as the most colorful and distinctive. The picturesque stye of the Zouave soldiers’ dress, their unique drill tactics and fearless demeanor in battle earned the original French Zouaves and their American counterparts the reputation of being 19th-century models of dashing gallantry and military discipline.”

Some Civil War units drilled and practiced quick-step marching and other Zouave tactics. Others simply adopted the uniform style.

Co. G. 114th VA Zouaves

African American soldier in Union Zouave uniform

J.R. Sitter – J.K. Burnham Co. A 76th P.Y.


Life in Camp, Part 2 

Godey’s lady’s book 1862


If you are interested in learning more about the Zouaves or Civil War uniforms, you might take a  look here, here, here, here, or here.

Quick step on over to the Sepia Saturday blog and see what’s in store today.


Military Monday – Hedrick BBQ Days Parade “Honoring Our Veterans”

If you keep up with my little blog, you know that I recently spent a week in Iowa. Today’s prompt, “Military Monday,” seemed to work well enough for another set of photos – the ones I took of the 53rd Annual Hedrick Barbeque Days Parade on June 23rd. This year’s theme was “Honoring Our Veterans.”

I remember attending some of the BBQ Days events when I was back for a visit as a teenager, but I confess – I remember the Friday night street dance but not the Saturday morning parade…..

I didn’t take a picture of every float or vehicle in the parade. There were quite a few vintage cars, trucks, and tractors. The churches in town were responsible for most of the floats and I thought they did a great job with the theme. Dad(Jerry)’s church alone contributed four floats. Dad and I helped/supervised/distracted/encouraged the float builders one afternoon.  Amazingly, one of the float builders was my age and remembered me from our teenaged years when I would come and stay for a month in the summer. (Click to enlarge photos.)

Dad leading the Christian Church Floats

The pictures on the floats are of veterans and current military personnel submitted by the community. Dad made sure to honor a Civil War ancestor of ours on one of the floats. 

John Sylvester Strange, 49th Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Company K – my great-great-grandfather.

When I spent time in Hedrick 40-some years ago, there were still banks and businesses downtown. Now the banks are gone, the schools are closed, and there isn’t much open on Main Street. It is still a lovely community. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and the surprise of seeing several people that I knew all those years ago.

A short bit from the local Ottumwa TV station: