11 October 2006 by Published in: General News 8 comments

Several months ago, thanks to Joe Bilby, the authority on all things New Jersey Civil War, I learned that Ulric Dahlgren’s colonel’s dress uniform was in the collection of the Historical Society of Princeton.

Ulric’s oldest brother was named Charles Bunker Dahlgren. Charlie Dahlgren named his first son Ulric in honor of his slain brother. The second Ulric Dahlgren, born six years after his namesake was killed in action, became one of the world’s most famous scientists. He was a world-renowned biologist and zoologist, and was an award-winning and long-tenured professor at Princeton University. Somewhere along the line, Charlie Dahlgren came into possession of his brother’s last dress uniform. That uniform ended up in a trunk in the attic of the second Ulric Dahlgren’s son, and a purchaser of the house eventually discovered it. It was then donated to the Historical Society of Princeton.

The Society recently kicked off an exhibit on New Jersey in the Civil war, and for the first time ever, the uniform is on exhibit. This photo was forwarded to me by the Historical Society so I can include it in the book. There’s also a CDV of Dahlgren wearing this uniform posted here. The CDV was taken in Philadelphia in November 1863, shortly before Ulric went to visit his father in Charleston, SC for the next couple of months.

I find a couple of things remarkable about it.

Dahlgren stood over 6 feet tall, but I doubt that that uniform jacket is bigger than a size 40 or so. Now, I’m not a slender fellow, but I was once. When I was 18, I was 6’3″ and weighed about 170 pounds. Even then, I wore a size 44 suit coat. Although Dahlgren was tall and very athletic, he obviously never filled out.

The other striking thing about it is the condition. The thing is in absolutely immaculate condition. It obviously was not worn often by Dahlgren before his fatal mission. It also was obviously well cared for by its subsequent stewards.

It will make a great addition to the book.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Steve Basic
    Thu 12th Oct 2006 at 2:05 am

    Eric,

    From reading your posts with Joe, while I read the uniform was in great shape, looking at the photo I did not expect it looking like that.

    Am guessing that the only time he wore it was to have his picture taken??

    Who knew we had treaures like that in the Garden State?? Not me. 🙂

    Steve

  2. Valerie Protopapas
    Thu 12th Oct 2006 at 10:00 am

    Dahlgren’s build might have been such that no matter how tall, he would never have been ‘broad’. I had a friend who was tall and so skinny and small boned – we called him ‘bird boned’ – that you felt that you could see through him if he stood with the sun behind him! He was healthy as a horse, but no matter even if he ran to fat later in life (which he didn’t), he would never have been ‘broad’.

    From what I have seen of Dahlgren’s portrait photograph, he was long and slender but not broad in the shoulder. It’s a matter of physiognomy rather than not ‘filling out’. The best way to determine the matter is a study of his wrists, hands, ankles and feet. Small boned people even when they are tall have delicate extremities. I don’t have any photographs of Dahlgren that show his hands and feet, but if there are any, that would be where you would find the matter out.

  3. William Shea
    Thu 12th Oct 2006 at 11:15 am

    Are you certain the uniform on display is the one in the photograph? I ask because the shoulder patches do not appear to match.

  4. Thu 12th Oct 2006 at 11:30 am

    Bill,

    I’m sure. There are other images of the uniform that were sent to me that give a much better view of it, and it’s clear to me that they are the same.

    Eric

  5. Mike Nugent
    Sun 15th Oct 2006 at 10:50 am

    Wow! What an amazing artifact. Unlike weapons and other more durable gear, original CW clothing is pretty rare, all the more so when it’s identified to its owner and all the more again when that owner is someone as notable as Dahlgren. Truly a priceless piece.

  6. Sun 15th Oct 2006 at 8:37 pm

    Mike,

    It is indeed. That’s why I was so excited to track it down and get a photo to use.

    Eric

  7. John D. Mackintosh
    Thu 19th Oct 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Eric,

    Excellent photograph and thank goodness that came to your attention BEFORE the publication of your book. Often, it works the other way around, much to the frustration of a number of authors.

    BTW, can you give us a very rough idea of when the Dahlgren bio will hit the bookstores?

    John

  8. Teresa Pistole
    Sat 16th Nov 2013 at 5:44 pm

    The day Dahlgren died, a young boy named Benny Fleet was killed by his advance guard in King William County, VA. Here at Benny’s home, Green Mount, where I now live there is a Yankee Cavalry Officer’s spur and oddly the rowel goes horizontal. Benny’s brother Fred Fleet (26th VA Infantry) was part of the ambush party when Dahlgren was killed. It is thought that perhaps this spur was taken off Dahlgren as so many things were. Does anyone have a photo of Dahlgren wearing spurs? A book titled Green Mount, now reprinted for the first time since 1977 is the diary of Benny Fleet. We have found where he was shot and where he died as well as the handwritten manuscript of Reuben Bartley, Dahlgren’s Signal Officer. Bartley carried Benny’s friend Willie Taliaferro to a nearby house and he lived. The manuscript is at the Va Historical Society. He gives a first hand account of what happened that day, March 2nd, 1864. If anyone would like to read it please email me and I can attach it in a reply email. Great read! The Green Mount book is available thru BookLogix.com and Amazon.com at a$29.95. A wonderful, poignant tale…all true. Thank you, Teresa Pistole

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