Posted 4 years ago
This cdv falls into the RARE category. This is the only image that I have seen with a Cherokee inscription.
When first purchased I thought that there was some sort of code on the back (photo #2) and I spent a lot of time trying to decipher it. Finally it dawned on me that rather than code, it could be a language.
The subjects dark features led me to look at the Cherokee syllabary and many of the symbols seemed to match.
Questions about translation that I sent to the Smithsonian were quickly answered and they provided sources for translation.
While I was waiting on the translation, online searches to identify the subject led me to photos of Lewis Downing. While I am not a proponent of "looks like" identification, the likeness was striking.
The translation quickly ended any doubt:
From over the sea (or) from across the creek
A great friend
I will always
Here among the chiefs
June 14 1863"
Research online shows that Downing initially served as a Chaplain in the 1st Cherokee Cavalry (CSA) and later as a LTC in the Indian Home Guards (USA).
I do not know who John Manning is or the specifics on the presentation. The Philadelphia backmark would suggest it was done as part of a delegation visit to the East. I know that Downing was part of an 1863 Cherokee delegation visit to Washington, D.C.
Interestingly, Downing was named Chief of the Cherokee post war and was instrumental in reuniting the Confederate/ Union factions.
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