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Carte de Visite
J. V. Cobb - Photographer & Chemist
Hythe and Sandgate, England
c. 1865

This interesting carte de visite reproduces an 1860s vintage pen and watercolour sketch of the first day of practice of a rather motley group of volunteer soldiers. My assumption that this rather hopeless-looking group were volunteers is based solely on another assumption that had these men would have been more uniformly uniformed by their first day of arms handling hand they been regulars.

Each man was depicted in such a unique manner that they may represent actual members of the group as opposed to simply being the figments of someone's imagination. The man at the far right looks to be in the uniform of a naval officer or perhaps that of an officer of the merchant fleet. The man third from left is entirely outfitted in civilian garb. Three of the men look to be wearing uniforms similar to the gray ones issued to members of the volunteer rifle associations at the time. The man at the far right whom I have nicknamed "Gomer Pyle" is shown dropping his rifle. In the end, he probably turned out to be the best soldier in the group.

The army established a school of musketry at Hythe in 1853 and these men may well have been taking part in their first practice there when this drawing was inspired. Unfortunately, the artist's name is lost to history.

The image's caption reads: "First Practice - The practice is to accustom the soldier to handle his rifle."

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