Images from The Music Man Exhibition
Violin Played by Civil War Soldier
NMM 5794. Violin,
Saxony, ca. 1840-1860. Purchase funds gift of Mr. & Mrs. Hubert
H. Everist, Sioux City, Iowa, 1994.
This violin once belonged to James A.
who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Enlisting in Company F, 2nd
Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, at Troy, New York, on May 14,
served as a
First Lieutenant with that Company through July 29, 1862. Subsequently,
he was promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned to Company H on August
31, 1862. Captain Cross was mustered out with Company H on May 26,
According to his military records, James A. Cross
(b. England, March 20, 1825-d. Troy, New York, April 5, 1867) married Mary Laura Pearl (b.
Albany, New York,
January 22, 1903) at the
Church of the
Holy Cross in Troy on December 27, 1847, with the
Ireland Tucker officiating. Their only child, Jane (Jennie) Dorothy Cross
born on August 11, 1854 and was still alive in 1928. While serving as a
Captain with Company H, 2nd Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, Cross
"rheumatism, chronic diarrhea & malaria" while on duty at Manassas
Junction, Virginia, during the winter of 1862-1863. He died at his home
at 270 Second Street in Troy just five years later, shortly after his
42nd birthday, following an
eight-month battle with cancer. His remains are interred in Troy's Mount
Lt. Cross engraved his
name, his regiment, and thirteen stars on his instrument (see below), as
well as a
heart within which he carved the name of his wife and the date, 1862. Incised on top, lower treble bout, in
banner: Lt. J. A. Cross
2ND REGT. N.Y.V. Incised on top, lower bass bout, in heart: MARY /
1862. Incised on top, upper treble bout: six five-pointed
stars. Incised on top, upper bass bout: seven five-pointed stars.
Top: two-piece, quarter-cut spruce with wide grain, narrowing toward the
Back: one-piece maple cut off-the-quarter, with
irregular, narrow, horizontal curl.
Ribs: quarter-cut maple, narrow
Head and neck: plain maple.
Purfling: extends under
Varnish: light orange-brown; slightly shaded on back, upper and lower
Tailpiece: ebony; inlaid mother-of-pearl shield etched with black-painted dot enclosed in
a ring; inlaid mother-of-pearl eye at
lower end; nickel-plated copper saddle
does not fully extend to edges.
Saddle: dark brown hardwood,
F-holes: slightly undercut; notches placed asymmetrically.
Corner blocks: none.
Top block: integral with neck; faceted; narrower at bottom edge; spruce shims between top block and ribs.
Bottom block: spruce; faceted. Narrow, shallow bassbar carved from top. Abrasions on back near endpin from metal
Captain Cross' regiment participated in many
battles in Virginia during the war, including those at Big Bethel,
1861), Seven Pines (31 May-1 June 1862), Oak Grove (25 June 1862), Savage
Station (29 June 1862), Glendale (30 June 1862), Malvern Hill (1-2 July
1862), and Chancellorsville (5 February 1863).
The violin survives with a contemporaneous
black-varnished pine case, an ambrotype of the owner, Cross'
and ivory daybook, a bone-handled pocket knife, a framed mirror and
pincushion, and a brass clip from his uniform.
The daybook suggests that the then
Lieutenant Cross occasionally played for
dances he arranged in 1862. In one entry, Lt. Cross wrote "Schedule Dance
For the evening of April 4, 1862. Need another violin. See if General
can attend." A later note confirms the date of the dance: "Military Ball
at Town Hall 4/4/62."
James Cross' Colt pocket revolver is preserved by a private collector. For additional information about Cross' life and this revolver, see John Brogan, "The Colt Pocket Revolver of James A. Cross," North South
Trader’s Civil War 29, No. 5 (2003), pp. 20-23.
Back length: 354 mm
Upper bout width: 166 mm
Center bout width: 111 mm
Lower bout width: 204 mm
Lower bout rib height: 29-30 mm
Stop length: 193 mm
Vibrating string length: 327 mm
Original neck length (bottom of nut to ribs): 135 mm
Lit.: Wiley Sword, "James A. Cross: Policeman,
Soldier," The Gun Report (January 1970), pp. 36-38.
André P. Larson, "Japanese 'Fish' A Highlight;
1994 Acquisitions Include Rare Pianos, Harps, Woodwinds," Shrine
to Music Museum Newsletter 22, No. 2 (January 1995), p. 5.
John Brogan, "The Colt Pocket Revolver of James A.
Cross," North South Trader's Civil War 29, No. 5 (2003), pp.
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A postcard of this violin is available from the Gift Shop
Note: This violin is on permanent display in the
Know the Territory: The Musical Journey of Meredith Willson," designed and installed by the
National Music Museum in 2002 for the Meredith
Willson Museum in Mason City, Iowa.
Links to Civil War Era Pages on the National Music Museum
Bucktails Regiment Bass Drum
Photograph and Story of Musician Avery Brown (1852-1904) America's
Youngest Civil War Soldier
Civil War Instruments
on Exhibit at Museum
Civil War Drums
and Brass Instruments
Civil War Era Drums
Last Band: Concert and CD Release
National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069