National Music Museum Logo   National Music Museum  
Home; Collections
Virtual Tour
Calendar Gift Shop FAQ Site Index Maker Index


Images from The Music Man Exhibition

Violin Played by Civil War Soldier

NMM 5794. Violin, Saxony, ca.1840-1860

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. Cross, a former policeman 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, 1861, Cross 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, 1863.

Ambrotype of James A. Cross

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. ca. 1826-d. Albany, New York, January 22, 1903) at the Church of the Holy Cross in Troy on December 27, 1847, with the Rev. J. Ireland Tucker officiating. Their only child, Jane (Jennie) Dorothy Cross Fillmore, was 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 contracted debilitating "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 Ida Cemetery.

NMM 5794. Violin, Saxony, ca. 1840-1860 Cross incised his wife's name within a heart on the violin belly

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.†

Stars incised on violin belly

Technical Information

Top:† two-piece, quarter-cut spruce with wide grain, narrowing toward the flanks.
Back:† one-piece maple cut off-the-quarter, with irregular, narrow, horizontal curl.
Ribs:† quarter-cut maple, narrow curl.
Head and neck:† plain maple.
Purfling:† extends under fingerboard.
Varnish:† light orange-brown;† slightly shaded on back, upper and lower bouts.
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, perhaps walnut.
Endpin:† ebony.
F-holes:† slightly undercut;† notches placed asymmetrically.
Linings:† spruce.
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 collar button.

Owner's name incised on violin belly

Captain Cross' regiment participated in many battles in Virginia during the war, including those at Big Bethel, (10 June 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).

Cross' daybook

The violin survives with a contemporaneous black-varnished pine case, an ambrotype of the owner, Cross' mother-of-pearl 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 Traderís 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. 20-23.

  Click arrow to continue The Music Man Exhibition Tour

Go to The Music Man Exhibition Tour Index

Go to Virtual Gallery Tour Index

Go to Annotated Checklist of Violins Made Between 1800-1849

A postcard of this violin is available from the Gift Shop

Note: This violin is on display in the exhibition, "Ya Gotta 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 Website:

Bucktails Regiment Bass Drum
Cabinet Card 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
Three Civil War Era Drums
Custer's Last Band: Concert and CD Release
Felix Vinatieri Archive
Felix Vinatieri Research Project

National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD   57069

©National Music Museum, 2002-2014
Most recent update:   March 1, 2014

The University of South Dakota
Return to Top of Page