Tintype and CDV of Ruffin

The Original Fire-eater


Description and Photograph






    Edmund Ruffin became a Virginian by birth in 1794.  His life and career as a pioneer in soil chemistry took place in Virginia.  At Marlbourne, Hanover County, Virginia, Ruffin experimented with marl from the adjoining Pamunkey River.  His findings propelled him to the forefront of Agricultural Science.  He is best known; however, as the man who fired the first shot of the War Between the States.

     Ruffin was a leading fire-eater, having urged secession as early as 1850.  When South Carolina seceded, Ruffin was unwilling to await Virginia; he went to Charleston, South Carolina and joined the elite "Palmetto Guards" as an honorary member.  The term fire-eater referred to one who was a rabid secessionist who reviled the Yankees.

     The Guards were stationed at Steven's Iron Battery, located on Cumming’s Point, Morris Island.  At about half past four, April 12, 1861, Edmund Ruffin was given the honor of pulling the lanyard that sent the first shell screaming into Fort Sumter.  Around this time, Charleston photographer, George S. Cook, asked Ruffin to sit for a portrait.  Ruffin wrote of Cook, "Though he is a superior artist, I do not think his carte photographs, at 50 cents, of which I bought a few, are as good picture as Quinby's at 25," thus identifying the photo artists that took his portraits.  I have no doubt that he liked the uniformed image better than the civilian, thus the CDV would be Quinby’s and the tintype Cook’s.

     On the back is written in pencil, “Fired the first shot at Fort Sumter(,) killed himself in 1865, because he refused to live under the United States government.  However it was much more vitriolic than “refused to live under the United States government”.  Four years later with his Virginia plantations in ruins, his life’s work laid waist, Edmund Ruffin penned these words, "I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule - to all political social and business connection with the Yankees and to the Yankee race.  Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living Southerner and bequeath hem to every one yet to be born!  May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged and down-trodden South, though in silence and stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for deliverance and vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated and enslaved Southern States!  .. And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my last breath, I repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule-to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race."

     As can be seen, Ruffin was a fire-eater till his end.  Then he wrapped himself in a Confederate flag and blew his brains out.

     This tintype, the most patriotic image of Ruffin, was taken either just before or just after the firing on Fort Sumter.  The venerable Ruffin is seated wearing his Palmetto Guard's Uniform, fully accoutered, and holding his hat with the distinctive Palmetto Guard’s (PG) Insignia.  In the second image, the CDV, he is in virtually the same pose, but with his cane for a rifle, and hat, adorned only with a Jeff Davis hat pin.  In both images he wears the same coat, trousers and cravat.




We buy high quality Confederate items.