In August 1862, William Edward Starr, eldest son of E.W.N. Starr, enlisted in Company B, 14th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. While his father and mother, Harriet, set about writing letters to friends and acquaintances in an attempt to secure a commission for their son, William suffered the life of a private in the infantry. William writes home on October 5, 1862, “...my experience of military life I can give in a very few words, tough monotonous, the worst is the fare, salt pork & bacon & pilot bread [another term for hardtack] which requires a hammer to break.”
While his parents were unable to secure him a commission, he was able to serve as a clerk on the officer’s staff, alongside his cousin Edward Brewer. William became ill in the late fall of 1862. His father visited him on November 2, 1862 and wrote home to his wife, “I found Edward better than I feared he might be and in fact his is now doing very well & receives good care & is in an airy location& comfortable...he had been very sick for two or three days...he is not well enough to move.” His mother went down to visit him and by the end of the year had him home on a medical furlough and eventually discharged from the service due to his illness.
All the carte de visite images appear to have been taken at approximately the same time. It is quite possible that the images of Harriet, William Edward and his younger brothers Henry and Frank, and the portrait of little sister Grace were done so William would have current images of his family to carry with him when he joined the service.