Navy Faces in the Civil War Monitor

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img_6991Received my latest issue of the Civil War Monitor today and was thrilled to find not only that a gallery of images from my navy book received great play and the coveted cover slot! I am grateful to Terry Johnston and all the fine folks on the CWM team for making it happen. I also learned that the book is due out in November, just in time for the holidays. Pre-orders are available on Amazon.

Book Talk at the Greater Pittsburgh CWRT

IMG_6911Delighted to have had the opportunity to present a talk about my new book, Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors, to the Greater Pittsburgh Civil War Round Table this evening. A big thank you to John for inviting me, founder Allison for her hospitality, Rick for leading me to the venue and Joe for being my Powerpoint wingman! Last but not least, all the members who attended. Nice to have a packed house!

“The Greater Pittsburgh Civil War Round Table was founded in February 2000,  in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of providing Civil War enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in The War Between The States, with the opportunity to meet regularly.  We meet to study, discuss and learn about the war that shaped our nation, and the men and women of the Civil War Era, and the sacrifices they made. It is furthermore, the mission of this Round Table to educate the public about the urgent need for the preservation of battlefields, monuments, and Civil War sites.”

You can find them on Facebook and their official web site.

Book Talk at Lakeville Historical Society

13442358_904271953033248_3066261752311497730_nLast evening I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to the membership of the Lakeville Historical Society in Lakeville, Mass. Hosts Rita and Jim Gouveia made me feel instantly welcome, and everyone else was equally friendly and accommodating. In attendance was state representative Keiko Orral and her son, who is studying history. I discussed African American Faces of the Civil War and realized that with my navy book about to be published this may be one of the last of many times that I deliver this talk.

This visit reminded me of the important role played by the Lakeville Historical Society and other historical and genealogical groups across the country. They are on the front lines of history, gathering local relics and stories and preserving them for future generations. They also help me, for when I am researching men and women from the Civil War period I often turn to these organizations for assistance.

I salute Lakeville Historical Society for all that they’ve done in their 45 years of existence and wish them many more.

Next Book to Focus on Nurses

09-almira-fales-CPlease to announce that my next book in the Faces series will focus on nurses and other caregivers. I was inspired to take on this project after producing “Ministering Angels,” a gallery of original wartime portraits from the Chris Foard collection. The gallery appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Military Images magazine (I am editor and publisher).
 
Pictured here is one of the portraits from the Foard collection. Almira Newcomb McNaughton Lockwood Fales, a native of New York who was twice widowed, accompanied her third husband, Joseph T. Fales, to the nation’s capital, where “as early as 1860, from her extended knowledge of Southern feeling and action, she foresaw and predicted the struggle.” After war broke out in earnest, Fales dedicated herself to the care of wounded and sick boys in blue, and was present at a number of battles including Shiloh, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
I am now searching for original, wartime, identified ambrotypes, cartes de visite and tintypes of caregivers. I am not seeking to purchase, simply to get high-resolution scans. You’ll receive credit and a complimentary copy of the book.
Please contact me if you can help.

Talk at Charlottesville CWRT

Work-George-USN-FLight traffic and springtime glory accompanied me on yesterday’s drive to Charlottesville, Va., to present a talk about Civil War photography to the local Civil War Round Table. I found, upon my arrival, that Duncan Campbell has managed all the technical considerations. I soon met president L. Peyton Humphrey and other group members.

My program, The American Soldier in Portrait Photography, 1861-1865, describes the emergence of the carte de visite as the dominant photographic format during the war years and traces its rise from the origins of photography.

The 60-slide presentation includes a group of six cartes to illustrate the individuality of Union and Confederate soldiers, and I swap the six out depending upon the audience (Example: When I presented this program in Augusta, Ga., back in January, the six were all Georgians). This time, one of the portraits I chose for inclusion was U.S. Navy Paymaster George Work, pictured here, who drowned when his ironclad gunboat Tecumseh sunk at the Battle of Mobile Bay. I selected his likeness to add a navy man to the grouping. Turns out one of his descendants, Jean Turrentill, was in the audience! We met afterwards and I’ll be sending her the information that I’ve collected about Work’s life and tragic death.

I also met someone seeking an image of her forefather, and this is a common experience in my presentations. This time, Patricia Ford approached me with a request for a photograph of William Condra Gass of the Union 9th Kentucky Infantry. Gass, from Clay County, Ky., was mortally wounded at the Battle of Stones River on Dec. 31, 1862. A quick search of my subscription databases turned up no portraits. Perhaps you can help! Patricia’s email is craftylady084@gmail.com.

A big thank you to everyone who attended!

 

Great Time at the Augusta Civil War Round Table

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If you are looking for one of the premier Civil War Round Tables in the country, go to Augusta, Ga. A few years ago, the organization had declined to about a dozen members. Now, they are an army of about 160 thanks in large part to their leader, Gwen Fulcher Young.

augusta-cwrtI had the privilege to speak to a large number of the membership last night and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I presented a new talk, The American Soldier in Portrait Photography, 1861-1865. It is in fact part history of photography and part understanding of how it came into its own in the form of the carte de visite style on the eve of our Civil War. I was delighted with its reception, and by sales of my books and Military Images magazine afterwards.

A big thanks to everyone who made the event possible, especially Gwen, her husband Bob, and my old college pal Greg Hunnicutt.

“The Terror of the Rebels Along the Coast”

dutch-promoOne evening in the spring of 1863, a detachment of Union sailors moved stealthily across the grounds of a South Carolina plantation. 35-strong and heavily armed, they were attracted to the estate by a report of rebel activity. Before long they surprised a picket of nine Confederate cavalry and captured them after a brief fight.

The bluejackets served on the Kingfisher, a sleek bark that operated in and about the Sea Islands below Charleston. Her commander, 42-year-old John Clark Dutch, enjoyed a sterling reputation in these parts — and this exploit added to his luster.

Read more about his life and times.

Dutch’s story appears in the December 2015 issue of the Civil War News.

Crazy Drunk on the Mohongo

12195907_1112179488807200_6969892862215216807_nLieutenant Sylvanus Backus was crazy drunk. Stumbling around the quarterdeck of the Mohongo after midnight with a drawn sword, his raucous behavior stirred the sleeping crew. The warship’s executive officer soon arrived on the scene, relieved Backus from duty and sent him below decks under guard.

But Backus broke free. The Mohongo’s commander, Capt. James Nicholson,wakened and was apprised of the situation. He ordered Backus to be confined to his room and a sentry posted at the door.

Nicholson went back to bed. “Immediately after I heard a great noise in the wardroom and got up and went into the wardroom where Mr. Backus was endeavoring to break open the door of his room. As I entered the wardroom he said ‘that damned old cuss wishes to frighten me with a court martial.’”

Nicholson said, “’Mr. Backus, unless you keep quiet, it will be necessary to put you in irons. Mind, this is no ill threat, so you had better keep suit’ — or words to that effect.”

Read the rest of Backus’s story.

The Smell of Warship Smoke

13911410882_85d64c0405_oNavy secretary Gideon Welles fretted about the safety of California after the outbreak of war in 1861. The threat of rebel privateers preying upon mail steamers loaded with treasure and secessionists seeking to take the southern part of the state was real. Welles had but six vessels in the Pacific Squadron to patrol an immense area.

The flag officer in command of the Pacific Squadron, John B. Montgomery, summarized the situation to Welles on August 23, 1861, “My very limited force of four steamers and two sailing ships will prove wholly inadequate for the protection of our commerce with the numerous ports along this coast, extending from Talcahuano to San Francisco, a distance of 7,000 miles.”

Montgomery asked Welles for four additional steamers. In the meantime, Montgomery assigned the ships at his disposal to cover critical areas. He dispatched one of his most reliable vessels, the Narragansett, to a 400-mile stretch of Mexican coast from Acapulco Bay to Manzanillo.

The Narragansett, a screw-propeller sloop that had joined the Pacific fleet a year earlier after a stint in the Atlantic Ocean, was armed with five guns. Her crew of 50 men and officers included John Sullivan, pictured her, center, a career navy man known for honesty and integrity.

 

Read the rest of Sullivan’s story.