New to My Collection: Child of War

As many of you who have followed my work here, I’ve been collecting Civil War period photographs since my teen years. Unlike many collectors who specialize in soldiers from a specific state or regiment, my focus is on exceptional portraits of soldiers and civilians, identified and unidentified. I am primarily driven by aesthetics. And when I find great images of identified soldiers, I research and tell their stories.

The image reproduced here is new to my collection. This little girl holds a basket of flowers and sits in an ornate chair with her bare feet hanging over the side of the seat. The image probably dates from early in the Civil War period. The edges of the cardboard mount have been severely cut, which indicates that the original owner trimmed the card to fit into a photograph album. The individual was following directions that were included by album manufacturers to avoid the image being bent on insertion into the stiff pages.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Child of War

New on Disunion: ‘A Gallant Officer’

A Gallant OfficerThe story of Amos Rhoads, a lieutenant in the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, was killed in action during the June 27, 1863, raid on Shelbyville, Tennessee, was posted on Disunion this afternoon. Rhoads’ wife, Anna, left their home in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to bring her husband’s remains home.

An excerpt:

One day during the summer of 1863, in Union-occupied Nashville, Tenn., Anna Rhoads visited the headquarters of Gen. Walter C. Whitaker and requested a meeting with him. Perhaps to her surprise, he granted one.

A Kentuckian known for his volatile temper and a fondness for alcohol, Whitaker was moved as the earnest young woman recounted the grim errand that prompted her visit. “Mrs. Rhoads is here with the body of her husband, Lt. Rhoads of the 7th Penn. Cav.,” wrote Whitaker to Gen. Robert S. Granger, an old West Pointer in command of the military district that included Nashville. “He was a gallant officer. She has come from Pennsylvania to take his body home and is short of money.” Whitaker added, “I send this note to you hoping in its perusal you may find it proper to give her transportation for herself and the body of her husband.”

Read the full story.

New to My Collection: Lars Larson of Minnesota

There are dozens of Minnesota men named Lars Larson recorded in the 1860 U.S. Census, and this is very likely one of them. The name is inscribed on the back of the mount. Also present on the reverse is a internal revenue stamp, which was used by the federal government between 1864 and 1866 to help pay for the Civil War. The stamp covers the photographer’s advertising mark—all that is visible is the city, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While the Norwegian name may be commonplace, the elaborate background is not. Larson rests his left hand on a book that lay on an impressive balustrade, and behind him is a wood-trimmed door or window frame from which hangs a decorative curtain and tassels. The darkness inside the frame creates contrast with his face.

This unique portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Lars Larson of Minnesota

New to My Collection: “Nov. 21st 1863”

Detail, "Nove. 21st 1863"I have often noted the powerful experience of looking into the eyes of a Civil War soldier, and then reading about his life and military service. There is however and equally strong experience to be had in looking to the face of the unknown. And such is the case with this poignant image of a young woman just added to my collection. Her name is lost to history. But the mourning clothes in which she is attired, and the wartime date on the back of the photograph, suggests a story all too familiar to families who endured the death of a husband, father or friend in the Union and Confederate armies.

This unique portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
"Nov. 21st 1863"

“Faces of Gettysburg” Feature in “The Civil War Monitor”

Featured in the latest issue of The Civil War Monitor is “Faces of Gettysburg,” an album of images of soldiers from my collection and other sources, including my friend David Wynn Vaughan, the late William A. Turner, and the Museum of the Confederacy. I am delighted with the photo selection and design, and am grateful to Editor Terry Johnston and Creative Director Patrick Mitchell for their fine work.

Faces of Gettysburg

I am genuinely impressed with the quality of the publication, and the effort that Terry and Pat have made to set the magazine apart from its peers. It is the most exciting new Civil War-related publication I’ve seen in years.


New to My Collection: A Girl and Her Best Friend, 1864 or 1865

A young girl who wears a cross around her neck cradles a doll in her arms. On the back of the mount is pasted an internal revenue service stamp that has been hand cancelled with the date “Oct 9.” As these stamps were used by the government to pay for the war from September 1864 to September 1866, this photograph can be dated to October 9, 1864 or 1865.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
A Girl and Her Best Friend, 1864 or 1865

I Adopted a Site at Gettysburg

13th New Jersey monumentDuring my recent trip to Gettysburg, Superintendent Bob Kirby mentioned the Adopt A Position Program. Back at home, after a Google search, a few clicks, and an email, I received a list of available sites and an application.

The site that stood out among the rest was the Thirteenth New Jersey Infantry. It caught my attention in part because I was born and raised in the Garden State. The other reason is that a few years ago I purchased a circa 1910 photo of a man standing at the base of the monument. I imitated the pose in the same spot, as you can see here.

Excited to participate in the program!

A Complete Soldier Story Excerpted in a New Gettysburg Magazine

“Gettysburg: Three Days That Saved the United States” is a new commemorative magazine from i-5 Publishing, and its editors worked with The Johns Hopkins University Press to include one of the profiles from African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album. The story they selected is memorable: Alexander Herritage Newton (he’s pictured on the left in the magazine spread below).

Magazine spread from Gettysburg commemorative magazineAlso included in the special 150th issue is the story of Union soldier Amos Humiston. A photo of his three children was picked from his unidentified body and circulated across the Northern states. Humiston’s story has been often told, and this version by Mark H. Dunkelman is particularly well done.

The magazine is reportedly available at major bookstores.

My Contribution to the USA Today/National Geographic Gettysburg 150th Special Edition

Editor Fred Anklam alerted me by email earlier today that the issue is now available, and I just picked up a copy at CVS. You’ll find my contribution on pages 12-13—four soldier profiles, two blue and two gray. Kudos to the the USAT design team for the great design!

USA TODAY 150 Special Edition

Newly Posted: Seven Times Wounded at Gettysburg

Now available on Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr is this circa 1865 carte de visite of Irish-born James Brownlee.
Seven Times Wounded at Gettysburg

Brownlee served in the 134th New York Infantry, which at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg belonged to a brigade commanded by Col. Charles R. Coster. During the afternoon of the first day of the battle, Coster’s Brigade was ordered to support the crumbling federal right on the northern edge of Gettysburg. Soon after the brigade formed, the Confederate juggernaut descended on Coster’s men. The 134th was overwhelmed by advancing rebels on the front, flank and rear. More than half the regiment became casualties, including Brownlee, who suffered wounds from four bullets and three buckshot. His case study appeared in The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion:

CASE.—Private James Brownlee, Co. G, 134th New York Volunteers, aged 21 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863, by four balls and three buckshot. One ball, probably conoidal, entered the sternum about an inch below the jugular fossa, and passing downward and outward, underneath the second, third, and fourth ribs, perforated the upper lobe of the right lung superficially, and emerged between the fourth and fifth ribs, about three inches to the right of the nipple of the same side. Three buckshot took effect just above the pubes, some of them passing through the bladder. One ball entered the right thigh and lodged; another (conoidal) entered the left thigh and passed nearly through. It was removed on the fourth day. A nearly spent conoidal ball entered the back of the sacrum, near its middle, and buried itself slightly beneath the skin, whence it was immediately removed by the patient. In addition to the injuries already stated the patient affirms that he was finally struck upon his knapsack, and knocked down by a piece of railroad iron about eighteen inches long, which was fired from one of the enemy’s guns. Being made a prisoner soon after, a Confederate surgeon removed some fragments of the sternum from the wound of exit, and dressed the wound with pledgets of lint, removing them every hour or two. He observed that whenever the dressing was removed he breathed with difficulty, but on being replaced he felt immediate relief. The patient was admitted to Camp Letterman, Pennsylvania on August 6th, and was furloughed on October 30th, 1863. He was admitted to Central Park Hospital, New York, on December 9th, 1863, and came under the observation of Professor Frank H. Hamilton, who stated that “after the lapse of nine months there is a copious purulent discharge from both orifices, and the walls of the thorax upon the injured side have already contracted considerably. The posterior portion of the right lung admits air freely, nearly to its base. In front, no auscultatory sounds are detected. When he stands erect the right shoulder falls considerably. Most of the time he has troublesome diarrhea, yet under a generous diet he is gradually gaining his strength and health.” On June 3d, 1865, Brownlee was admitted to Ira Harris Hospital, Albany. He was discharged the service on August 12th, 1865. Examining Surgeon William H. Craig states, August 22d, 1866, that “a fistulous opening remains in the breast, at which the air escapes in inspiration. About four ounces of pus is discharged from this opening each day. Disability probably permanent.” On January 29th, 1867, Examining Surgeon E.S. Delavan, at Albany, reports: “Three buckshot entered in front near the symphisis pubis, perforating the bladder. Strange to say, he recovered from the wound. Ball entered the breast and sternum and passed out (probably, though he never saw the ball); it may be in the chest below the right nipple. The right lung is almost totally useless. I can detect no respiratory murmur, and he has cough and feeble pulse. In my opinion, the disability is permanent.”

Brownlee lived until age 62, dying after he suffered a stroke in 1904.