Latest “Faces of War” Column: A Missouri Slave Transforms Into a Studious Sergeant

A Missouri Slave Transforms Into a Studious SergeantMy latest Civil War News “Faces of War” column is now available. 1st Sgt. Octavius McFarland was born a slave in Missouri, and he was illiterate like most of his comrades. The senior officers of his regiment, the Sixty-second U.S. Colored Infantry, published a series of orders to teach McFarland and the rest of the rank and file to read and write.

An excerpt:

The senior commanders of the Sixty-second U.S. Colored Infantry issued a variety of general orders to the rank and file during its 27 months as an organized force. Perhaps the most unique of all is General Order No. 4. Enacted on Jan. 25, 1865, it announced a contest to recognize the best writers in the ranks.

A committee of officers was appointed to judge the entries and pick thirty winners—a sergeant, corporal and private from each of the regiment’s ten companies. The standard 100-man company included one first sergeant, four sergeants, eight corporals and eighty-two privates.

Results would be announced on Independence Day 1865. Winning corporals and sergeants would each receive a gold pen, and privates a good book.

Read the full profile.

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New to My Collection: Distinguished at Shiloh

I’ve added this carte de visite of Edward Franklin “Eddy” Ferris by unidentified photographer. New York born Ferris started his Civil War service in the First Wisconsin Infantry, a regiment organized for a three-month term of enlistment in April 1861. Ferris returned to the army with the Fourteenth Wisconsin Infantry in January 1862.

As first lieutenant of Company A, he distinguished himself for coolness and bravery at Shiloh, where he suffered a wound. Ferris returned the the regiment, and ended the war as lieutenant colonel of the Fourteenth.

Ferris became a partner in a banking and agricultural hardware and implements firm of Sebree, Ferris, and White. The business followed the Utah and Northern Railroad as it was constructed. Ferris died in 1908 in Bozeman, Montana.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Distinguished at Shiloh

New to My Collection: Keeping the Home Front Clean

This tintype by an unidentified photographer pictures two women posed with what appears to be the tools of their trade, which includes a straw broom, dish ware, and a towel. The individual standing on the left also holds a paper, which may be a letter of introduction or instructions of some sort.

This tintype is contained in a paper mat similar in size to a carte de visite. The border of the mat is embossed with 28 stars, and in the upper left is stamped “Potter’s Patent March 7 1865.” This is one of about 20 different designs patented by Ray W. Potter of New York City. It’s primary purpose was to hold tintypes, also known as ferrotypes. “The invention consists of a card provided in its center with a raised frame in such a manner that an ambrotype, daguerreotype or other photographic picture, or a picture of any other description, can be placed in the cavity formed at the back of the card, and said card will form the frame for the picture, and serve to exhibit to good advantage,” states U.S. Patent No. 46,699.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Keeping the Home Front Clean

New to My Collection: Give Me Paw!

This carte de visite by J.H. Crawford of Dixon, Ill., depicts a gentleman demonstrating the art of obedience with his dog in the photographer’s studio. A two-cent stamp on the back of the image is hand-cancelled with “G.H.K. 1866.” The presence of this stamp, levied by the federal government to help pay for the Civil War, was used on photographs between September 1864 and September 1866.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Give Me Paw!

New to My Collection: On the USS Ossipee at Mobile Bay

New to my collection is this carte de visite of William Wingood Jr. by B.P. Paige of Washington, D.C. Wingood left his home in Rockport, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1862 and joined the Union navy as an ensign. Authorities assigned him to the wooden screw sloop Ossipee. The warship and its crew steamed to the Gulf of Mexico, where it captured a number of vessels attempting to run the blockade. In March 1864, the Ossipee joined the fleet of Adm. David Farragut for the invasion of Mobile Bay. On August 5, 1864, the Ossipee passed safely by the enemy forts that guarded the mouth of the bay. The ship and crew steamed into the bay and participated in the ensuing naval battle, and is best known for its role in bringing about the surrender of the Confederate ironclad ram Tennessee to surrender.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
On the USS Ossipee at Mobile Bay

Images of the Civil War: A Panel Discussion with Kevin Levin and Rick Britton

Images of the Civil WarI was fortunate to participate on a panel, Images of the Civil War, with author Kevin Levin and moderated by cartographer and author Rick Britton at the Virginia Festival of the Book, which was held in Charlottesville, Va., on March 22, 2013. Video of the hour-long discussion is now available.

New Review of “African American Faces of the Civil War” in “Kansas History” Magazine

Kansas History Summer 2013The summer 2013 issue of Kansas History magazine includes a review of my book by Kelly Erby, as assistant professor of history at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Erby reviewed my volume along with Elizabeth D. Leonard’s Men of Color to Arms! Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, and the Quest for Equality.

Here is the portion of Erby’s article that address African American Faces of the Civil War:

Coddington’s book, as its title suggests, is an “album” composed of the photographs and personal stories of seventy-five African American participants in the Civil War. It is the third in the series written by Coddington, assistant managing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. (His first two works showcase photographs of white Union and Confederate soldiers, respectively.) Coddington reminds us that the images of black men in uniform are considerably difficult to find because black soldiers usually could not afford to have their pictures taken. The author spent two years discovering portraits all over the country in museums, archives, and private collections. Then, through the creative use of African American newspapers and pension records, Coddington pieced together the biography of each man pictured.

African American Faces of the Civil War, like the photographs it presents, captures the moment when black men in America transitioned from slaves to soldiers and the Civil War became about more than preserving the Union. Unlike any single photograph, however, Coddington’s book depicts this moment from a diverse variety of perspectives. There is the image and story of First Lieutenant William Dominick Matthews of Kansas, who operated a station along the Underground Railroad and was the ‘first man of color” to respond to Kansas senator James Henry Lane’s early proposal to recruit black troops (p. 37). In fact, Matthews not only responded to Lane’s call but also raised his own company of two hundred former slaves. As the regiment awaited formal authorization to join the Union army, some of the men participated in a skirmish at Island Mound in Missouri, becoming the first black troops to engage in combat during the war. Matthews, Coddington finds, echoed Douglass in encouraging his fellow black men to don the Union blue, declaring, “If we fight, we shall be respected. I see that a well-licked man respects the one who thrashes him” (p. 39). Coddington also recovers the story of Private Allen W. King, a Kentucky slave bought by a drafted physician to serve as his substitute in the Union army, a legal option that many Northerners exercised. In addition to soldiers, Coddington’s volume includes servants and laborers who never officially joined the USCT but who served the cause of freedom in other ways. As Coddington relates, all of these men confronted and helped to challenge generations of racism and down about the capabilities of their race.

Note: The above mentions the book contains 75 images, when in fact the total number is 77.

View the complete index to the Summer 2013 issue of Kansas History.

New to My Collection: Cadet, Circa 1855

Is this a West Pointer who went on to serve in the Civil War?

The subject of this ninth plate Daguerreotype is a clean shaven young man who wears a jacket that suggests he is a military cadet. The jacket is adorned with dark trim and smooth brass buttons, which is very similar to those worn by West Point cadets during the antebellum period.

In the middle of his cravat is pinned what appears to be a fraternity pin, which supports the theory that he is a cadet. The gent also wears a felt hat with leather visor.

The brass mat is stamped “Tyler & Co.” According to the late John S. Craig of the Daguerreian Society, evidence suggests that the company operated studios in Boston, Providence, Memphis, Cincinnati, Charleston, and New Orleans. This image was recently discovered at a flea market in South Carolina, which may indicate that this Daguerreotype originated in a Southern studio.

Estimating his age to be about twenty, and the photograph dating to 1855, this man would have been in his mid-twenties when the Civil War began. Assuming he was alive at the time, it is reasonable to assume he enlisted in the Union or Confederate army.

My brother Gary recently found this photograph at a flea market in South Carolina, purchased it at a very reasonable price, and sent it my way. He’s always on the lookout for quality images, and I appreciate his keen eye!

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Cadet, Circa 1855

Daguerreian Society Review of “African American Faces of the Civil War”

Craig James of the Daguerreian Society reviewed African American Faces of the Civil War, and it appears in the organization’s April-June 2013 newsletter. James notes of the photographs and profiles, “Each face and each description takes you further behind the front lines of the Civil War and deeper into the struggle for freedom.”

The complete review:

African Americans have always been at the center of Civil War controversy. Was Lincoln working to preserve the Union or was he interested in freeing the slaves? Depending on whom you ask, the answers may vary. Although African Americans are often excluded as significant contributors in the Civil War, they were there. With period photographs, Ronald S. Coddington allows the reader to look into the faces of men who were willing to sacrifice everything in order to have a better future. The personal glimpse into their lives gives an extraordinary dimension at texture to their presence as soldiers. This presence ranged from non-enlisted bodyguards like Robert Holloway, valet to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, to the first African American field officer, Major Martin Robison Delany. Each face and each description takes you further behind the front lines of the Civil War and deeper into the struggle for freedom.

Daguerreian SocietyThe book is filled with real people and satisfies the question of how African Americans impacted the Civil War. The stories validate the contributions made by many African Americans through bravery, sacrifice, commitment, and achievement. Writing clearly, in an unbiased manner, Coddington exposes the good and the bad. The book illustrates the good, as it describes observations by an Eighth U.S. Colored Infantry white surgeon, who described the valiant stance of black troops during the Battle of Olustee in Florida in February 1864. The book also illustrates the bad, as soldiers like Privates James L. Baldwin and Charles Mudd are demoted just before the end of their tours of duty, for unknown reasons. The book is a must-read for all Civil War buffs and contains important historical data to complete a full circumference of Civil War history.

Recent issues of the Daguerreian Society newsletter are available for download.

New to My Collection: Chancellorsville Survivor

John W. Ogden left his job as a clerk in the summer of 1862 and enlisted in the Thirteenth New Jersey Infantry. He and his comrades had their baptism under fire at Antietam in September 1862. Eight months later the regiment was decimated at the Battle of Chancellorsville. According to one biographical sketch of the Thirteenth, “At Chancellorsville it behaved admirably throughout, again showing that it was made of royal stuff. The loss of the regiment in killed and wounded during the three days’ fighting was some 130, being nearly one-half the number taken into battle.”

Ogden was wounded slightly in the left cheek and was hospitalized. While he recuperated, the rest of the regiment participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Ogden never returned to the Thirteenth. Considered unfit for combat duty, he joined the Veteran Reserve Corps, an organization created by the U.S. War Department for men unable to withstand the rigors of life in camp and on campaign, but able to serve light duty off the front lines.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Chancellorsville Survivor