Michigan Cavalryman

A richly toned carte de visite by Philbrook’s Gallery of Detroit, Mich., pictures a cavalry soldier who sits with legs crossed and saber at his side. A revenue stamp on the back of the mount dates this image from 1864-1866, during which time the federal government taxed photographs and other items to pay for the Civil War.

The state of Michigan organized eleven regiments of cavalry during the war. Four of these regiments, the First, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh, composed the Michigan Brigade, also known as the Wolverines. Commanded for a time by Gen. George Armstrong Custer, the brigade distinguished itself during the Battle of Gettysburg and other campaigns with the Army of the Potomac.

His image is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Michigan Cavalryman

All Quiet Along the New Hampshire Front

Crombie-JamesI recently acquired this compelling image of Dr. James H. Crombie, a physician in Derry, N.H. At first glance, one might conclude that Crombie dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier for a costume ball.

The uniform, however, was no costume. It was the official attire of the Amoskeag Veterans, a militia company organized in Manchester in 1855. Their uniforms were inspired by the Continental Army that had fought the Revolution 75 years earlier.

Crombie left the Amoskeag Veterans during the Civil War to serve a stint as a contract surgeon in the Union army. One assumes he left this uniform at home.

The following details about Crombie and the Amoskeag Veterans are posted on Flickr, Tumblr and Pinterest.

An 1838 graduate of Dartmouth Medical College, Crombie (1813-1884) served as assistant surgeon in the Amoskeag Veterans, an independent militia company organized in Manchester in 1855. According to a local historian, “The objects for which it was organized were designated by the constitution to be military parades, the protection of life and property, the preservation of the peace and social enjoyments. Its first parade and ball occurred February 22, 1855.” The statement supports the dual role of militia from this period as social fraternity and military organization.

The Amoskeag Veterans wore distinctive uniforms inspired by the Continental Army that had fought the Revolutionary War 75 years earlier.

amoskeag-receptionIn this undated print in the collection of the New York Public Library titled “Reception of the Amoskeag Veterans,” the distinctive uniforms of the militiamen are plainly visible.

Crombie posed for his carte de visite portrait wearing what may be the full dress uniform, complete with gloves, bicorn hat, and a sword and sash.

In 1862, the New Hampshire Adjutant General reported that the ranks of many militia companies had been reduced due to high volunteer rates in new regiments organized to fight the Civil War. Other militias had been completely abandoned. The Amoskeag Veterans, however, continued to maintain their organization.

Crombie numbered among those who left the militia to participate in the war. According to the History of the New Hampshire Surgeons in the War of the Rebellion, he entered the army as contract surgeon in 1861, and was on duty in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, Virginia, until 1864.” Another source notes that Crombie did not become a contract surgeon until after the Battle of Petersburg in 1864, and served as such for several months.

Contract surgeons were hired by the U.S. War Department to bolster the ranks of commissioned surgeons, and were considered civilian personnel.

Crombie returned to New Hamshire after his stint in the army, and resumed his place in the Amoskeag Veterans. He died of heart disease in 1884.

Lost With His Entire Command On Egmont Key

Ensign Isaac S. Bradbury, a sailor from Machias, Maine, spent a significant portion of the Civil War on blockade duty off the coast of North Carolina aboard the gunboat Cambridge. He survived the war and continued on in the navy. But his career was short lived: On January 4, 1866, while in command of the armed tug Narcissus, he and his entire company of 32 men were lost when the ship wrecked on Egmont Key, Fla.

His image is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Lost With His Entire Command On Egmont Key

Top 10 Most Popular Historic Photos of 2013

top-10-flickr-2013A carte de visite of four Union amputees was the most popular photograph posted to my Flickr photostream this year. A review of the data in Flickr’s interestingness feature revealed that it led the next most popular image, a photographer with his camera, by more than a two-to-one margin.

Eight of the ten most popular were portraits of Civil War soldiers or sailors, or 80 percent. Yet Civil War military men composed only half the images posted in 2013 (36 of 72). The other half features civilians and other non-military subjects from the 1840s through the end of the 1860s, and includes daguerreotypes, tintypes and cartes de visite.

The Top 10 of 2013:

1. Union Comrades, Fellow Amputees
Carte de visite by Burnite & Weldon of Harrisburg, Pa. Four federal officers pose with their swords, and carry the visible effects of the human cost of war. Three of the men have suffered the amputation of the right arm, and the fourth the loss of a finger or fingers.
See full image.

2. A Civil War Photographer
Carte de visite by Jos. Longaker of Attica, Ind. A photographer stands next to his bellows style, wet plate camera equipped with a Petzval style lens. The lens cap sits atop the camera.
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3. Elderly Woman Wearing Glasses
Daguerreotype by unidentified photographer. A woman wearing glasses and a bonnet sits for the camera operator in this circa 1850 portrait. Her hair is streaked with gray, and the fine age lines on her face suggest a senior citizen. Resting upon a small round table covered by a blue-tinted cloth is her age-spotted hand, and the well-worn and possibly arthritic fingers of a hard-working seamstress or gardener.
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4. Seven Times Wounded at Gettysburg
Carte de visite of James Brownlee by Haines & Wickes of Albany, N.Y. Irish-born 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.
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5. A Union Sergeant Stands Front and Off Center
Quarter plate tintype by an unidentified photographer. A bearded federal sergeant wearing a four button sack coat over a dark shirt with no collar and knee-high boots is pictured in front of an elaborate backdrop. He holds a forage cap in his left hand and grasps the edge of his jacket with the other. He stands off center in the frame of this image, leaving the viewer with the impression that it may have been intentional. The empty space to his left may represent a missed loved one or friend, or a fallen comrade. The space may also have been the work of the photographer, who may have artfully posed the sergeant between the tents and foliage pictured in the backdrop. Or perhaps this soldier first posed with another individual before having this image made of only himself, and the photographer failed to adjust the camera or the soldier.
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6. A New Hampshire Mountaineer Wounded at Gettysburg
Samuel Bean Noyes by Kimball & Sons of Concord, N.H. Noyes (1842-1870) started his Civil War service in 1862 as a private in the Twelfth New Hampshire Infantry, a regiment popularly known as the “New Hampshire Mountaineers” for the sturdy, rugged soldiers in its ranks. Noyes had his baptism under fire at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. He and his Mountaineers, along with the rest of their corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, moved a half-mile ahead of the rest of the Union frontline and were attacked by alert Confederates. Noyes suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder during the rebel assault.
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7. A Minnesota Colonel With Table Top Stereoscope
Carte de visite of William Crooks by Martin’s Gallery of St. Paul, Minn. William Crooks (1832-1907), the colonel and commander of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry, stands next to a table top stereoscope, likely made by Alexander Beckers, a pioneer photographer, artist, inventor and businessman in New York City. Beckers, a friend and competitor of photographer Edward Anthony, received ten patents for the stereoscope. Stereoview photographs could be viewed in 3-D using devices like the one pictured here.
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8. Full Dress Zouave
Carte de visite by J.B. Smith of Utica, N.Y. A Union soldier dressed in the elaborate Zouave style. It is possible that this unidentified man served in the 146th New York Infantry, which was raised in Utica and other towns in Oneida County, N.Y. The regiment wore Zouave uniforms during part of their enlistment.
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9. On “The Noxious Institution of Slavery”
Carte de visite of James F. O’Brien by McPherson & Oliver of Baton Rouge, La. Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, O’Brien came to America as a young man and settled in Charlestown, Mass., which was then a hot bed of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment. After the start of the Civil War, O’Brien began to organize an all-Irish regiment, but his plans were dashed when the U.S. War Department combined the six companies he raised with four non-Irish companies to form the Forty-eighth Massachusetts Infantry. O’Brien received an accepted a commission as lieutenant colonel and second-in-command of the regiment.
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10. A Navy Man with Gumption
Carte de visite of Benjamin Franklin Wood by unidentified photographer. Wood (1836-1910) had a long career in the U.S. navy. His obituary, which appeared in the November 1910 issue of Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, tells his story.
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He Received a Formal Thanks from Admiral Farragut

The back of this carte de visite of Richard Starr Dana and William Starr Dana by an unidentified photographer is dated October 1863, which coincides with 20-year-old Ensign William S. Dana’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than a year later, Dana numbered among a small group of officers who received a formal thanks from Admiral David Farragut for the destruction of the blockade runner Ivanhoe, which was chased aground by federal warships near Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay. On July 6, 1864, Dana commanded one of several small boats that attacked the Ivanhoe in a daring nighttime raid. Dana and his comrades managed to set the stranded boat afire while hundreds of Union sailors and soldiers observed the action. “The entire conduct of the expedition was marked by a promptness and energy which shows what may be expected of such officers and men on similar occasions,” announced Farragut with evident pride.

Dana went on to a distinguished career in the navy, and rose to the rank of commander.

In 1884, he married botanist and political activist Frances Theodora Parsons (1861-1952). Their marriage was relatively brief, as Dana died in Paris, France, on January 1, 1890.

Three years later, writing under the name “Mrs. William Starr Dana,” Parsons’s How to Know the Wild Flowers was published. Considered the first field guide to North American wildflowers, the book was an instant best seller.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
He Received a Formal Thanks from Admiral Farragut

The State of the Navy Is Strong!

Last summer, I announced on Facebook that my next book in the Faces series will focus on the fourth great narrative of the Civil War—the stories of sailors who served in the Union and Confederate navies.

I’m pleased to report that the state of the navy is strong! Over the last six months, I’ve located 27 original, wartime photographs of navy men, and have received permission to include them in the forthcoming book. Research is underway for the majority of the men, and two profiles are finished.

dana-williamOne of the images acquired for the book is included here. Acting Ensign William S. Dana (standing) is pictured with Richard S. Dana. The two are likely brothers or cousins. The back of the photograph is dated October 1863, which coincides with Ensign Dana’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than a year later, Dana numbered among a small group of officers who received a formal thanks from Admiral David Farragut for the destruction of the blockade runner Ivanhoe, which was chased aground by federal warships near Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay. On July 6, 1864, Dana commanded one of several small boats that attacked the Ivanhoe in a daring nighttime raid. Dana and his comrades managed to set the stranded boat afire while hundreds of Union sailors and soldiers observed the action. “The entire conduct of the expedition was marked by a promptness and energy which shows what may be expected of such officers and men on similar occasions,” announced Farragut with evident pride.

Dana went on to a distinguished career in the navy.

This is one of the 77 soldier stories and images that will ultimately appear in the book.

I am delighted with the progress to date, and will continue to post updates at six-month intervals. The manuscript is scheduled to be delivered to my publisher, The Johns Hopkins University Press, in December 2015.

Mississippi River Blockader

Engineer Albert J. Kenyon sits in profile in this carte de visite portrait by Janson & Adams of Santiago, Cuba. Appointed to the navy from New York in 1861, Kenyon served on the vessels Chippewa, Neptune, and Richmond during the Civil War. As an engineer with the crew of the wooden steam sloop Richmond, he participated in the Mississippi River blockade, including successful operations against Vicksburg and Port Hudson. He continued in the navy after the war, and died in 1888.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Mississippi River Blockader

Civil War Photography Book Fair at the National Archives

archives-programYesterday morning in Washington, D.C., I was walking down Constitution Avenue near the corner of 7th Street when the small blue sign labeled “Today’s Program” caught my attention. It pointed the way to “Free Lectures with Book Signing,” and listed the day’s schedule. As the first of four speakers of the daylong event promoted elsewhere as the “Civil War Photography Book Fair” and the “Civil War Book Fair,” I was relieved to know that I had found the proper entrance with a half hour to spare before my presentation.

I’m a regular at the National Archives, but not at this entrance. I normally use the research door, which is on another side of the building.

I made my way inside the Archives, marched downstairs to the William G. McGowan Theater, and was escorted to the Green Room. There I had the distinct pleasure to meet Hari Jones, the Assistant Director and Curator of the African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C.

archives-promo-cardHari (pronounced Harry) was tasked with introducing all of the speakers.

According to his biography, Hari is one of America’s foremost authorities on the role of African Americans during the war. I came away from our ten-minute conversation deeply impressed with his knowledge about and passion for men of color who participated in the war.

In the Green Room I also met Susan Clifton, the producer of public programs. She provided all the necessary pre-game details, which included an introduction to the theater podium. Minutes before the program began, archivist Claire Prechtel-Kluskens arrived on the scene. She would welcome the audience and introduce Hari.
coddington-archives01The event began promptly at 11 a.m. and was broadcast live on UStream. Within a few minutes, I walked up to the podium and launched into my discussion of African American Faces of the Civil War. Following my remarks, which are now archived on UStream, I exited the theater to sign books. Among those who purchased copies was a young man who worked for Ancestry and Fold3. He helped digitize U.S. Colored Troops records, and is currently working on records for veterans of the War of 1812.

On my way out, I bumped into Robert Wilson, the next speaker in the lineup. He is the author of Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation, which was released last August. Wilson and I had much in common due to our mutual interest on photography of the era, and our journalism connections at USA TODAY and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

All in all, it was a wonderful visit. I’m thankful to the staff of the Archives for their work to organize the program, and to Robin Noonan of Hopkins Press, publicist extraordinaire.


A Navy Officer in one of the First Amphibious Operations of the Civil War

Lt. John F. McGlensey, a Pennsylvania-born, 1860 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, started the Civil War on duty at the Washington Navy Yard. Later in 1861, he joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In this capacity he participated in the capture of Port Royal, S.C., on November 7, 1861. The engagement was one of the earliest Union amphibious operations. He survived the war and remained in the navy until his retirement in 1893. He died in Washington, D.C., three years later.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Navy Lieutenant at Port Royal

A Massachusetts Master’s Mate in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron

Acting Master’s Mate Ansel Allen Delano served in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron on the screw steamer Buckthorne during the summer of 1864. On August 5, the ship and crew played an important support role as a fleet tender and dispatch vessel during the Battle of Mobile Bay. A note on the back of this photograph notes that Delano also served on the crew of two other vessels that supported the blockade, the screw steamer Arkansas and the side-wheel steamer Carrabasset.

A native of Barnstable, Mass., Delano survived the war and lived until 1914. His photograph is new to my collection.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
A Massachusetts Master's Mate in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron