Thirty Seconds at Mobile Bay

workUnion navy officer George Work and his crew mates on the monitor Tecumseh went into the historic attack on Mobile Bay full steam ahead—until an underwater torpedo ended in destruction and death.

An excerpt:

“When nearly abreast of Fort Morgan,” reported two acting masters of the Tecumseh, “A row of buoys was discovered stretching from the shore a distance from one to two hundred yards. It being reported to Captain Craven, he immediately gave the vessel full speed and attempted to pass between two of them.”

The Tecumseh advanced on the rebel ram Tennessee, and turned to engage her. At this moment, 7:40 a.m., the hull of the Tecumseh struck a torpedo. The two masters recalled that the explosion occurred, “directly below the turret, blowing a large hole through the bottom of the vessel, through which the water rushed with great rapidity.”

Read Work’s profile and learn his fate.

A Navy Officer Who Captured Confederate Infantrymen

John Clark Dutch (1821-1895) served in the Union navy from 1861 until 1866 as an acting master. Perhaps his finest moment in uniform occurred on April 9, 1863, at Edisto Island, S.C. As commander of the bark Kingfisher, he learned from two “contraband” slaves that rebel pickets were stationed on Edisto Island, where they reported on federal army and navy activity in the area. About 6 p.m., he and 35 of his men, and 10 contrabands, left the Kingfisher in two boats and rowed to the island. There they surprised and captured nine Confederates from the Third South Carolina Infantry and made them prisoners of war.

About a year later, the Kingfisher grounded and wrecked on Combahee Bank in St. Helena Sound, S.C.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
A Navy Officer Who Captured Confederate Infantrymen

Border State Girl

A young lady stands before the camera with one arm resting on a table upon which rests her bonnet. The remains of a revenue stamp on the back of the mount dates this carte de visite to 1864-1866, which was taken by Elrod Bros. of Lexington, Ky. Her name is lost to history, and it is not known if she had brothers who may have fought for the North and South.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Border State Girl

Top 10 Most Popular Historic Photos of 2014

top-10-flickr-2014A carte de visite of a Civil War era deep sea diver 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, four sergeants from Company G of the Sixteenth New York Infantry, by more than a two-to-one margin.

Nine of the ten most popular were Civil War themed portraits, or 90 percent. Civil War military men composed 80 percent of all images posted in 2014 (37 of 47). The other images were portraits of civilians and other non-military subjects.

The Top 10 of 2014:

1. Deep Sea Diver
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. An individual wearing a Morse Diving Helmet and an insulated suit stands in a photographer’s studio. A modern pencil identification on the back of the mount of this image names this diver as “Hyde,” and is associated with a tintype of a man in the uniform of a Union sailor. According to a previous owner, the sailor’s first name is George.
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2. Ranking Sergeants of Company G
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. The Civil War was two months old on June 24, 1861, when these New Yorkers left their camp in Bethlehem, N.Y., and posed for their portrait brandishing weapons and an air of confidence. 3rd Sgt. Luther Lee Partridge, 4th Sgt. Andrew Christie Bayne, 1st Sgt. John Henry Austin, and 2nd Sgt. Edwin O. Betts all served in Company G of the Sixteenth New York Infantry, and they had mustered into the Union army a month earlier at Albany. All four men resided in De Peyster, a hamlet located in the far north of the Empire State. Although each man held the rank of sergeant, none had yet received the chevrons that denote their rank.
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3. Among the First Union Officers to Occupy Richmond
Carte de visite of Patrick Tracy Jackson Jr. by Whipple of Boston, Mass. According to a sketch of his life, Jackson, “Accepted a commission as First Lieutenant in the Fifth Mass. Cavalry (colored). After spending some time in guarding rebel prisoners at Point Lookout, Maryland, the regiment was sent to the front, and was one of the first to enter Richmond.”
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4. Navy Man “Hyde”
Tintype in a carte de visite mount by an anonymous photographer. A sailor identified in modern pencil on the back of the mount of this image only as “Hyde” is associated with a carte de visite of a man outfitted in a Civil War era deep-sea diving suit, his head and face covered with a Morse Diving Helmet.
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5. Famed Master of the Cumberland
Carte de visite of William Pritchard Randall by Washburn of New Orleans, La. Randall’s obituary, published on February 22, 1904, in the San Francisco Call recaps his eventful life: “Commander William P. Randall, U.S.N., retired, died at his home in this city to-day, aged 71 years. Assigned as acting master on the frigate Cumberland during the Civil War, he participated in the battle with the Merrimac and was credited with having fired the last shot from the frigate before she was sent to the bottom. After the war he entered the navy as ensign and served in various capacities until 1882 when he was retired. During the Spanish war he served as executive officer of the receiving ship Wabash.
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6. Escorting Gen. Sherman on the Silver Cloud
Carte de visite of William Henry Hathorne by R.A. Miller of Boston, Mass. Maine-born Hathorne was appointed an acting assistant paymaster in the spring of 1863. Ordered to the Mississippi Squadron soon after, he served a stint on the Silver Cloud. Hathorne was present for duty on the vessel in January 1864, when the ship and crew carried Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman on a trip from Memphis, Tenn., to Vicksburg, Miss.
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7. Preserving the Honor of Lady Liberty
Carte de visite by C.M. Pierce of Leominster, Mass. Columbia, or Lady Liberty, sits atop a podium trimmed with material on which is painted or sewn stars and an eagle with wings outstretched. She holds above her head a liberty cap hung from a pole, the traditional symbol of freedom that dates before Roman times. She also holds the shield of the United States, which represents defense, military strength and nationalism. Lady Liberty is flanked by representatives of the Union army and navy. Each holds a staff trimmed with ribbon, to which is attached the Star-Spangled Banner. The flags are crossed to provide a backdrop for Columbia, who they have pledged to defend.
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8. Injured Union Cavalryman Flanked by His Comrades
Carte de visite by W.R. Phipps of Lexington, Ky. A federal officer with a bandaged foot sits with a pair of crutches. He’s flanked on either side by his comrades.
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9. Boy with Ornate Chair
Carte de visite by O.A. Taft’s Gallery of Middlebury, Vt. A young man with a slightly furrowed brow sits on the edge of an ornate chair with his foot perched upon a small stool. Visible behind the chair is the base of a brace, which the photographer or an assistant has wrapped in material to conceal its protruding iron feet. Iron braces were used during the early period of photography to hold an individual in place while an exposure was being made.
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10. Lost at the Battle of Mobile Bay
Carte de visite of George Work by Charles D. Fredricks & Co. of New York City. A Connecticut-born trader in his mid-40s when he joined the Union Navy, Work was assigned to the monitor-class ironclad Tecumseh and went down with the vessel after it struck an underwater mine during the Battle of Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864.
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An Officer in Three Illinois Regiments

John H.J. Lacey, a resident of Effingham, Ill., started his Civil War service in April 1861 as a lieutenant in the Eleventh Illinois Infantry. After his three-month term of enlistment expired, he became adjutant of the 98th Illinois Infantry. He spent the majority of the war with this regiment and participated in numerous engagements throughout the South, including the Battle of Chickamauga and the Atlanta Campaign. In February 1865, Lacey left to become adjutant in the newly-formed 155th Illinois Infantry. This regiment served primarily in Tennessee, and mustered out of the Union army in September 1865.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
An Officer in Three Illinois Regiments

A New York Tribune Journalist After His Escape from a Confederate POW Camp

browne-detailThis carte de visite (below, and detail, right, with a period engraving) by Dennis & Fry’s Photographic Gallery of Cincinnati, Ohio pictures New York Tribune journalist Julius Henri Browne. According to a period ink inscription on the back of the mount, he posed for this portrait soon after his escape from prison in Salisbury, N.C., and arrival inside Union lines on January 14, 1865—after twenty months in captivity.

An account of his wartime activities, Four Years in Secessia: Adventures Within and Beyond the Union Lines, was published in 1865. The flowery narrative makes this a challenge for the contemporary reader, although it is filled with marvelous detail and observation from an eyewitness who traveled with federal soldiers and sailors. The density of the book is perhaps one reason why journalist and author Peter Carlson wrote a new book, Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy (2013).

“Albert” is Albert D. Richardson of the Tribune, who was captured with Browne as they attempted to run the batteries and Vicksburg in 1863. A third reporter, Richard T. Colburn of the World, also fell into enemy hands. The trio fancied themselves part of the “Bohemian Brigade,” a group of journalists who operated in the war zone.

One of my favorite passages in Browne’s Secessia is an anecdote that recounts Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s reaction when he learned that Browne, Richardson and Colburn were missing and at the time presumed dead:

“We were all reported lost, we learned afterward; though General Sherman’s humorous comment, when apprised that three of the Bohemians had been killed—‘That’s good! We’ll have dispatches now from hell before breakfast.’”

Browne’s description of the events leading up to his capture is worthy of note and typical of his writing style. In this excerpt, he and his Bohemians are riding on a tugboat with hay-stacked barges on the Mississippi River:

Every moment we thought a shot might wreck our expedition; but in the occasional pause of the artillery, as I have said before, we could detect the rapid puff, puff, puff of the little tug, which was a sure sign that we still floated.

Suddenly a huge crash by our side, of wood and iron. A deep a heavy and peculiar report. A rush of steam, and a descending shower of cinders and ashes that covered our persons.

We heard the puff of the tug no more; but in its place went up a wild yell which we had often heard in the front of battle—shrill, exultant, savage; so different from the deep, manly, generous shout of the Union soldiers, that we knew at once it was the triumphant acclamation of our cruel foe.

The boiler of the tug had been exploded by a plunging shot from one of the upper batteries. The shot was accidental, but extremely effective. It wrecked our expedition at once. After passing through the boiler, the shell exploded in the furnaces, throwing the fires upon the barges and igniting the loose hay immediately.

“The play is over,” said Richardson; “Hand in your checks, boys,” exclaimed Colburn; “A change of base for the Bohemians,” remarked the undersigned; and we glanced around, and heard the groans and sharp cries of the wounded and scalded.

We rushed forward to try and trample out the flames, but they rose behind us like fiery serpents, and paled the full-orbed moon, and lit up the dark waters of the Stygian river far and near.

The Rebels, who had ceased firing for a moment, now bent themselves to their guns once more, and the iron missiles swept over and around us, and several of the soldiers on board were wounded by fragments of bursting shells.

Every one was now bent on saving himself. A few of the privates and some of the tug’s crew plunged madly overboard, with fragments of the wreck in their hands, and in three minutes none but the wounded and the journalistic trio remained on the burning barges.

We threw the bales of hay into the river for the benefit of the wounded and those who could not swim—for we had early learned Leander’s art—and then arranged our own programme.

Richardson went off first on a bale of hay, from which a large round-shot, passing near, and dashing a column of spray into the air just beyond him, soon displaced his corporeality.

Colburn followed; and I, seeing my field of operations hemmed in by rapidly advancing fire, answered his summons, dived, after divesting myself of all superfluous clothing, into the aqueous embrace of the father of Waters.

Several bales of hay were floating below, but I swam to the one nearest Colburn, and there we concluded to get beyond the town and pickets, and then, striking out for the Louisiana shore, make our was as best we could back to the army.

The Rebels had then ceased firing—certainly not for humanity’s sake, we thought—and the reason was patent when we heard the sound of row-locks across the water.

The chivalrous whippers of women were evidently coming to capture us.

My companion and myself believed if we kept very quiet, and floated with our faces only out of the water, we would not be discovered.

A yawl full of armed men passed near us, and we fancied we would escape. Like the so-called “Confederacy,” we waned to be let alone.

Just as we were internally congratulating ourselves, a small boat darted round the corner of the burning barge, and we were hauled in by a couple of stalwart fellows, after the manner of colossal catfish, without even the asking of our leave.

In fifteen minutes were were under guard on shore, where we found our collaborateur Richardson safe and sound.

About half our small crew had been killed and wounded,and the rest were prisoners.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
A New York Tribune Journalist After His Escape from a Confederate POW Camp