A Talk, a Show and Tell, and More at the CVCWCA

IMG_8188Yesterday I had the distinct honor to talk about cartes de visite to the Central Virginia Civil War Collectors Association in Richmond, Va.

My visit was timed to the CVCWCA’s monthly meeting, and I was unprepared for the dynamism of this group. The meeting included a warm introduction by the organization’s fearless leader, Brig. Gen. John W. “Jack” Mountcastle (U.S. Army, retired), followed by my remarks, a Q&A and a show and tell to wrap up the evening. It was this latter activity that I found especially engaging. Members brought in recently dug relics and Civil War photos (knowing that I’d be in attendance). It felt like  a special edition of Antiques Roadshow as I examined and commented on selected images.

Brig. Gen. Mountcastle is a name that will be familiar to many of you. He served as Chief Military Historian of the U.S. Army Center of Military History from 1994 to 1998. Check out his appearance on C-Span.

The invitation would not have happened with member Dave Batalo. I met Dave last year and was impressed with his eye for quality images. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting up with him and scanning a number of his Virginia images. You’ll see some of them in the Summer 2017 issue of Military Images magazine.

I came away from the evening feeling energized and enthusiastic thanks to Dave, Jack and the rest of the club members. I came away without the big box of books that I lugged in, and thank the club members for their generosity.

I came home with the paperweight pictured here. I recently upgraded my office to include an adult-size table (I worked on a smallish desk for years) and the paperweight is a perfect accessory.

“Water War” at the Chesapeake CWRT

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 5.24.16 PMI always take special care to plan my presentations, and “Water Wars: A history of the Civil War navies through the eyes of 25 sailors” was no exception. In a sense, it was three presentations in one—a brief history of photography, numbers of naval personnel and ships, and 25 mini-profiles. All of the information came from my most recent book, Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors.

I delivered the presentation last night to the Chesapeake Civil War Roundtable of Maryland. Many thanks to the Theresa Chevery, who invited me, President Janet McCabe, Larry Clemens, Lester Brooks, and all who attended.

The talk began with an excerpt of a letter from by Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter to the mother of Lt. Benjamin Horton Porter (distant relation) after the young man’s death at the Jan. 15, 1865, Battle of Fort Fisher. Here’s the excerpt:

Your gallant son was my beau-ideal of an officer. His heart was filled with gallantry and love of country. It must be a dreadful blow to lose such a son. It was a dreadful blow to me to lose such an officer. My associations with my officers are not those of a commander. We are like comrades, and form fond attachments to each other. When they fall I feel as if I had lost one of my own family. Your son was captain of my flag-ship, and a favorite with me and all who knew him.

He was brave to a fault. I shall never forget the day he left the ship, with my flag in his hand, saying, ‘Admiral, this shall be the first flag on the fort.’ My own son, a lad of seventeen, went by his side, and was with him when he fell, with my flag in his hand, trying to reach the enemy’s ramparts, from whence the murderous wretches were firing thousands of muskets into our brave fellows.

That was a wretched night for me. Your son was reported killed, and mine, last seen at his side, was missing till late in the night. I could imagine his father’s anguish, and I could imagine yours. I have no consolation to give you, unless to console you with the certainty of meeting in a better world than this. I have gone through a great deal in this war. For four years I have been but one month with my family. I have seen my official family cut down one after another, and my heart is so sad that I feel as if I could never smile again.

Among all the young men who have been on my staff no one had my entire confidence more than your lost son—lost only for a time. You will find him again where all is peace and joy. I would like to drink of the waters of Lethe and forget the last four years.

Book Review: “The Human Story of the War at Sea”

faces-navy-200dpiPleased to pass along a new review from LSU’s “Civil War Book Review” of my navy volume.

Here’s my favorite part: “Faces of the Civil War Navies is a notable addition to anyone’s Civil War library – whether they are interested in the War’s naval history or social aspects. Coddington does a worthy job providing scholarly biographies that are both interesting to read and informative. The scholarly nature of this work can be appreciated through the thoroughly cited entries, and extensive bibliography. In the end Faces of the Civil War Navies does accomplish Coddington’s goal of adding the human story of the war at sea.”

Read the entire review.