“Vivid New Portraits of Life at Sea”

faces-navy-reviewThis headline is the gist of a new review of my most recent book, Faces of the Civil War Navies. The review appears in the November 2017 issue of the Journal of Southern History. Author Anna Gibson Holloway adds, “Readers will delight in opening the book to any page to discover a new face, name, and story that might otherwise have gone untold.”

I recommend a read!


Boys at War


The latest issue of the Civil War Monitor includes my “Boys at War,” a collection of stories and original wartime images of teenagers between the ages of 13-17. Though these kids were not officially counted by post-war statisticians, they marched and fought alongside their elders. Their stories are forgotten and their faces lost in time—until now.

Talking About Old Photos at the Stonewall Jackson CWRT


This evening, I had the pleasure of discussing the history of Civil War photography at the Stonewall Jackson Civil War Round Table in Clarksburg, W. Va. The event was held in historic Waldomore, a 19th century home with strong connections to the war and the Goff family.

The event was sponsored by several local organizations and business, for which I am grateful. A very big thanks goes to Rick Wolfe, who coordinates the speaking program. Rick is a retired Marine with a fantastic collection of West Virginia Civil War photographs—and one of the best guys you’ll ever meet.

Thanks are also due to the Gary Bowden Show, on the AJR News Network. Gary and his team interviewed me on Monday (listen to podcast; begins at 15:20), in advance of tonight’s talk.

Human Sensibility to Brutal Conflict

mahsThis headline is the gist of a generous review of Faces of the Civil War Navies that appeared in the Spring 2017 newsletter of the Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society. The reviewer, Dennis Knepper, a member of the group’s Board of Directors. An excerpt:

The book is a fine addition to Coddington’s Faces series, bringing a human sensibility to what history has recorded as a fierce and brutal conflict. The edition is produced to JHU’s usual high standards, printed on heavy bond paper with good quality graphic reproductions. The 77 profiles account for 328 pages and are followed by 51 pages of endnotes that often add additional detailed information about the individuals or the actions in which they participated. A thorough bibliography and a serviceable index round out the volume.

Thank you for the kind words, Mr. Knepper. Though the newsletter is not yet available online, it will presumably be here.

Research and Writing Begins for Faces of Civil War Nurses

32571371231_0349972648_oToday, I began writing the first profile in my forthcoming book. This follows a yearlong search for original, wartime, identified portraits of women who served as caregivers to Union and Confederate soldiers. I found 94 altogether. Of this group, 77 will be included in the book, a number consistent with my other volumes.
For this first profile, I turned to an image in my own collection, Rose Adéle Cutts Douglas Williams. She was a regular visitor to Douglas Hospital in Washington, D.C., which was named for her late husband, Sen. Stephen A. Douglas.
Here’s the result of today’s writing:
Captain James M. Gaston had made it through the worst of the fever. Like many Union soldiers stricken by malaria, the ordeal left him quite feeble. This was the condition in which Adéle Douglas found him on September 1, 1862, during a visit to the Washington, D.C., military hospital, where he had been admitted.
Douglas asked if she could do anything for him. “I have not written to for some time to my wife. I would like you to write and tell her about me,” Gaston replied. So, Douglas sat and penned a letter to Matilda Gaston, a mother with three young children in Western Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh.
“Your brave husband is not among the wounded or dying, and God had spared him for you for I trust a long and happy life,” Douglas stated. She added, “You must dismiss as much anxiety from your mind as is possible while you are away from your husband, and I know you find gratitude that he has spared you from these last dreadful battles. They are all our heroes, sick and wounded as well as those who have fallen.”
More to come!

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.