Boys at War

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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.

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At the Rockland CWRT

IMG_8080My talk last evening at the Rockland Civil War Round Table in Pearl River, N.Y., unfolded differently than any others in recent memory. Early on during my presentation, “Cardomania! The Rise and Fall of the Carte de Visite in Civil War America,” one of the members asked a question. Typically, questions come at the end of the lecture, but this is not a hard and fast rule with me. So I rolled with it and answered the question. More questions came as I continued the talk, and what normally is a 45-minute presentation lasted about double the time. I enjoyed the format change!

My visit would not have been possible without all of the fine folks in this group, especially Paul R. Martin III, who heads up the organization. A high school art and photography teacher, and an accomplished artist in his own right, Paul was a great master of ceremonies and host.

A big thanks to all who participated. And thanks for the treasure trove of gifts, picture here.

Four Years in the Making

img_7218Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors is here! I returned yesterday from a five-day vacation to find a box containing three advance copies. I had expected its arrival since early last week after I received an email update from Jack Holmes of Hopkins Press. The hardbound books follow in the tradition of my others. They are finely printed on high quality stock with a matte finish jacket suggestive of a photographic negative. I am thrilled! I also feel fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to our better understanding and appreciation of the war on the waters from 1861 to 1865.

The volume is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other fine bookstores. Copies are also available directly from The Johns Hopkins University Press or this handy form from the publisher.

The three advance copies are already spoken for! One is my personal copy, another is for Anne, and the last is in our library.

Considering the upcoming holidays, I encourage you to purchase a copy for yourself or as a gift. Your support of my work, and of Hopkins Press for making this volume a reality, is much appreciated!

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Navy Faces in the Civil War Monitor

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img_6991Received my latest issue of the Civil War Monitor today and was thrilled to find not only that a gallery of images from my navy book received great play and the coveted cover slot! I am grateful to Terry Johnston and all the fine folks on the CWM team for making it happen. I also learned that the book is due out in November, just in time for the holidays. Pre-orders are available on Amazon.

Book Talk at Lakeville Historical Society

13442358_904271953033248_3066261752311497730_nLast evening I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to the membership of the Lakeville Historical Society in Lakeville, Mass. Hosts Rita and Jim Gouveia made me feel instantly welcome, and everyone else was equally friendly and accommodating. In attendance was state representative Keiko Orral and her son, who is studying history. I discussed African American Faces of the Civil War and realized that with my navy book about to be published this may be one of the last of many times that I deliver this talk.

This visit reminded me of the important role played by the Lakeville Historical Society and other historical and genealogical groups across the country. They are on the front lines of history, gathering local relics and stories and preserving them for future generations. They also help me, for when I am researching men and women from the Civil War period I often turn to these organizations for assistance.

I salute Lakeville Historical Society for all that they’ve done in their 45 years of existence and wish them many more.

Talk at Charlottesville CWRT

Work-George-USN-FLight traffic and springtime glory accompanied me on yesterday’s drive to Charlottesville, Va., to present a talk about Civil War photography to the local Civil War Round Table. I found, upon my arrival, that Duncan Campbell has managed all the technical considerations. I soon met president L. Peyton Humphrey and other group members.

My program, The American Soldier in Portrait Photography, 1861-1865, describes the emergence of the carte de visite as the dominant photographic format during the war years and traces its rise from the origins of photography.

The 60-slide presentation includes a group of six cartes to illustrate the individuality of Union and Confederate soldiers, and I swap the six out depending upon the audience (Example: When I presented this program in Augusta, Ga., back in January, the six were all Georgians). This time, one of the portraits I chose for inclusion was U.S. Navy Paymaster George Work, pictured here, who drowned when his ironclad gunboat Tecumseh sunk at the Battle of Mobile Bay. I selected his likeness to add a navy man to the grouping. Turns out one of his descendants, Jean Turrentill, was in the audience! We met afterwards and I’ll be sending her the information that I’ve collected about Work’s life and tragic death.

I also met someone seeking an image of her forefather, and this is a common experience in my presentations. This time, Patricia Ford approached me with a request for a photograph of William Condra Gass of the Union 9th Kentucky Infantry. Gass, from Clay County, Ky., was mortally wounded at the Battle of Stones River on Dec. 31, 1862. A quick search of my subscription databases turned up no portraits. Perhaps you can help! Patricia’s email is craftylady084@gmail.com.

A big thank you to everyone who attended!

 

Great Time at the Augusta Civil War Round Table

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If you are looking for one of the premier Civil War Round Tables in the country, go to Augusta, Ga. A few years ago, the organization had declined to about a dozen members. Now, they are an army of about 160 thanks in large part to their leader, Gwen Fulcher Young.

augusta-cwrtI had the privilege to speak to a large number of the membership last night and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I presented a new talk, The American Soldier in Portrait Photography, 1861-1865. It is in fact part history of photography and part understanding of how it came into its own in the form of the carte de visite style on the eve of our Civil War. I was delighted with its reception, and by sales of my books and Military Images magazine afterwards.

A big thanks to everyone who made the event possible, especially Gwen, her husband Bob, and my old college pal Greg Hunnicutt.

Taking on the Rebel Ram Tennessee

There came a moment during the Aug. 5, 1864, Battle of Mobile Bay when Rear Adm. David Farragut’s most powerful warships went up against the Confederate ironclad ram Tennessee.

The Hartford, Brooklyn and Richmond lined up abreast and bore down on the Tennessee, hell bent on taking her out of action.

The Richmond’s crew included one of the navy’s youngest officers, Philip Henry Cooper, pictured here, center. A recent Naval Academy graduate, he had served aboard the Richmond for about a year.

Cooper and his shipmates, and the crews of the other two Union vessels, traded shot and shell with the Tennessee for more than an hour before the rebel ram called it quits and raised the white flag.

The crew of the Richmond was lucky—no casualties and minimum damage. For Cooper, it was the beginning of a long career in the service of the navy that included cruises around the globe and stints on the staff of his alma mater. He posed for this carte de visite with two of his comrades, Lt. Cmdr. Charles W. Tracy and a secretary named Procter, during a South American cruise about 1866-1868.

Cooper retired as a captain in 1904 and died in 1912 at age 68.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Taking on the Rebel Ram Tennessee

Crisis in Pensacola

m2My latest profile in the Civil War News Faces of War series is Confederate navy officer William Thomas Morrill. An excerpt from his story:

By early January 1861, mechanic W. Thomas Morrill, pictured here, and other employees of the Pensacola Navy Yard in Florida were caught in a humanitarian crisis. They had not been paid for two months—the result of civil unrest that disrupted the flow of money and materials to military outposts in the Southern states as the country drifted towards civil war. Hunger became a real and present danger.

Morrill had a wife and two infants to feed. Many of his fellow workers also had families to support and no relief was in sight. On January 8, the workers rallied at a mass meeting at a Masonic hall in Warrington, a village outside the walls of the Yard.

They appointed a committee who promptly met with the commander of the Yard and requested that provisions be issued in lieu of pay. The sympathetic officer in charge, Cmdr. James Armstrong, acted promptly to relieve their sufferings. Flour, sugar, rice, coffee and butter were distributed on January 10—the same day Florida legislators voted by a wide margin to secede from the Union.

Read the rest on Medium.

 

The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley

Union officer Charles H. Shepley had loaded revolvers on countless occasions. But on March 21, 1862, something went horribly wrong. Shepley was loading it when it suddenly discharged. In one awful moment, a lead slug tore through him.

Shepley was no stranger to firearms. Back in 1856, soon after he and his family had relocated from Vermont to Chicago, 15-year-old Shepley joined the National Guard Cadets, a militia group formed by Col. Joseph R. Scott. The organization was taken over by the young and charismatic Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth soon after and turned into a crack drill team that toured the East. They were met by throngs of cheering citizens impressed with the discipline and precision of Ellsworth, Shepley and the rest of the boys.

When the war started, Shepley became an officer in the 19th Illinois Infantry, a regiment originally commanded by his old senior officer, Col. Scott. This was in the spring of 1861. Shepley started out as a second lieutenant in Company K and soon advanced to captain.

Sent to the South, the 19th was stationed at Murfreesboro, Tenn., when the accident happened. “While quietly engaged in loading his pistol, the weapon suddenly discharged itself, the ball passing into and nearly through his body, producing a fatal wound. He lingered till early on the morning of the 23d, when, despite all the surgical skill and kindly attention out forth on his behalf, Capt. Shepley was compelled to yield up his young life while bright hopes and well-merited honors were clustering around him.”

There’s more. “He had often expressed to his fellow soldiers a desire that if he must lose his life in the war, it might be his privilege to die on the battlefield, rather than in camp or on picket duty. But that wish was not to be gratified; and yet those best acquainted with him know that he died none the less a hero than if his life had been taken by the hand of the enemy amid the carnage of battle.”

His story can be found in Martyrs and Heroes of Illinois.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley