It is a rare event when a reference to the mental health of a Civil War soldier turns up in primary sources. Today, I found one in the pension file of Annie Francis Kendall Freitag. She’s pictured here. The soldier to whom she described as suffering from a “distressing nervous condition” was her husband, Frederick Daniel Freitag.

Fred’s military service was notable for his three wounds. The first, at White Oak Swamp during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, caused a bullet to be forever lodged in his thigh and imprisonment in Richmond for a month. His other two wounds happened weeks apart during the 1864 Overland Campaign—a gunshot in the hand and shell fragment in the foot.

Fred managed to recover from all this and mustered out with his comrades in the 30th Pennsylvania Infantry in the summer of 1864. he went on to become an officer in the 24th U.S. Colored Infantry and married Annie in June 1865.

Annie, who had served as a nurse and first met Fred as he recuperated from his White Oak Swamp wounding at a U.S. military hospital in Chester, Pa., marveled at his physical strength in light of his injuries.

Everything changed in 1886 after Fred suffered a breakdown. A physician diagnosed him with consumption and suffering from what Annie noted was a “distressing nervous condition”—perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder. She attributed his health issues to his war wounds and added, “he passed away two years of extreme suffering, and utter dependence and disability.” Fred was 48 years old.

Annie lived until 1905. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. Also buried there are other Civil War nurses, including Dorothea Dix.

Lincoln Depot Museum Talk

IMG_9007Abraham Lincoln passed through Peekskill, N.Y. twice during his years as president, once on the way to his inauguration in 1861 and again when his remains were carried home to Springfield, Ill., for burial. On both occasions, one filled with tension and the other shock and grief, he made the trip by train and it stopped at the depot in Peekskill, a lovely town on the Hudson River.
The depot survives and today is home to the Lincoln Depot Museum. I had the pleasure of speaking there today to a standing room only crowd. I talked about Civil War portrait photography, a presentation that I have been refining over the past year. In my humble opinion, it is the best yet.
Several folks deserve special recognition: John Testa, museum president, Paul Martin III, board member and talented artist, and a super special thanks to Brian and Emil Caplan, who fed and sheltered me, including a wonderful dinner party and an early morning road trip to Elephant’s Trunk Country Flea Market in New Milford, Conn.
Thanks also to everyone who attended. The next time you are in or near Peekskill, a highly recommend a museum visit.

Best Presentation for 2017

IMG_8805I am thrilled to have received this certificate and book from the Central Virginia Civil War Collectors Association for my presentation, “Cardomania! How the carte de visite became the Facebook of the 1860s.” I gave the talk in Richmond last May, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. They are a great group! Big thanks to Dave Batalo for inviting me to participate, and for making me feel welcome. Dave, by the way, has a tremendous collection of Virginia images.

“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!