My 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.
My lecture about Civil War portrait photography includes an epilogue that traces these photos from the time they were in the hands of the veterans who originally sat for them to today. A key point during this timeline, from the late 1950s through the 1970s, includes the pioneer collectors who emerged as caretakers of these precious images.
Last night during my appearance at the North Shore Civil War Roundtable in Huntington, Long Island, N.Y., I was delighted to have in attendance two of those early collectors—Scott Valentine and Dom Serrano. Both have contributed to Military Images magazine. It was a special moment for me to be able to call them out during the talk! Later, I discovered another early collector in the crowd, Bill Finlayson, a descendant of Medal of Honor recipient John James Toffey of the 33rd New Jersey Infantry. (I profiled Toffey in the New York Times Disunion series.)
I had the pleasure to meet many others, including Ed Callahan and Jeff Richmond. A big thanks to them and all who attended—and especially Dom for making this event happen.
I had the pleasure of presenting a lecture about Civil War portrait photography yesterday afternoon at the Center for Civil War Studies on the campus of Virginia Tech. The talk, Cardomania! How the carte de visite became the Facebook of the 1860s, explains that the carte de visite format is a blip on the timeline of photographic history, wedged between the beauty of the daguerreotype and the technical improvements later in the 19th century. But during its heyday in the 1860s, the its affordability, reproducibility and shareability made it a social media powerhouse.
The event could not have happened without professors Paul Quigley, director of the Center, and Kurt Luther. Kurt, by the way, is the author of Photo Sleuth, a column in Military Images magazine. My sincere thanks to them for the efforts to help all of us better understand and appreciate the Civil War.
Today’s Charlotte Observer includes a review by John David Smith, a professor of American History at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, of my new book, Faces of the Civil War Navies.
The headline of the review reflects a sentiment shared by many who are enthusiasts of the water war from 1861 to 1865 and navy veterans of all stripes: Sailors who served in Civil War navies finally get their stories told.
Professor Smith notes, Faces of the Civil War Navies uses a stunning collection of cartes de visite and tintype images of Union and Confederate sailors to chronicle their diverse nautical service.
Delighted to read this and other positive comments from Professor Smith.
Reviewers of all my Faces books include a sampling of stories. It interests me to know which individuals they’ve decided to highlight. Professor Smith selected Landsman Aaron Joseph, a Boston man who went to war to fight for the freedom of his enslaved race, Lt. William Whittle Jr., a Virginian who served on the last Confederate vessel to surrender, and Lt. Cmdr. Richard Rush, a Pennsylvanian who went on to edit the monumental Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies.
Read the full review.
I’ve been a longtime follower of John Banks’ Civil War Blog. It is chock full of images and stories with an emphasis on Antietam, Connecticut, common soldiers and photography.
John interviewed me about my new book, Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors. I was delighted to participate and thank John for helping to spread the word about these fascinating citizen sailors.
Turns out John’s favorite story involves a Union lieutenant who almost drowned President Abraham Lincoln and Adm. David Dixon Porter on the James River in April 1865. You can read John’s summary and my answers to his questions.
My latest post on The Johns Hopkins University Press blog is pegged to the anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Navy. An excerpt:
The story of the war on the waters never quite stirred the American soul. The New York Herald noted in an 1895 review of the first in the 30-volume Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, “That branch of the service has never had its full share of credit for its work in the suppression of the rebellion, owing, perhaps, to the more popular interest in the army, which came so much more closely home to the people.”
The post is illustrated with this portrait of Lt. Benjamin Horton Porter, a promising Union officer. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate viewed as a rising star, he did not live to see the conclusion of the conflict into which he poured his heart and soul.
Received 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.
Delighted to have had the opportunity to present a talk about my new book, Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors, to the Greater Pittsburgh Civil War Round Table this evening. A big thank you to John for inviting me, founder Allison for her hospitality, Rick for leading me to the venue and Joe for being my Powerpoint wingman! Last but not least, all the members who attended. Nice to have a packed house!
“The Greater Pittsburgh Civil War Round Table was founded in February 2000, in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of providing Civil War enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in The War Between The States, with the opportunity to meet regularly. We meet to study, discuss and learn about the war that shaped our nation, and the men and women of the Civil War Era, and the sacrifices they made. It is furthermore, the mission of this Round Table to educate the public about the urgent need for the preservation of battlefields, monuments, and Civil War sites.”
You can find them on Facebook and their official web site.
Last 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.