At Virginia Tech, Cardomania!

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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.

Civil War Talk Radio Appearance

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-9-58-07-pmDec. 7 is an appropriate day to discuss the navy, and so it was this evening at 7 pm ET when I appeared on Civil War Talk Radio with host Gerald Prokopowicz. We spent an hour talking about the history of photography, its impact on the American soldier, and the portraits and personal narratives of the 77 sailors featured in my new book, Faces of the Civil War Navies.
 
The episode began with sadness as Mr. Prokopowicz dedicated the show to Heidi, his standard poodle who recently passed. I did not have the opportunity to tell him about the pugs who have laid at my feet every morning for the last 16 years as I’ve written my books—Charlie, Brutus, Lucy, Missy and Bella. Only Bella is here with us now, though I will always hold the others close to my heart. For those of you who have made it to the acknowledgements section at the back of my books, the pugs are always mentioned.

Book Review: A Chronicle of Diverse Nautical Service

faces-navy-200dpiToday’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.

Author Q&A With John Banks

jb-blogI’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.

The Human Aspect of the Civil War Navies

10-13-16-coddington-pic-1My 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.

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 the Greater Pittsburgh CWRT

IMG_6911Delighted 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.

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!