Back to Back Book Events

african-american-faces-of-the-civil-war-200DPITwo weeks, two book talks! Now, catching my breath to acknowledge those who organized and attended.

On June 5, I discussed African American Faces of the Civil War to a great group gathered at the Ft. Taber Community Center in New Bedford, Mass. Sponsored by the New Bedford Historical Society, the attendees included Carl Cruz, great-great-grand-nephew of Sgt. William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. I had met Carl at the National Gallery of Art at last year’s opening of the Shaw Memorial exhibit. The New Bedford Civil War Round Table also sponsored the event, and I’m grateful to the many folks who turned out. I am also indebted to organizer Lee Blake, and John Centeio for his kindness.

On June 13, I spoke to another great group at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., just outside Albany. Organizer Matt George of the Capital District Civil War Round Table. The event was co-sponsored by the Underground Railroad History Project. Special thanks to the three young re-enactors who attended, dressed in their uniforms.

I am grateful for the invitations, and happy to have had the opportunity to tell the stories and share the photos of men of color who participated in our Civil War.

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Boy with a Toy Sword

A generation at war is touched in many ways, large and small, by the culture of the military. Here, an unidentified boy holds a toy sword in this Civil War era portrait. Why did he choose to pose with a sword? His father may have been a cavalryman, or perhaps he was inspired by romanticized engravings of combat he saw in Harper’s Weekly and other illustrated magazines. The photograph is from the studio of J.H. Abbott of Albany, N.Y.

This image is new to my collection, and available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Boy with Toy Sword

Ranking Sergeants of Company G

austinThe Civil War was two months old on June 14, 1861, when these New Yorkers left their camp in Bethlehem, N.Y., and posed for their portrait brandishing weapons and an air of confidence. 3rd Sgt. Luther Lee Partridge, 4th Sgt. Andrew Christie Bayne, 1st Sgt. John Henry Austin, and 2nd Sgt. Edwin O. Betts all served in Company G of the Sixteenth New York Infantry, and they had mustered into the Union army a month earlier at Albany. All four men resided in De Peyster, a hamlet located in the far north of the Empire State. Although each man held the rank of sergeant, none had yet received the chevrons that denote their rank.

Four days after they had this picture taken, the ranking sergeants of Company G and the rest of their regiment left for Washington, D.C.

The Sixteenth spent the rest of its two-year term of enlistment in the South. It fought briefly at the First Battle of Bull Run, and suffered heavy losses during the Peninsular Campaign and at Crampton’s Gap during the Antietam Campaign. The regiment was held in reserve during the Battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg, and returned to action to fight in the Chancellorsville Campaign.

The regiment mustered out of the army on May 22, 1863, and the losses were tallied: 112 were killed or mortally wounded, and 84 died from disease and other causes.

All four of these men survived.

Luther Lee Partridge (1838-1881) was wounded on May 3, 1863, in the fighting at Salem Church, Va., during the Chancellorsville Campaign.

Scottish-born Andrew Christie Bayne (1841-1893) enlisted the Veteran Reserve Corps after he left the Sixteenth and advanced to the rank of captain by the end of the war. He then joined the regular army and remained in uniform until 1871.

John Henry Austin (1835-1913) became second lieutenant of Company G a few months after sitting for this portrait, and mustered out with most of his comrades on May 22, 1863.

Edwin O. Betts was reduced to the ranks on September 29, 1862, and remained in Company G until the end of its enlistment.

This image is new to my collection, and available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.

Newly Posted: Seven Times Wounded at Gettysburg

Now available on Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr is this circa 1865 carte de visite of Irish-born James Brownlee.
Seven Times Wounded at Gettysburg

Brownlee served in the 134th New York Infantry, which at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg belonged to a brigade commanded by Col. Charles R. Coster. During the afternoon of the first day of the battle, Coster’s Brigade was ordered to support the crumbling federal right on the northern edge of Gettysburg. Soon after the brigade formed, the Confederate juggernaut descended on Coster’s men. The 134th was overwhelmed by advancing rebels on the front, flank and rear. More than half the regiment became casualties, including Brownlee, who suffered wounds from four bullets and three buckshot. His case study appeared in The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion:

CASE.—Private James Brownlee, Co. G, 134th New York Volunteers, aged 21 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863, by four balls and three buckshot. One ball, probably conoidal, entered the sternum about an inch below the jugular fossa, and passing downward and outward, underneath the second, third, and fourth ribs, perforated the upper lobe of the right lung superficially, and emerged between the fourth and fifth ribs, about three inches to the right of the nipple of the same side. Three buckshot took effect just above the pubes, some of them passing through the bladder. One ball entered the right thigh and lodged; another (conoidal) entered the left thigh and passed nearly through. It was removed on the fourth day. A nearly spent conoidal ball entered the back of the sacrum, near its middle, and buried itself slightly beneath the skin, whence it was immediately removed by the patient. In addition to the injuries already stated the patient affirms that he was finally struck upon his knapsack, and knocked down by a piece of railroad iron about eighteen inches long, which was fired from one of the enemy’s guns. Being made a prisoner soon after, a Confederate surgeon removed some fragments of the sternum from the wound of exit, and dressed the wound with pledgets of lint, removing them every hour or two. He observed that whenever the dressing was removed he breathed with difficulty, but on being replaced he felt immediate relief. The patient was admitted to Camp Letterman, Pennsylvania on August 6th, and was furloughed on October 30th, 1863. He was admitted to Central Park Hospital, New York, on December 9th, 1863, and came under the observation of Professor Frank H. Hamilton, who stated that “after the lapse of nine months there is a copious purulent discharge from both orifices, and the walls of the thorax upon the injured side have already contracted considerably. The posterior portion of the right lung admits air freely, nearly to its base. In front, no auscultatory sounds are detected. When he stands erect the right shoulder falls considerably. Most of the time he has troublesome diarrhea, yet under a generous diet he is gradually gaining his strength and health.” On June 3d, 1865, Brownlee was admitted to Ira Harris Hospital, Albany. He was discharged the service on August 12th, 1865. Examining Surgeon William H. Craig states, August 22d, 1866, that “a fistulous opening remains in the breast, at which the air escapes in inspiration. About four ounces of pus is discharged from this opening each day. Disability probably permanent.” On January 29th, 1867, Examining Surgeon E.S. Delavan, at Albany, reports: “Three buckshot entered in front near the symphisis pubis, perforating the bladder. Strange to say, he recovered from the wound. Ball entered the breast and sternum and passed out (probably, though he never saw the ball); it may be in the chest below the right nipple. The right lung is almost totally useless. I can detect no respiratory murmur, and he has cough and feeble pulse. In my opinion, the disability is permanent.”

Brownlee lived until age 62, dying after he suffered a stroke in 1904.