Early Defender of His Homeland

montageLt. John Grimball was in the Civil War from the Star of the West incident in January 1861 through the surrender of the Shenandoah in November 1865. His story is featured in the current issue of Civil War News. An excerpt:

Later that year he reported for duty to the Shenandoah. Grimball and his shipmates hunted Yankee merchant ships on the high seas during a yearlong cruise. Their exploits inspired Southerners during the waning months of the Confederate nation and prompted Northerners to brand them pirates. The Shenandoah continued to operate for months after surrender of the gray armies and dissolution of the government. The crew had heard rumors of the downfall of the Confederacy but had no confirmation of it.

“We were now the only Confederate cruiser afloat, and as we continued our course around the world, passing from ocean to ocean, meeting in turn ships of various nationalities, I always felt that whenever our nationality was known to neutral ships the greetings we received rarely warmed up beyond that of a more or less interested curiosity, and while we had many friends ashore who were most lavish and generous in welcoming us to port, underlying it all there appeared to exist a wish of the authorities to have us ‘move on.’”

Read his full story.

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New to My Collection: Cadet, Circa 1855

Is this a West Pointer who went on to serve in the Civil War?

The subject of this ninth plate Daguerreotype is a clean shaven young man who wears a jacket that suggests he is a military cadet. The jacket is adorned with dark trim and smooth brass buttons, which is very similar to those worn by West Point cadets during the antebellum period.

In the middle of his cravat is pinned what appears to be a fraternity pin, which supports the theory that he is a cadet. The gent also wears a felt hat with leather visor.

The brass mat is stamped “Tyler & Co.” According to the late John S. Craig of the Daguerreian Society, evidence suggests that the company operated studios in Boston, Providence, Memphis, Cincinnati, Charleston, and New Orleans. This image was recently discovered at a flea market in South Carolina, which may indicate that this Daguerreotype originated in a Southern studio.

Estimating his age to be about twenty, and the photograph dating to 1855, this man would have been in his mid-twenties when the Civil War began. Assuming he was alive at the time, it is reasonable to assume he enlisted in the Union or Confederate army.

My brother Gary recently found this photograph at a flea market in South Carolina, purchased it at a very reasonable price, and sent it my way. He’s always on the lookout for quality images, and I appreciate his keen eye!

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Cadet, Circa 1855

New on Disunion: The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground

William Harvey CarneyMy latest contribution to the New York Times series Disunion is the story of Sgt. William Harvey Carney of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry and how he came to say these immortal words at Fort Wagner.

An excerpt:

Carney climbed the rampart with the Stars and Stripes. “All around me were the dead and wounded, lying one upon top the other,” he observed, describing the scene. “It seemed a miracle that I should have been spared in that awful slaughter. When I recovered from my semi stupor, on account of the scenes of blood about me, I found myself standing on the top of the embankment, all alone. It were folly for me to try to advance, so I dropped on my knees among my dead comrades, and I laid as low and quiet as possible.”

Carney planted the bottom of the flagstaff into the ground as musket bullets and canister shots plowed into the earth near his feet and sprayed sand into the air. “I was almost blinded by the dirt flying around me and nearly distracted by the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying men about me. As soon as I could distinguish anything in the darkness, I could see dimly on one side a line of men mounting the ramparts and going down into the fort. I thought they must be our own men, but in the light of a cannon flash I saw they were the enemy.”

Read the rest of Sgt. Carney’s story.

Action at Bloody Bridge

My profile of James Harvey McKee of the 144th New York Infantry, which appears in the current print issue of the Civil War News, is now available online.

An excerpt: “The New Yorkers peered through the dim morning light obscured by heavy fog and gunsmoke and saw what appeared to be the forms of men ahead. Some believed that the shadowy figures were members of their own picket line and cried out to stop firing. They soon discovered their error. McKee and the rest of the 144th reacted with a volley, and fired off a couple more. This appeared to drive the gray troops away. The Confederates had not however withdrawn, but had moved around the unsupported left flank of the regiment and caught the New Yorkers off their guard.”

McKee from my Flickr Photostream:
James H. McKee