The Signal Corps was in its infancy during the Civil War, and among the pioneers who played a critical role relaying orders and messages that kept the Union military moving forward was Loring Robbins (1841-1925). His service ranged from the warships Ellen and Sebago from 1862-1863 to working with army in the Department of the Gulf from 1864-1865. In the latter situation he posed for this photograph in New Orleans. A native of Massachusetts, he’s buried in North Auburn, Maine.
A gentleman identified in period pencil as Joseph Miller strikes a casual pose with frock coat, top hat and cane. He stood for his likeness in the studio of B.F. Smith & Co. of Portland, Maine. The style of the mount and the fashion worn by this man dates the portrait to the Civil War period.
Albert Crockett of Durham, Maine, joined the army as soon as he turned 18, which was in 1863. He enlisted as a private in Company E of the Thirtieth Maine Infantry. The regiment played an important part in the failed 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana. According to The Union Army, Vol. 1, “It participated in the Red River campaign as a part of the 3d Brigade 1st Division, 19th Corps, and took an honorable part in the battles of Sabine cross-roads and Pleasant Hill on April 8 and 9, respectively. It lost in the two engagements 11 killed, 66 wounded and 71 missing, and during the retreat of the Union forces to the Mississippi river, it took the most prominent part in the dislodgment of the enemy at Cane river crossing, which was perhaps the most gallant action of the disastrous campaign. Its loss here was 2 officers and 10 men killed, 2 officers and 67 men wounded, and 7 men missing.”
Isaac Bradbury is the subject of my latest Faces of War column, published monthly in the Civil War News. The Union navy ensign from Machias, Maine, spent his service along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and saw plenty of action as part of the massive federal blockade that choked the life out of the Confederacy. An excerpt:
He continued, “You can imagine my feelings the first time I was under fire, we got nigh in too the Batterys and they opened on us, and we in return engaged them. Death & destruction was all around, the shells as a majority all over shot us, so at the flash of every gun of the ‘Rebs’ all the officers & men on the spar deck would throw themselves flat on their faces, and as the shells went over us a screaming they made anything but delightful music, in fact I thought I would rather be at home hearing the ‘Machias Cornet Band’ playing ‘Home Sweet Home,’ I think it would be far preferable. But I was doomed to be put to a severe test for a shell suddenly burst among the men cutting one in two and severely wounding several others. The one that was killed fell towards me and the blood spouted over my uniform.”
David King Perkins (1843-1893) of Kennebunkport, Maine, served as an acting master’s mate on the Union warship Seminole from 1863-1865. He was present and aboard the vessel during the Battle of Mobile Bay, the landmark engagement that closed the last major Confederate port in the Gulf of Mexico. After the war, Perkins resided in California, where his older brother, George Clement Perkins, served as governor from 1880-1883 and as a U.S. senator from 1893-1915.
This carte de visite by Guelpa & Demoleni of Boston, Mass., is new to my collection, and will be included in my forthcoming book about the Union and Confederate navies. It is available on Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr.
Charles Mellen Rowe of Maine (1841-about 1915) started his Civil War service in October 1864 as an ensign on the ironclad monitor Naubuc. The vessel was so poorly constructed that she was deemed not seaworthy and converted to a torpedo boat. She and her crew never made it out of New York. Rowe’s brief navy career ended in August 1865. He settled in Newfield, N.J., after the war, married Adelia Hemingway, and became a farmer.
My last post was a carte de visite by the little known but very talented photographer Antoine Sonrel of Boston, Mass. Here’s another obscure photographer who is worthy of mention: William Pierce of Brunswick, Maine. Examples of his work, including this portrait of a father and son, demonstrate Pierce’s awareness of lighting, composition, and technique. He is worthy of further study.
The exploits of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his Twentieth Maine Infantry at Gettysburg are well known among those with an active interest in the Civil War. Far less known however is the story of another Maine unit, the Sixth Battery, First Light Artillery, and its role in stopping the Confederate juggernaut in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard about the same time Chamberlain and his troops were fighting nearby on Little Round Top.
The story of Lt. William H. Rogers and the rest of his battery at Gettysburg is the subject of my latest “Faces of War” column in the Civil War News.
The fighting in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was a Union artilleryman’s nightmare. Advancing Confederates had torn into the poorly positioned Union Third Corps and ripped it to shreds. The destruction of the federal line at this critical point uncovered a wide a dangerous gap in their front. Onrushing rebels plunged into the void and drove shattered ranks of federal infantry back, leaving artillery batteries unsupported and exposed.