Unmasking a Rebel Battery at Freestone Point

mcglensey-montageJohn Franklin McGlensey graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1861, and three months later the 19-year-old was in command of a navy vessel in the Potomac River. His story is the subject of my latest “Faces of War” column, which runs in the Civil War News. An excerpt:

The rebels raised their flag and replied with a barrage from their big guns. They kept up a rapid fire into the afternoon. At some point during the action, the federals observed a small launch anchored in front of the battery. Midshipman McGlensey ordered the Murray in and captured the craft. The bold move drew fire from the Freestone battery, but the crew of the Murray managed to secure the launch and tow it away. “She accomplished it without any injury to herself or those on board,” noted Lt. McCrea.

Read the rest of McGlensey’s story.

Lieutenant on the “Constellation”

Sylvanus Backus (born 1839) was appointed an acting midshipman to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1857 from his home state of Michigan. After the Civil War began, he received an appointment as a lieutenant, and served on the Constellation, Ohio and Mohongo. He left the navy in 1866, and died about 1915.

His story, and this carte de visite by Hodcend & Degoix of Genes (Genoa, Italy), will be featured in my forthcoming book about the Civil War navies.

His likeness is new to my collection, and now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Lieutenant on the "Constellation"

The Day the War Stopped

The commander of the Union gunboat Albatross, John Elliot Hart was a native New Yorker who began his navy career in 1841 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1847. During the Civil War, he was attached to the West Gulf Squadron, where he served on several ships in and about the Mississippi River. He took charge of the Albatross in October 1862 and served in this capacity in June 1863 when he was stricken with yellow fever. On June 11, 1863, he committed suicide with a revolver in his cabin.

His brother officers knew that Hart was a Mason and determined he should have a burial that honored his membership in this organization. They took the body ashore the next day under a flag of truce and arranged a funeral service with Confederate Masons in St. Francisville, La.

Beginning in 1999, St. Francisville marked the event with a festival and called it “The Day the War Stopped.” The festival is still held today.

His likeness is new to my collection, and now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Day the War Stopped

Influential Man Behind the Official Navy Civil War Records

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Richard Rush (1848-1912) was the grandson of diplomat Richard Rush (1780-1859), and great-grandson of Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Rush entered the U.S. Naval Academy in its temporary location at Newport, R.I., in 1863, and spent the Civil War on the Academy’s sloop-of-war Marion, which was used as a training ship. He graduated in 1867, and was promoted through the ranks until in 1891, when he was made Lieutenant Commander. In 1893, he was appointed superintendent of naval war records, and in this capacity oversaw the early publication efforts of The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, a thirty volume set grouped in two series. According to the preface, “the long-delayed publication was finally authorized by act of Congress approved July 31, 1894, and begun by Mr. Rush. The first five volumes were published under his efficient administration, and the important duty of organizing the office for the distribution of these volumes was accomplished.”

Rush was ordered to sea in March 1897, thus ending his association with the project.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Influential Man Behind the Official Navy Civil War Records

Participated in the “Powder Boat” Affair

Iowa-born and Oregon raised Roswell Hawks Lamson (1838-1903) graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant, and commanded the gunboats Mount Washington, Gettysburg and Wilderness. In the latter vessel, he participated in the December 1864 attempt to destroy Fort Fisher using a boat loaded with 215 tons of gunpowder. The “powder boat” exploded, but did not damage the fort.

Lamson sat for this carte de visite in the Napoli, Italy, studio of Fratelli Alinar of Napoli. He resigned from the navy in 1866, and returned to Oregon.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/8026096@N04/14054414882/

Book Talk at the Historical Society of Kent County

photo 1Located in the heart of Chestertown, Md., the Historical Society of Kent County has one of the best locations of any I’ve visited. It was an excellent venue to present a talk about African American Faces of the Civil War. Yesterday I spoke to members of the society and guests as the streets outside were crowded with locals participating in First Friday events.

I enjoyed my visit, thanks in large part to Steve Frohock, who coordinated the event. Steve was responsible for having all three of my books available for purchase (thanks to all who did!) and a wonderful display in the front window of the Bordley History Center (pictured top and bottom).

photo 3Steve (pictured, right) told me that the society had worked with The Johns Hopkins University Press on a number of book-related events.

About 400 African American men from Kent County served in the Union army, and the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Hall they built in 1908 still stands. But the area is best known to historians and others, according to Steve, for the War of 1812. On August 30, 1814, the Kent County militia battled the British at Caulk’s Field. The site is in pristine condition today, and plans are underway for the bicentennial celebration next year.

photo 2Thanks to everyone who came out yesterday afternoon! On a side note for those of you familiar with the Bay Bridge and Friday beach traffic, it was minimal!

New to the Collection: The Celebrated Demoiselles of Baltimore

bendann-brothers-backmarkI’ve recently added this carte de visite by the noted Bendann Bro. of Baltimore, Md., to my collection. A clue to the identity of this group of women and a lone male is written in pencil on the back of the mount of this card photograph: “Carte de Visite of the celebrated demoiselles of Balto taken for Mr. Bueno of Cuba.” The surnames of the individuals are written in pencil along the bottom of the image, and are difficult to read: “Modle, Dr. Conick, Gegans, Alricks, Modle, Cary, Kempson, Meals, Deval, Alricks.”

A cancelled internal revenue service stamp on the back of the mount dates this image between September 1864 and September 1866. The federal government taxed photographs and other items during this time to pay for the Civil War.

The previous owner of this image speculated that they may have been prostitutes from a Baltimore brothel.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
The Celebrated Demoiselles of Baltimore

Book Talk at The Johns Hopkins Club

hopkins-clubYesterday I spent a delightful afternoon at the Hopkins Club, which is located on the picturesque Homewood Campus in Baltimore. The Club has a lunch lecture series, and in this first event of the academic year I was honored to talk about African American Faces of the Civil War.

We enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch which featured Maryland seafood, and the Hopkins Sundae—ice cream topped with fudge and caramel, which mimics the black and gold university colors. (Wondering if my alma mater has a desert. Is their a UGA Sundae?)

The room was packed, including several friends from Hopkins Press: Acquisitions Editor Bob Brugger, Publicist Robin Noonan, and Development and Publicity Officer Jack Holmes. Also in attendance was Fred Rasmussen, a well-respected columnist at the Baltimore Sun. Turns out Fred and I grew up about a mile-and-half from each other in New Jersey—Fred in Dunellen and I in Middlesex. Fred’s passion for his work and interest in history was clear from the moment we met.

The event was not without its drama on the roads. A car accident on the Beltway doubled a normally hour long trip. Road construction further slowed my progress. With less than 15 minutes before lunch began, I gave up my attempts to bypass the construction, hastily found a parking space across from the campus, and set out on foot. I made it with a few minutes to spare!

Return from the Valley of the Shadow

Valley of the Shadow“Valley of the Shadow,” the yearlong Civil War exhibit organized by the Washington County Fine Arts Museum in Hagerstown, Maryland, is officially closed. Today I received the 39 wartime images that I lent to the show. Many thanks to Jenn Chapman for her selections, and all the care she put into the exhibit and my collection. Also, kudos to editor Audrey Scanlan-Teller for the excellent catalog (pictured here).

Although the exhibit is no more, the images featured from my collection are available on this Flickr set.