Carte de visite by Currier of Amesbury, Mass., pictures a half dozen students posed with playing cards, stereoview photographs, and assorted papers.
The period ink inscription on the mount of this carte de visite indicates that this drum major served in the Fourth Massachusetts Infantry. The regiment was organized for a three-month enlistment in 1861 and a second enlistment for nine months in 1862. The individual who held this rank in 1861 was George W. Pope.
A young lady stands before the camera with one arm resting on a table upon which rests her bonnet. The remains of a revenue stamp on the back of the mount dates this carte de visite to 1864-1866, which was taken by Elrod Bros. of Lexington, Ky. Her name is lost to history, and it is not known if she had brothers who may have fought for the North and South.
This carte de visite (below, and detail, right, with a period engraving) by Dennis & Fry’s Photographic Gallery of Cincinnati, Ohio pictures New York Tribune journalist Julius Henri Browne. According to a period ink inscription on the back of the mount, he posed for this portrait soon after his escape from prison in Salisbury, N.C., and arrival inside Union lines on January 14, 1865—after twenty months in captivity.
An account of his wartime activities, Four Years in Secessia: Adventures Within and Beyond the Union Lines, was published in 1865. The flowery narrative makes this a challenge for the contemporary reader, although it is filled with marvelous detail and observation from an eyewitness who traveled with federal soldiers and sailors. The density of the book is perhaps one reason why journalist and author Peter Carlson wrote a new book, Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy (2013).
“Albert” is Albert D. Richardson of the Tribune, who was captured with Browne as they attempted to run the batteries and Vicksburg in 1863. A third reporter, Richard T. Colburn of the World, also fell into enemy hands. The trio fancied themselves part of the “Bohemian Brigade,” a group of journalists who operated in the war zone.
One of my favorite passages in Browne’s Secessia is an anecdote that recounts Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s reaction when he learned that Browne, Richardson and Colburn were missing and at the time presumed dead:
“We were all reported lost, we learned afterward; though General Sherman’s humorous comment, when apprised that three of the Bohemians had been killed—‘That’s good! We’ll have dispatches now from hell before breakfast.’”
Browne’s description of the events leading up to his capture is worthy of note and typical of his writing style. In this excerpt, he and his Bohemians are riding on a tugboat with hay-stacked barges on the Mississippi River:
Every moment we thought a shot might wreck our expedition; but in the occasional pause of the artillery, as I have said before, we could detect the rapid puff, puff, puff of the little tug, which was a sure sign that we still floated.
Suddenly a huge crash by our side, of wood and iron. A deep a heavy and peculiar report. A rush of steam, and a descending shower of cinders and ashes that covered our persons.
We heard the puff of the tug no more; but in its place went up a wild yell which we had often heard in the front of battle—shrill, exultant, savage; so different from the deep, manly, generous shout of the Union soldiers, that we knew at once it was the triumphant acclamation of our cruel foe.
The boiler of the tug had been exploded by a plunging shot from one of the upper batteries. The shot was accidental, but extremely effective. It wrecked our expedition at once. After passing through the boiler, the shell exploded in the furnaces, throwing the fires upon the barges and igniting the loose hay immediately.
“The play is over,” said Richardson; “Hand in your checks, boys,” exclaimed Colburn; “A change of base for the Bohemians,” remarked the undersigned; and we glanced around, and heard the groans and sharp cries of the wounded and scalded.
We rushed forward to try and trample out the flames, but they rose behind us like fiery serpents, and paled the full-orbed moon, and lit up the dark waters of the Stygian river far and near.
The Rebels, who had ceased firing for a moment, now bent themselves to their guns once more, and the iron missiles swept over and around us, and several of the soldiers on board were wounded by fragments of bursting shells.
Every one was now bent on saving himself. A few of the privates and some of the tug’s crew plunged madly overboard, with fragments of the wreck in their hands, and in three minutes none but the wounded and the journalistic trio remained on the burning barges.
We threw the bales of hay into the river for the benefit of the wounded and those who could not swim—for we had early learned Leander’s art—and then arranged our own programme.
Richardson went off first on a bale of hay, from which a large round-shot, passing near, and dashing a column of spray into the air just beyond him, soon displaced his corporeality.
Colburn followed; and I, seeing my field of operations hemmed in by rapidly advancing fire, answered his summons, dived, after divesting myself of all superfluous clothing, into the aqueous embrace of the father of Waters.
Several bales of hay were floating below, but I swam to the one nearest Colburn, and there we concluded to get beyond the town and pickets, and then, striking out for the Louisiana shore, make our was as best we could back to the army.
The Rebels had then ceased firing—certainly not for humanity’s sake, we thought—and the reason was patent when we heard the sound of row-locks across the water.
The chivalrous whippers of women were evidently coming to capture us.
My companion and myself believed if we kept very quiet, and floated with our faces only out of the water, we would not be discovered.
A yawl full of armed men passed near us, and we fancied we would escape. Like the so-called “Confederacy,” we waned to be let alone.
Just as we were internally congratulating ourselves, a small boat darted round the corner of the burning barge, and we were hauled in by a couple of stalwart fellows, after the manner of colossal catfish, without even the asking of our leave.
In fifteen minutes were were under guard on shore, where we found our collaborateur Richardson safe and sound.
About half our small crew had been killed and wounded,and the rest were prisoners.
This carte de visite by an anonymous photographer pictures a girl who stands on a cloth-covered box in front of a floral backdrop. The flowered pattern emanates from her head and shoulders, and the folds in the backdrop indicate that her mother or another adult held the young lady steady for the photographer. This technique was commonly used during the Civil War period to keep movement to a minimum while the child’s portrait was taken.
The back of the mount contains two items that suggest California origins. A modern pencil inscription notes that this photo was from the Veerkamp family album, El Dorado County. An internal revenue stamp, which dates this photo between 1864-1866, is hand-cancelled with the initials “GHG,” possibly George H. Gilbert of Placerville. Gilbert, a daguerreian pioneer, was active in Placerville from 1860-1880.
According to the 1870 federal census, Frank Veer Kamp of Hanover, Germany, his wife Louisa, and four boys lived in Colona Township, El Dorado County. If the little girl pictured here was a daughter, her absence from the census roll suggests she died before 1870.
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.
The story of Capt. Dennis Edwin Barnes of the 93rd New York Infantry is now available on the New York Times blog Disunion is now available. An excerpt:
Suddenly the haunting voice of a man in prayer rose above the cries of the wounded. One Union soldier who had nodded off to sleep after that first day of hellish fighting awoke to the sound with a start.
“I never before nor since heard such a prayer,” he noted years later. “It seemed, lying there in the darkness of the night in the woods, that his deep, sympathetic voice, mingled with the voices and groans of the dying ones, sounded as from some other world.”
The soldier recognized the voice. It belonged to Dennis Barnes, his captain, a square-shouldered, six-foot lumberman from New York who was on a self-appointed mission to rescue the wounded from his company after the day’s desperate fighting. Barnes was picking his way across the densely wooded landscape, exhausted and pained from an injury he had suffered to his hand. It was near midnight when he found a corporal who had succumbed to the gaping wound in his belly.
I appreciated this comment on Capt. Barnes’s story by Hal Cheney of Martinsville, Ill.: “One reads so many rather sterile accounts of the Wilderness, that seem to take for granted the horrors of that epic struggle. This recounting by Mr. Coddington, puts a personal face on this human tragedy, while preserving its standing as the unmistakeable beginning of the end for the Confederate States.”
Thank you, Mr, Cheney.