Veteran talking to bootblacks

Found this photo and really loved it.

The Civil War veteran above wears the cap of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)—the largest Union veterans’ organization—founded in 1866. The number on his cap signals that his post was 139, located in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

This prize-winning amateur photograph from the 1935 Newspaper National Snapshot Awards was taken by Mrs. Nathan Klein of Wyoming, Pennsylvania. The note on the back reads: “Old soldier talking to bootblacks.”

Many Civil War veterans were long-lived. Some 1,800 attended the 75th reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938. Their average age was about 95. According to the National Civil War Museum, Albert H. Woolson of Minnesota—the last documented Civil War soldier—died in 1956.

Picture Archive: American Soldiers, 1860s to 1940s.

Picture Archive: American Soldiers, 1860s to 1940s

Laird Hunt on a photo found at Gettysburg

The Irish newspapers have had a few Civil War articles lately. This one is almost a tone poem; a meditation on photographs and the power they held for the soldiers who carried them.

When the guns at Gettysburg had stopped booming and the dust had settled, a photograph was plucked from the dirt. It had been trampled, its lovely grey and gilt frame had been crushed and dirtied, but the hand-tinted ambrotype it contained was still visible. It showed a woman with dark hair pulled neatly back from her brow holding a baby on her lap. Both the woman and the baby looked toward the camera. The baby’s arm and the woman’s hand were visible. One can easily imagine the soldier whose precious image of home this was gazing at that arm, at that hand, at that bared, beloved brow.

One can imagine him, as many might be moved to, before the three fateful days of battle, taking the photo out of his pack and peering at it. Maybe he sang as he peered. Sang to the child then spoke to the woman. Maybe his comrades sat close to him so he whispered to her, said things meant for her ears alone. Photos circulated widely in the decades before the war but were still mysterious, still seemed to speak to uncanny presence. Holding the photo aloft, or even just knowing it was in his pack or pocket, the man may have felt as if his wife and child were with him, physically present, that he was almost home. Probably death was on his mind. How could it not have been? A great fight was coming. Knowing that his wife and child were close by, even just as images, must have been a comfort.

via Laird Hunt: some thoughts on a photo found at Gettysburg.

“Godfor, a Gettysburg battlefield vulture”

Somebody posted this image to Reddit last week, and as usual the userbase filled in some of the questions it inspired about Civil War deaths and mores. There are some well-read historians lurking on there amongst the jokers and the wags – this is a thread word reading.

Godfor, a Gettysburg battlefield vulture

durutticolumn comments on Godfor, a Gettysburg battlefield vulture. [1396×702].

Civil War Medical Implements

NB: This is another post that might not be of interest to the squeamish.  Sorry – bit of a trend this week, apparently!

I usually avoid the Daily Mail, but this “article” was too good to pass up.  Please ignore all the Kardashian-heavy gossip stories on the right and check out this fascinating collection of photos.  The writer has assembled images relating to Civil War medicine and hospitals.  There’s not a ton of background information or detail, but they’ve been well chosen for theme.  Lots of new-to-me images here, and some really intriguing ones, to boot.


Civil war surgery: The grisly photos that show how wounded soldiers were treated | Mail Online.

Hay and Nico, Together at Last

I’m working on a special project for 2014, and went looking for a photo of John Hay and John Nicolay – Lincoln’s secretaries.  There’s one famous photo of them with Lincoln between them, but shockingly, given their half-century friendship, there are none of the BFFs together.  However, one eagle-eyed websurfer has found them together, amongst the crowd in the Second Inaugural photo. They both look solemn and stressed. Thinking, no doubt, of all the paperwork awaiting them back at the office.



Lincoln’s Second Inauguration Photo…Again.

2013 Civil War Trust Photo Contest Winners

While linking to the Civil War Trust the other day, I noticed a link to their 2013 Photo Contest. Wowzers, there are some amazing shots here.  My personal favorite is the Meade statue by moonlight, which eerily recaptures Meade’s arrival on the scene of the Gettysburg battlefield after the first day. (The description thereof is my favorite paragraph from the Shelby Foote Narratives.)  There’s also a category of Preservation Threats, which heartbreakingly highlight the urban sprawl laying siege to some of the national battlefields.

There’s a special promotion on the site that will net you a calendar featuring these images for any donation above $18.63.  I encourage you all again to donate to the charity if you can.  They’re doing great work on behalf of all us history buffs.

2013 Civil War Trust Photo Contest Winners.

Whose Father Was He?

Today is the sesquicentennial of a Civil War event that always fascinated me: It was on this day in 1863 that the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story titled “Whose Father Was He?”, describing in detail the ambrotype found clutched in a dead soldier’s hand on the Gettysburg battlefield.

After the battle an unidentified dead soldier was found near the present Gettysburg firehouse. He was found clutching a picture of his three small children. Through the efforts of Dr. J. Francis Bournes, the soldier’s wife was able to identify the children in the image. He was Sgt. Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Volunteers.

Tragically, one aftermath of the Civil War was soldiers’ orphans. People throughout the east became interested in raising money to establish an orphanage in Gettysburg for all children of the men killed in the Civil War. Through the efforts of Dr. Bournes, a two-acre property on Baltimore Street near the Soldiers’ National Cemetery was purchased for the home. The inauguration took place on November 20, 1866. Thirty-five orphan boys and girls were “inmates” at that time.

“Inmates” turned out to be an apt description.  The school was run by a cruel headmistress and Dr. Bournes embezzled funds from the school.  The poor Humiston kids’ suffering really began with the publication of that famous photo.

via Caring for Orphaned Children.

Transport of Jefferson Davis – Photo

I’ve been spending some time on Reddit lately, which is a dangerous place, as there are “subreddits” on every conceivable topic. (Sadly the Civil War one is not as popular as, say, Eyebombing.)  There is an image forum which invariably draws me in – “History Porn“. Despite the raunchy name it’s a totally safe-for-work collection of random historical photos.   There are always Civil War images in the mix, but today I noticed one that I’d never seen before.  Behold, the convoy escorting Jefferson Davis to captivity.

Transport of Jefferson Davis - IH157828 - Rights Managed - Stock Photo - Corbis

Union troops surround an ambulance carrying Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family to Washington, D.C., after Davis was captured at the end of the American Civil War.

NB: Another interesting subreddits for Civil War buffs is Ask Historians, which recently addressed questions like:

– How much did a telegram cost during the American Civil War, and can you put that price into context?

– When did Southerners start denying the Civil War was about slavery?

– Before the American Civil War, did anyone sell “slave-free” cotton the way organic foods are sold today?


via Transport of Jefferson Davis – IH157828 – Rights Managed – Stock Photo – Corbis.

Civil War-Era American Landscapes

While this site curates its photo choices badly, and even has the ignorance to credit them all to Brady (who was neither in the West nor in the field after Bull Run), I’m thankful that they made the effort to post.  I tend to skip over the landscape-heavy period photos in my quest for interesting scenes, and it’s nice to be reminded that there were some beautiful vistas in between all the bloody battles.

20 Beautiful Civil War-Era Photographs Of American Landscapes.

The Scourged Back

Disunion presents a piece on Civil War photographers, but introduces it with the background of that most famous of slave pictures, “The Scourged Back”.  I’d never heard it before, and assumed that the photo was from earlier than it was actually taken.

The image made its way back to New England, where it was converted by an artist into a wood engraving, a backwards technological step that allowed it to be published in the newspapers. On July 4, 1863, the same day that Vicksburg fell, “The Scourged Back” appeared in a special Independence Day issue of Harper’s Weekly. All of America could see those scars, and feel that military and moral progress were one. The Civil War, in no way a war to exterminate slavery in 1861, was increasingly just that in 1863. “The Scourged Back” may have been propaganda, but as a photograph, which drew as much from science as from art, it presented irrefutable evidence of the horror of slavery. Because those scars had been photographed, they were real, in a way that no drawing could be.

via The Civil War and Photography –