Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dr. Isaac Newton Snively: A Half-Century in Portraits

Rare is the extant collection of portraits of a Civil War veteran photographed over the course of his lifetime. This group of seven cartes de visite and cabinet cards of Dr. Isaac Newton Snively spans almost a half-century, from about age twenty-one in 1860 to about age sixty-six in 1905. Snively, born and raised in Franklin County, Pa., served as an assistant surgeon in the Twentieth Pennsylvania Emergency Militia Infantry, a regiment hastily organized in the summer of 1863 as Confederate forces invaded the North. The following year, he lost all his material goods, and his wife barely escaped with her life, after Confederate cavalry burned their Chambersburg home — and the rest of the town — in a raid. After the war, Snively made Waynesboro his home and raised a family. He died in 1913.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Goblets and the Burning of Chambersburg

In last October’s Oral History post, I referred to the story of Confederate Capt. Fred Smith and his role in the 1864 burning of Chambersburg, Pa. One part of the story not mentioned was that the woman gave Smith two goblets as a token of her appreciation for his chivalry. This account has been passed down through Smith’s family for generations.

Today I discovered another version of the story, told in 1864 by a man described as an “eyewitness and sufferer” to the events of the July day that ended in the destruction of downtown Chambersburg. He recounted how Smith and his squad stole a watch and other items of value belonging to newspaper editor, influential Keystone State Republican Party leader, and Lincoln ally Alexander McClure (1828-1909), then put the torch to McClure’s home, Norland. At the end of the account, a reference is made to the goblets, which were allegedly strapped to the saddle of one of the Confederate soldier’s horses and carried back to Virginia.

These two accounts couldn’t be more different. Smith’s version, passed down through the family, celebrates his chivalry. The eyewitness’ version chides Smith for his lack of Southern honor. But both have one detail in common: The goblets, which are currently in possession of the family. According to one of the descendants, one bears an inscription added by Smith for his sister, added after the goblets were brought back to Virginia. The other features an engraving of a “castle-like” home. I’ve just emailed an image of Norland to the family. I am hopeful that the two will match.