Friday, January 25, 2008

Cut Cartes

A collector contacted me this week with a question about her recent purchase of an album full of cartes de visite of soldiers from the Fourth New York Heavy Artillery. Some of the photographs had been meticulously cut out: Someone had taken a fine blade and cut circles and/or ovals around the image of each soldier image, right through the paper and mount. See the diagram at right. This same individual, or someone else, replaced the cut circles back and reinforced the back of the mount with tape. The tape is very old, not at all modern.

The collector emailed me scans of the photos, and a complete list of all the identified soldiers in the album. Her question: Have I ever seen this done, and why would someone cut cartes in such a careful way?

I've never seen such an example. As for what motivated the cutter, I ventured a guess and replied: "The cutout images are a first for me. My suspicion is that each round cutout was separately attached to a piece of cardboard or heavy paper, and photographed for use in a book. I would not be surprised if it was for the regimental history book. In fact, there are two. The first, Heavy Guns and Light: A History of the Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, was written by Hyland Clare Kirk (1846-1917) and published in 1890. The second book published, Diary of a Line Officer, is the journal of Augustus Cleveland Brown (1839-1915). It was published in 1906. You have his carte de visite in your collection!"

Turns out this theory is correct, for the cutout images appear in Kirk's book. A history mystery solved!

Friday, January 18, 2008

AC 2.0

Exactly one year ago, Art of the Carte made its debut. AC features selected cartes de visite from my collection. Today, AC 2.0 launches. The new gallery, designed in Flash, features a flexible image area that expands and contracts to display horizontal and vertical images, and dynamically generated image loading. Check it out!

One significant content change: I’ve removed captions to make the experience more visual. My email address is still on the page, and I encourage those with questions about specific images to contact me.

Over the coming weeks, new images (and at least two new categories) will be added.

Marketing Questionnaire

Yesterday I received the Marketing Questionnaire from The Johns Hopkins University Press. This marks the beginning of the promotions campaign. Moreover, this is a great opportunity for me to provide contact information that will help the publicity folks do their job. It’s a responsibility I take seriously. It is due in two months.

Before researching and writing the book, I developed a comprehensive working plan to achieve my goals, and so the same is true for marketing and promotions.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Off by a Decade

This month's Faces of War profile of J. Lewis Spalding (shown at left in this carte de visite) incorrectly states his age at the time he entered a Soldier's Home at thirty-six. He entered the home at age forty-six, a simple subtraction error. My apologies.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Web Site Expanded

Over the past three years, the Web site has expanded to include this blog, news about the forthcoming book, research guides, and other features. To accommodate this information, the original navigation system (shown at the top of the diagram, right) has been modified to include these links. Also new is an advertisement for the Civil War Preservation Trust, which has been highly successful in preserving remaining battlefield land.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

JHUP Fall Catalog Questionnaire

On Friday, I received a request from The Johns Hopkins University Press staff to fill out a three-part questionnaire. It is designed to provide information from which copy can be written for the Fall 2008 catalog entry for Confederate Faces. I emailed the completed form this morning.

One of my answers includes the following quote from James E. Sefton of the California State University, Northridge, who reviewed Union Faces in the January 2005 issue of History: Reviews of New Books: "There are many books of Civil War letters, and photographs are common. But this book is a first: a collection of identified portraits accompanied by brief narratives of the subjects' lives."

Sefton's observation is equally valid for this companion volume.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

How to Research the Life and Military Service of a Confederate Soldier

Soon after the release of Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories, my editor at The Johns Hopkins University Press suggested a companion volume on Confederate soldiers. I eagerly began to work on the project, and realized that the research method used for Northern volunteers would have to be modified.

My basic approach has not changed — To better understand and appreciate a soldier's service, it is necessary to consider his war years in context to his entire life, the community in which he resided, and to the generation and culture in which he lived. However, some of the primary sources used to research a Southern soldier are different.

Try this fourteen-step method, How to Research the Life and Military Service of a Confederate Soldier, and please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How to Research the Life and Military Service of a Union Soldier

Bob Anstine, a Civil War News reader, recently emailed me about a carte de visite of a man in civilian dress identified as “Rev. W.C. Walker Late Chaplain 18th Reg. C.V.” Anstine went online to find more information about this soldier, and found hundreds of Civil War veterans with this surname. To complicate matters, he was unsure about the abbreviation “C.V.” He guessed it might signify “Confederate Volunteers,” Connecticut Volunteers,” or “Confederate Veterans.”

Anstine asked for help. My experience suggests that “C.V.” stands for Connecticut Volunteers. A search on found William C. Walker of Andover, Connecticut, who served as a chaplain for the Eighteenth Connecticut Infantry. Rev. Walker survived the war, and died in 1886. Further searching indicates this is the only W.C. Walker who served as a chaplain in either army.

Anstine had another request: “It would be very instructive if you might be able to write an article on how you would go about researching a carte de visite such as mine.” An eleven-step research method, How to Research the Life and Military Service of a Union Soldier, is intended to help.

Give it a try, and please share your comments.