Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Thanks

Jason Puckett of Bartlesvile, Oklahoma, collects old photographs with a passion and interest that reminds me of my own. He contacted me some time ago after reading Union Faces, and since then we've maintained a periodic correspondence. Last week, I sent him signed copies of Confederate Faces, and yesterday received with delight a package containing several beautiful cartes de visite — a thoughtful gift from a generous spirit that I will treasure.

He also sent me a card that reads, in part, "I have truly enjoyed your correspondence, and being able to read the stories of the men who I consider to be my heroes. You have given a voice, as well as a rebirth to men long gone."

Jason's words remind me that the remembrance of those who came before us, the sacrifices that they made in times of great peril and national crisis, are a reminder that we are challenged to muster courage and inner strength to make our country and our world a better place for those who come after us.

Thank you, Jason, for sharing your thought.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where is the Body of Aaron Hunt Ingraham?

There can be no doubt that Aaron Hunt Ingraham of the Forty-eighth New York Infantry fell in action at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 1, 1864. His military service record, regimental history books, and other sources all confirm this fact, and that his body was buried on the battlefield and never recovered.

However, the location of his remains are now in question.

Yesterday, I received an email from Jim Kravchuk of the 150th New York Volunteer Infantry Association. Jim and others have been looking for grave sites of members of the regiment, and to date have identified more than 400. Jim, who lives in Amenia, the hometown of Aaron Ingraham, informed me that he "came across a large stone covered by brush that on one side of the stone it has one family [name] but the brush covered side has the Ingraham Family. Listed is Aaron H. Ingraham with a very old GAR marker in front of his name."

Is Lt. Ingraham's body buried beneath the stone? Or, does his remains rest on the Cold Harbor battlefield where he fell and the stone serve as a memorial to his life and military service? Further research will be necessary. One clue may be on the stone itself, which is located in the Amenia Island Cemetery. According to Jim, "the first burials at this cemetery didn't occur until 1869. There are some older stones there that were moved there from an older burial ground so that families could rest together."

Jim wants to clean the stone, and the Sons of Union Veterans have expressed an interest in rededicating the site.

If you have any information, please comment.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Getting the Word Out

One of the lessons learned from Michael Fellman's How to Write a Book Proposal is that authors who stay involved with their book after it is published typically have greater success. In truth, I don't really need this lesson, as my intense interest in the soldiers and their portrait photographs is more than enough motivation. However, Fellman's message is a helpful reminder. Over the last few week, I've kept active by redesigning the web site, including a new media and marketing section, and sending out emails to the many individuals who helped along the way. Today, I finalized the design for a post card (pictured here), which will be mailed to various people, book stores, and other organizations. The cards will be produced through

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Research Method: Top Level Organization

Currently working by email and telephone with a descendant of a soldier who is in possession of family documents, including letters and other personal information. To explain my needs, I included this organizational detail:

My research typically breaks down into three sections:
1. Timeline of subject's life, using census data, military service records, pension files, and other source material.
2. Related material that puts his war experience and other life events into context.
3. References to subject's character and other anecdotes from letters, journals, and other personal documents.

Numbers one and two are often easy to locate. The third section can be difficult, for these documents may be in the hands of the families or private collectors, and these collections are not well documented.

While this overview may appear simplistic to some, it accurately diagrams the three broad categories that serve as the main points of organization as material is collected.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, December 05, 2008

Andersonville Prisoners Added to Official List

It is official: The names of James W. Landon and John S. Lemmon have been added to the List of Andersonville Prisoners, I learned in a letter from a park guide at the Andersonville National Historic Site and a follow-up email from Lead Park Ranger Kim Humber. They join their comrade, Landon W. Silcott, with whom they were captured in 1864. Silcott's name was the only one of the three listed. For those of you who have been following the story, noted in my August 30 and September 20 posts, as well as a topic on Flickr's Veteran's of the American Civil War group, the case is closed — 144 years after their release.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Errol Morris on History and Photography

"What if you entered history through not the general, but a particular. Something really, really specific, like a moment in time and a specific place, almost picked at random. What if you could enter history through a photograph? Take the photograph and ask yourself, what can I learn about this?" Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris poses these questions and follows through with additional conversation on history and photography in this YouTube video.

Morris' comments capture an essential element that drives my research of Civil War soldier photographs. Each carte de visite is an entry point into the Civil War era, and, in learning about the life of the subject, I organize a chronology of his life. After careful reflection and thought, I eventually settle on a time and place and event that begins his story.

Although the experiences that shape the soldier's life can be measured in an orderly fashion across the timeline that spans his life, I have found that by focusing on an essential element of a soldier's character, or a cataclysmic event that forever changed his life, or an anecdote that reveals the nature of the soldier, that my finished profiles are never presented in chronological fashion. The result is a very particular entry point, one of an infinite number, that contribute to a better understanding an appreciation of the war.

Many thanks to my friend and co-worker Wes Lindamood for sending Morris my way.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 01, 2008

Web 5.0

Spent time over the past week redesigning the web site. The old design had a limited navigation bar that had outgrown its usefulness as I've added a number of new features and links during the past couple years. A major change is moving from a Flash-based environment to HTML, which is helpful for search engine optimization and text display.

New features include a page dedicated to purchasing signed copies of both books.

Labels: , ,