Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Comrades in Arms

This is the title of my latest article in the July/August 2009 issue of Military Images Magazine. Also known as MI, the popular publication celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with this issue. Inside is a dozen images from my collection, all of groups of two or more soldiers. The brief introduction reads:

Considering the large number of surviving examples of Civil War period vernacular photography, relatively few are group portraits. This may leave an impression that singular individuals fought the war’s great battles, and this is true on a micro level, for the history of the Civil War is the stories of its soldiers. Yet we know from letters, journals, and other first-hand accounts that bands of brothers were linked by strong bonds and esprit de corps due to their pre-war connections, patriotism, sense of duty, and shared military experience. This gallery pays tribute to all Civil War comrades in arms and celebrates the photographers who recorded their likenesses.

The twelve featured images are also part of my Flickr Faces of War Collection.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Motivated by Flickr Success

Motivated by two recent successful image identifications on Flickr,* I've started hunting for other unidentified soldiers in my holdings. Today I scanned in a carte added to my collection before the Internet went mainstream. The image, pictured here, is identified as J. Frank Monroe, alias Charles Wallack. No unit identification is present. My efforts many years ago to confirm his identity failed, and I filed the image away.

I scanned the image this morning and planned to post it on Flickr in the Unidentified Veterans set. In preparation to write the caption, I did a search on Ancestry.com and quickly learned that he was drafted in 1864 and served in the First Connecticut Infantry.

Monroe/Wallack is now posted in the Current Soldiers Under Research set.

What a difference technology makes! I look forward to learning more about him.

* The two Flickr postings are a confirmed identification of Capt. John Huey Weeks of the Ninety-first Pennsylvania Infantry and a tentative confirmation of Capt. William Hydorn Jr. of the Ninety-seventh New York State National Guard.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mystery of William Hydorn Jr.

This Civil War era carte de visite, identified in period pen as William Hydorn Jr., has been in my possession for years. The inscription does not include the unit in which he served. I've never been able to link him to a military organization. His name (using this spelling or variations) does not appear on any federal rolls, and is curiously absent from databases online and at the National Archives. I've speculated that he may have served under an alias, or perhaps his record is misfiled, mislaid, or listed under an alternative spelling with which I am not familiar.

Recently I posted this image on Flickr, hoping to make a connection. Late last week, Sam Small of The Horse Soldier in Gettysburg contacted me. He had recently purchased a Union captain's coat and a sword. He had the saber professionally cleaned, which revealed an inscription: William Heydorne. Eventually his online search results led to my Flickr posting.

Turns out the sword is an exact match with the one held by the soldier in this image, and the rather narrow shoulder straps on the uniform coat in Sam Small's possession also line up with the coat worn by this officer.

Since then, I have been obsessed with discovering this man's military service record. Yesterday I made the first connection that aligns the information on this carte with a record: Capt. William Hydorn, Company F. Ninety-seventh Regiment, Tenth Brigade, Third Division, New York National Guard. His rank dates to Dec. 24, 1864. His residence is Grafton. This information from the Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York (1866, Vol. 1).

This is a promising lead, and I am currently seeking more information.

My working theory is that this is William Willard Hydorn Jr. (1837-1874) of Grafton, N.Y., who served in the Ninety-seventh New York State National Guard. Commanded by Col. Schuyler Greenman, the 500-man regiment served the state from late 1864 until it disbanded in 1868. The unit never mustered for federal service.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Finding John H. Weeks

One of the cartes in my collection is a Union captain wearing the distinctive light gray uniform of the Veteran Reserve Corps. He is identified as John H. Weeks. Preliminary searches on Ancestry.com reveal only one soldier by that name, rank and organization, and he served in the Third V.R.C.

I have found that every Ancestry.com file for a soldier who served in the V.R.C. includes the regiment from which he left to join the Corps. Not in this case. I did some additional searching on Ancestry.com and Google, was unable to discover his regiment of origin, and so put this project on the back burner until I could get over to the National Archives and view his full military service record with the hope it might provide a clue.

Today I received an email from Brian Downey, who found the image on my Flickr photostream. Brian recognized him as the same John H. Weeks who served in the Ninety-first Pennsylvania Infantry. He also provided a link to a page dedicated to the facts of Weeks' life and military service, including a wonderful portrait. Noticeably absent was any reference to any service in the V.R.C.

Armed with this new information, I found a volume on Google Book Search that made the connection. Page 117 of the Companions of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States features a portrait of an older Weeks (about seven years before his death in 1908) with the caption "JOHN HUEY WEEKS. 1861-1865. Captaln 91st Reg. Pa. Vols. Captain 3d Reg. Vet. Res. Corps. Pennsylvanla Commandery."

The portrait is reproduced here, along with the early image from Downey's link and my carte.

I purchased this photo (from a reputable dealer) along with another carte de visite of a seated officer, his kepi on the floor, resting his head on his left arm, while in his hand he holds a letter. According to the dealer, it came from the same album and was placed on a page facing the identified Weeks image in that album. The soldier is very likely Weeks.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Current Soldiers Under Research

I have expanded my Flickr account to include a new collection, Current soldiers under research. The soldier cartes de visite here are intended to appear in a future "Faces of War" column in the Civil War News.

My motivation for adding this collection is based on the success I've had with postings on The Civil War Message Board Portal and GenForum. Both sites attract authorities and others knowledgeable in the Civil War and genealogy.

This Flickr collection seeks to tap into those with knowledge of Civil War photography. I am hopeful that it will generate additional details about the lives and military service of these men, and perhaps other wartime and post-war photographs.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Abraham Lincoln at 200

The marking of President Lincoln's 200th birthday brings to mind the iconic portraits of his uniquely-shaped face, careworn and expressive of the public and private burdens he carried during our country's greatest national crisis and struggle for freedom and equality.

This bicentennial also causes me to recall the faces of the citizen soldiers who went to war in the armies of "Father Abraham," for it was them who set aside their personal pursuits and laid down their lives for an American idea much larger than themselves, their generation, and the founders that envisioned a democratic society.

I have had the pleasure and honor to write about these volunteers for almost a decade; more than two hundred profiles as of today. For all the identified photographs I have researched, there are many, many more unidentified images whose stories are yet to be told as their names are lost to history.

To help put a name to these forgotten faces, I produced Unidentified Veterans, a Flickr photostream. Please take a look. Perhaps you can help bring to life one of the men who built the legacy of "Father Abraham."

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alert Flickr Member Spots Officer

An alert Flickr member, bch10, saw my carte de visite of 1st Lt. Robert S. Robertson of the Ninety-third New York Infantry, and left a comment that included a link to a Library of Congress image of the regiment's officers and non-commissioned officers, noting that Robertson sat front and center.

I downloaded the high-resolution, archival version of the image from the LOC (use this link, then enter call number LC-B817- 7515) and enlarged it to see the detail. I instantly recognized two of the other officers in the group, sending shivers through me.

The second man seated to Robertson's left is Capt. Dennis Edwin Barnes of Company C, who died in action during the Battle of the Wilderness. His image is in my Photostream. The officer with the sideburns standing behind Robertson's right is 1st Lt. Waters Whipple Braman of Company H. Braman later became a captain, and served as an aide-de-camp to generals David Birney and Gershom Mott. Braman's photo is not in my Photostream, but is included in Union Faces.

Robert Stoddart Robertson left the Ninety-third to become an aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. Nelson A. Miles in December 1863. Five months later, during the Wilderness Campaign, near Corbin’s Creek, a Confederate charge broke the Union line. Robertson rallied the men, turned back the enemy attackers, and later received the Medal of Honor for his actions. Three weeks later, at Totopotomoy Creek, while carrying orders to a front line position, he suffered a serious leg wound that ended his military service. After the war he settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and served as lieutenant governor from 1886-1888. His full profile will appear in an future issue of Civil War News.

A detail of the LOC image is shown here. Sepia-toned portraits from my collection overlay it. (Note: The Barnes image was part of my collection for a short time. Purchased on eBay from Daniel Lorello, it has since been returned to the state of New York).

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Cartes de Visite in Education

I received an email last night from a woman who has, over the past two years, been researching Civil War veterans with her maiden name. She is also planning to speak to her son's sixth grade class about the Civil War, and this is why she contacted me: Her idea is to give each child a reproduction of a carte de visite of an identified soldier at the beginning of the lesson, and, at the end of the lesson, reveal what became of each soldier. She wants to represent the death toll by having one of every four cartes a soldier who did not survive his war experience.

I am eager to help! I pointed her to my Flickr photostream, which currently numbers sixteen soldiers, and plan to email additional scans.

This is such an unique way to educate children about the Civil War, and I am excited to provide materials to make it happen. It reminds me of two museums in nearby Washington, D.C.: The Holocaust Memorial Museum, which provides visitors with a card that contains the name of a person at the beginning of the visit, and later reveals what happened to that individual, and the International Spy Museum, which allows you to pick a undercover identity, then provides you with basic facts, name, hometown, reason for your visit, which you have to remember while you tur the exhibit.

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