Web Faces of War





'Faces' provides link to Confederacy

By Richard W. Hatcher, the historian at Fort Sumter National Monument
For the Charleston Post and Courier
February 8, 2009

Though still in its infancy, by the mid-19th century, photography had reached a point where it was both available and affordable to the general public. The most popular images were cartes de visite, commonly called CDVs, which were paper photographs measuring about 2.5 inches by 4 inches, mounted on heavy card stock. Twenty-five of them could be purchased for $1, roughly $160 in today's currency.

At the beginning of the Civil War, thousands upon thousands of Northern and Southern soldiers had their likenesses made as keepsakes and remembrances for their families and friends. Consequently, the Civil War became the first war in history to provide this type of visual record of its participants.

Today, the study of photos of Civil War soldiers helps tell their stories. The few that can be identified are the most sought-after by collectors, and that identification makes researching the military and civilian history most rewarding.

Ronald S. Coddington is one of those researchers. In 2004, he published "Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories," and now has followed it with a similar study of Confederates.

"Faces of the Confederacy" is a gem of a book in which readers will find the history of 77 officers and soldiers from all over the Confederate States. The author has researched the life of each man pictured, providing a biographical sketch of his military service and personal life when possible. Some of these men lost their lives on the battlefield, through disease or illness, or as prisoners of war; others survived the war and lived long, productive lives. South Carolinians will find the 10 soldiers from the Palmetto State especially interesting.

Through his research, Coddington reveals the human face of a war fought by fathers, husbands, sons and brothers. Their faces provide a compelling and tangible link with some of the men who "wore the gray."

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