Finding Aid: Spring 2016

The complete issue

Vol. XXXIV, No. 2
(64 pages)

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Cover image
A previously unpublished quarter-plate tintype of Jefferson Davis attributed to photographer Jesse H. Whitehurst of Washington, D.C., from the collection of John O’Brien.
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Table of Contents (p. 1)
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Editor’s Desk (p. 2)
The editor notes that thousands of portrait photographs of soldiers and sailors have been published in the magazine since it was founded in 1979. Enlisted men from all walks of life and of all ranks compose the vast majority of images, though likenesses of nurses, vivandières and patriotic persons have graced our pages. In every case, each image and its associated narrative is a microhistory —a historical investigation on the individual level. They are windows that shed light on the larger themes of the American experience.
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Mail Call (p. 3)
Feedback includes a misidentified Zouave, a Wisconsin infantryman, more on a local Civil War hero and efforts to honor his memory and a note about surcingles.
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Passing in Review (p. 4)
Soldier stories are freshly mined nuggets of history in a new book by John Banks, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers (Arcadia Publishing). A longtime journalist and blogger, Banks maximizes his skill as a reporter and writer to tell representative stories of Connecticut Yankees. His compelling narratives better our appreciation of the human cost of war for soldiers and families.
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On the Eve of War: Previously Unknown Portraits of Jefferson and Varina Davis Come to Light by John O’Brien (pp. 6-9)
Previously unpublished portraits capture future Confederate Commander-In-Chief Jefferson Davis and first lady Varina Howell Davis at a critical moment in history. The pair of quarter-plate tintypes, part of the John O’Brien, have an extraordinary provenance that traces to an unexpected source—U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

The Absolute Truth of Photos by William C. Davis (p. 10)
A reflection on the Jefferson Davis tintype: “Today, we are the first Americans to see, for the first time, the weary and pained face of the man destined to lead a lost cause whose echoes reverberate still, and whose issues at root still trouble our society in the 21st century.”

On the Eve of a Crossroads by Joan E. Cashin (p. 11)
A reflection on the Davis tintypes with emphasis on the portrait of Varina Howell Davis: “They were both pro-slavery, believing that the Constitution protected the institution, but she did not share his growing hostility towards the North.”

Custer’s West Virginia Red Ties: The Life and Times of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry by Richard A. Wolfe (pp. 12-17)
The history of the 3rd begins with a military company formed in the pro-Union western counties of Virginia and ends in the Shenandoah Valley fighting under the command of flamboyant Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

The Honored Few (p. 18)
Hilary Beyer, a second lieutenant in Company H of the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry, proved his courage in the infamous Cornfield at the Battle of Antietam. His actions resulted in the Medal of Honor.

The Great Outdoors: Civil War Soldiers at Work, Rest and Play by C. Paul Loane (pp. 20-30)
Images of soldiers pictured in camp, on campaign and other locations have always held a special interest for collector C. Paul Loane. “There is more going on than just the soldiers standing there,” Loane explains. “They are particularly helpful in seeing just what kind of environment the soldiers were in or what gear they really did use,” he observes.

Antebellum Warriors (p. 31)
A sixth-plate daguerreotype from the Ron Field collection pictures a man dressed in clothing that makes it difficult to discern whether he is a soldier or a civilian.

Held Hostage in Virginia: A Union Captain Becomes a Casualty in a Battle of Wits Between Jefferson Davis and John Pope by Scott Valentine (pp. 32-34)
Samuel Miller Quincy suffered a wound and fell into enemy hands after his 2nd Massachusetts Infantry was routed at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on Aug.9, 1862. He could not have known that he would be treated not as a prisoner of war, but as a hostage in a deadly game with no ground rules.

Union Wives and Their Generals by Tom Glass (pp. 35-43)
Nearly all the generals who served the North during the Civil War were married. Left behind at home, their wives cared for families, farms, businesses and relatives. A few accompanied their husbands into fields of action. Many generals seemed eager to have their betrothed with them as frequently as possible. And often, the wives of generals had greater access to headquarters than junior officers. A representative sample of portraits of these military couples.

“A Hideous Dream” by John Banks (pp. 44-46)
In an exclusive excerpt from Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers by John Banks, a family is divided by two brothers, one who fought for the North and another for the South.

Stragglers (pp. 47-50)
A total of eight distinctive and unique images from MI contributors includes a full-plate ambrotype of a Louisiana officer, a sixth-plate tintype of a Chausser, a sixth-plate ambrotype of a federal infantryman with his pocket watch and a carte de visite of Harper’s Weekly illustrator Theodore R. Davis seated upon Lookout Mountain with a group of Union staff officers.

Photo Sleuth by Kurt Luther (pp. 52-54)
The gift of a soldier carte de visite with distinctive markings—red ink numbers in the lower left corner and brass clips at the top and bottom of the mount—is the starting point for the story of the Dead Letter Office, a special branch of the U.S. Post Office charged with solving undeliverable mail mysteries.

An Album of Ardent Patriots: Company B, 33rd Illinois Infantry by Jim Hennessey (pp. 56-57)
Untold numbers of albums filled with soldier photos are scattered across the country, and they have survived more than 150 years. Here are the stories of the men pictured in one of them.

Words Exchanged in an Ambulance by Ronald S. Coddington (pp. 58-60)
In the wake of fighting in Virginia during the spring campaign of 1864, two wounded soldiers shared an ambulance. A grizzled New Hampshire sergeant lay on one side and a young South Carolina private on the other. The two soldiers conversed and found common ground on the way to an uncertain future.

Uniforms & History by Michael J. McAfee (pp. 61-62)
Napoleon purportedly commented that an army travels on its stomach. If that was the case, the commissary officers keep it moving. Likewise, ordnance officers maintain the flow of weapons and ammunition, and inspectors make certain the men and their equipment are up to snuff and ready for action. The vital work of officers of both the General Staff and regimental staffs is often overlooked by the average Civil War buff. McAfee explores the variations of uniforms of these underappreciated staffers.

The Last Shot (p. 64)
Collector Gary Bart shares an unusual carte de visite of a New York man dressed in a dress and shawl. The image is dated June 11, 1865, about a month after Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured wearing his wife’s overcoat.

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