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Military Images

Finding Aid: May/June 1988

The complete issue

Vol. IX, No. 6
(32 pages)


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Inside

Cover image
The image of “Capt. Sam. J. Richardson” from the Independent Company of Texas Cavalry, complete with jaguar skin trousers with “conchos” (ball buttons) down the seams and matching holsters greets the reader of this issue of Military Images.

Editor’s Desk (p. 1)
The editor introduces the issue as the first “all Confederate” issue of the magazine, thanks to the many submissions of Rebel images by readers of MI. He also warns about another attempt to reduce the Manassas battlefield and encourages readers to contribute to the fund being raised to fight commercial encroachment of the battle site.

Mail Call (p. 3)
Letters to the editor include identifications of soldiers in images from past issues, including more information on Private Edwin F. Jemison, whose image is often used to embody the youth of the soldiery in the Civil War. The collection of images belonging to Michael McAfee in the previous issue is also lauded.

Passing in Review (pp. 4-5)
This issue features five reviews of new publications and alerts readers to recent reprints of older works they may be interested in acquiring. The first review is Forts Henry and Donelson: the Key to the Confederate Heartland by Benjamin Franklin Cooling. The author looks at the battles in their larger context of the whole war, critiques the first losses for the Confederacy as being due to lackluster generalship, and looks at the aftermath of the battles as well. Second is Gettysburg: The Second Day by Harry W. Pfanz. Lauded as a major work, the reviewer’s only complaint is that the book focuses only on the southern portion of the fighting under Longstreet and does not consider any of Ewell’s contributions. However the contribution to understanding of Gettysburg by this work is significant. Third is Judah P. Benjamin, the Jewish Confederate by Eli N. Evans; while the reviewer admits that a biography of Benjamin is a difficult task as he destroyed much of the documentation of his work for the Confederacy and did not write or discuss the war afterwards, he also outlines a number of factual errors that make this biography less than complete. The fourth book reviewed is A Generation on the March: the Union Army at Gettysburg by Edmund J. Raus, who provides a profile of all Federal units, identification of corps, commanders, origin, strength and losses, and the location of the unit monument on the Gettysburg field. The last new publication is entitled Lee’s Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History by William Garrett Piston, who attempts to analyze how Longstreet’s image declined in the years following Lee’s death and why it is unlikely to be resurrected by scholarship. The two reprintings noted are Yankee Blitzkrieg: Wilson’s Raid Through Alabama and Georgia by James Pickett Jones (1976) and Confederate Navy Chief: Stephen R. Mallory by Joseph T. Durkin as part of the “Classics in Maritime History” series published by the University of South Carolina Press.

The Whole World was Full of Smoke: Letters of J.A. Byers, 17th Mississippi Infantry edited by Hartman McIntosh (pp. 6-11)
Born in Alabama, the soldier in the ambrotype is a handsome man with a bit of a blonde cowlick, and a prolific writer of letters, many of which are printed in this feature. Including one copy showing a cross-hatched letter (where paper was saved by writing over again at 90 degrees), Private John Alemeth Byers left for Virginia with his “Panola Vindicators” from Mississippi at the age of 25. The eleven letters he wrote as a member of Company H of the 17th Mississippi Infantry were written to Sister, Father, and Uncle, and trace his journey through the war from First Manassas (when he was too ill to fight), to Balls Bluff, to the Peninsula, where he starts requesting that the family send him Gilbert (a slave) to be a body servant for him. Wounded in the hand at Second Manassas, he writes again during the February after Fredericksburg, and tells the family that he and Gilbert are doing alright in the cold. The next letter is from a year after Gettysburg, where Byers took part in fighting with Barksdale’s Brigade in the Peach Orchard, being left behind severely wounded when the Confederates returned to Virginia; he was eventually sent home on furlough once returned to the Confederacy. He sees Gilbert at this time, who seems to be working on his own as a camp cook. The letters continue from around Petersburg and then on to the Shenandoah Valley, when Byers’ unit is moved in the fall of 1864. His letters provide an interesting glimpse into the life of a Confederate soldier, as he makes comments on people known to his family, requests specific types of clothing in almost each letter, and wishes for food from home as well as more letters. The last letter is from one of his commanding officers, Capt. Jesse C. Wright, who talks about “Almuth” as a valued member of the company and describes his death as quick; his belongings were to be forwarded with Gilbert as “soon as the opportunity presents itself.”

Rebels in Halifax: Rare Images of Confederates in Canada from the collection of Al Fleming (p. 12)
They are not identified, but the men posing before the second Confederate national flag had two cartes de visite with backmarks identifying them as being made by W. Chase in Halifax. They may be escaped prisoners of war or perhaps the St. Alban’s attackers? More information would need to be found to know for certain.

Vignette: Battery Guidon Bearer, Pvt. Louis Sherfesee, Hart’s South Carolina Artillery by John Bigham (pp. 13-14)
Not many guidon bearers, North or South, survived the entirety of the war, but the subject of this vignette is an exception. With the words “Hampton’s Legion” and “Washington Artillery” sewn on it, the banner that Private Sherfesee carried as well as his photographic image from June 1861 are presented along with a brief history of his Civil War record. He was part of Hart’s Battery and described being sent out to attract the fire of Federal troops at Freestone Point on the Potomac. When Hampton’s Legion was broken up, Sherfesee was with Hampton’s cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart; the damage to the guidon was sustained at the cavalry battle at Brandy Station in 1863. His service ended with the Battle of Bentonville in 1865.

Wounded & Captured at Gettysburg: An account by Sgt. William Jones, 50th Georgia Infantry edited by Keith Bohannon (p. 15)
The vignette begins with a description of the wounded soldier arriving at his home plantation, not being recognized by his own mother. Sgt. William Moore Jones was missing a leg and spent four months of incarceration by the Union at Point Lookout. The households of two plantations, his and his uncles, turn out to welcome him home, and after recounting his service at Second Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, the article begin with the soldier’s own words describing the action of Semmes’ brigade, probably fighting with Kershaw’s South Carolinians on the Second Day at Gettysburg. He describes his original wound, how he insisted on surgeons from his own regiment to be the ones to remove his foot, and the fact that he was captured when it was decided that his portion of the ambulance train on the way to Williamsport would not be able to sustain a crossing of the Potomac. His description of how the Union physician who eventually came to his assistance dealt with gangrenous wounds is horrific but spellbinding, and it was this one dedicated Union surgeon who saved his life. After his exchange, Sgt. Jones was hospitalized at Chimborazo in Richmond before making his way home, arriving in mid-April of 1864.

Soldiers of the Southland compiled by Daniel Brogan (pp. 16-27)
A total of forty different images of Confederates makes up this pictorial article, from a rare antebellum daguerreotype of a South Carolina firefighter to before-and-after-the-war images of the same Confederate officer. Coming from a number of different collectors, this compilation shows the wide variety of men and uniforms that represented the South in the Civil War. One soldier is identified as “E. Cunningham, May 1861, aged 14,” showing some of the youth involved in the war. Another image is of Florida Captain Robert Knickmeyr and his wife, presenting the impact the war had on families as well as the two ambrotypes of Louisiana brothers “Uncle Jimmy Harris” and “Uncle T. Harris” who were both identified as “brothers of Grandma Finley” in the inscription on the reverse. Many of the soldiers are identified, but just as many are not, leaving the reader to wonder about the fates of the men presented in these images.

Vignettes: Five Tarheels by Greg Mast (pp. 28-31)
Each of the images in this feature includes a brief biography of each soldier, only one of which appears to have survived the Civil War. Included are a quarter-plate ambrotype of Pvt. George Washington Lyon (killed July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg), a ninth-plate ambrotype of Pvt. James Wilkerson (killed at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863), a sixth-plate ambrotype of Pvt. William T. Blanton (died of typhoid fever on June 30, 1862), a ninth-plate ambrotype of possibly Maberry Marvin Miller (paroled at Petersburg on June 26, 1865), and a carte de visite image of Pvt. Robert Jones (died of smallpox on October 20, 1863), the image of which may be a copy of a hard photographic image.

Back Image
A Rebel looks out from under his forage cap in a ninth-plate ambrotype found in Galveston, Texas.

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