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Military Images

The Future of Photo Sleuthing

Military Images magazine, in collaboration with the Crowd Intelligence Lab at Virginia Tech and the National Science Foundation, presents civilwarphotosleuth.com. CWPS is a new digital tool that will use facial recognition and community to identify Civil War soldiers and sailors.

We want you to participate in this project, which is currently in development.

Go to civilwarphotosleuth.com to learn more and to join our email list to be among the first users to test our Civil War Photo Sleuth software.

“He Turned the Tide of Battle at First Manassas”

In the supreme moment of crisis for Southern arms at the First Battle of Manassas, Arthur Campbell Cummings was a central figure. A graduate of Virginia Military Institute’s Class of 1844 with a stellar record in the Mexican War, he had organized the 33rd Virginia Infantry in June 1861.

Weeks later at Manassas, the 33rd occupied the extreme left of Gen. Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade. According to Sgt. Maj. Randolph Barton of the 33rd, Cummings and his second-in-command reconnoitered the ground about 100 yards ahead, peered over the crest of a hill and discovered the enemy in force. Both commanders walked quickly back to their line. Cummings stated, “Boys, they are coming, now wait until they get close before you fire.”

Meanwhile, routed South Carolina troops streamed through Jackson’s rock-solid lines and prompted the comment that gave Jackson his nom de guerre. “Stonewall” ordered his men not to fire until the federals had advanced to within 30 paces.

Back in the 33rd, Cummings and his boys soon saw a color bearer appear on the crest, followed by the rest of the blue battle line. Several Virginians raised their muskets and fired. Then, Barton recalled, “The shrill cry of Colonel Cummings was heard, ‘Charge!’ And away the regiment went, firing as they ran, into the ranks of the enemy.”

The rest of Jackson’s Brigade soon followed and before long the enemy was in full retreat. Barton credited Cummings. “He turned the tide of battle at First Manassas,” and added, “I should think to Colonel Cummings the circumstance would be of extraordinary interest, and that he would time and again reflect how little he thought, when he braced himself to give the order to his regiment, that he was making a long page in history.”

Cummings left the 33rd and the army the following year and returned to his family in Washington County, where he became as a captain in the Abingdon Home Guards. After the war, he served a stint in the Virginia legislature. Cummings died in 1905. His wife, Elizabeth, and a son predeceased him.

Quarter-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Dave Batalo Collection.

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A Lost Story

Though the particulars of the story behind this photograph are currently lost to history, the soldier surrounded by his comrades was undoubtedly the central figure. Resting his hands on the barrel of a Model 1855 musket, he sports a small pistol tucked into his belt. It appears to be a Colt Model 1849, which is more commonly seen it early war images. He also carries a knapsack that could have state issue or private purchase, such as a Short’s patent, as indicated by the buckle on the cross strap. The soldiers around him wear standard four-button sack coats, fatigue blouses, sky blue trousers and caps common to infantrymen. Two men don private purchase caps, and three wear leggings.

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Women on the Home Front: Their Essential Roles During the Civil War

Author Juanita Leisch Jensen states, “We have grown accustomed to seeing photographs of soldiers in military publications. Therefore, the presence of females may seem incongruous. It is not.” She adds, “The war presented women with opportunities to support the soldiers and military organizations. Just as the presence of females in these photographs is obvious to us today, their wartime efforts were obvious to soldiers fighting in the Civil War.”

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The American Zouave: Mania and Mystique

“During the Civil War, Union and Confederate troops both adopted exotic dress in the transgressive guise of the Zouave uniform,” observes historian Timothy Marr. He goes on to explore the cultural phenomenon that excited and energized Americans before and during the war.

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Gettysburg’s Honored Dead, Haunted Survivors

They fell in the thousands during three brutal days of carnage in a crossroads community in southeast Pennsylvania. The ground hallowed by their blood—Little Round Top and Culp’s Hill and The Wheatfield—are forever part of our American memory. A small yet significant group of the men who were killed, wounded or captured are remembered here in portraits and personal stories. Introduced by Harold Holzer.

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Previously Unknown Image of Jefferson Davis Comes to Light

Rare tintypes of the Confederate president and commander-in-chief and his first lady hidden away since the end of the Civil War come to light in the Spring 2016 issue of Military Images magazine.

Believed to have been taken during the months leading up to the war, the unique images were acquired in 1980 by John O’Brien. He has kept the images private since acquiring them 36 years ago. In an exclusive article for Military Images, he tells the story of the Davis tintypes.

Essays by William C. Davis, professor of history at Virginia Tech and Director of Programs at the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, and Joan E. Cashin, a professor of history at Ohio State University and the author of “First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis’s Civil War,” reflect on the power and importance of the Davis tintypes.

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Assassination in Jackson County

By 1865, the bullets had stopped flying and many of the soldiers in blue and gray marched home. But the residual effects of the war would continue for many years. Although Union veteran John Quincy Dickinson had escaped death on the battlefield, he faced new threats in his assignment to the Freedman’s Bureau in Jackson County, Fla., where he found himself in the crosshairs of the politically charged violence of the reconstruction effort.

The full story appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Military Images magazine.

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Riding the Rail, Revisited

25 years after a unique photo of a soldier holding an impossible large wood sword and seated astride an oversize “horse” made of timber made the rounds in books and film, Robert L. Kotchian discovered its origins and connections to Old World punishments.

The full story appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Military Images magazine.

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Thoughts on Private Booth

“When we attempt to understand history, we often find that empirical truths unfold alongside significant symbolic moments,” writes historian J. Matthew Gallman in this reflection on a portrait of Pvt. Booth of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. Gallman adds, “And, to make things even more complicated, it is not at all unusual that our collective memory of events (both real and symbolic) differs from how participants understood what they were living through.” The image of this black trooper speaks to emerging themes of democracy, equality and the individualism of the American soldier.

Gallman’s thoughts appear in the Winter 2016 issue of Military Images magazine.

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