Finding Aid: Winter 2016

The complete issue

Vol. XXXIV, No. 1
(60 pages)

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Cover image
A sixth-plate ruby tintype of John William Rhea of the 6th Texas Cavalry, who brandishes his D-Guard Bowie knife. Rick Brown collection.
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Table of Contents (p. 1)
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Editor’s Desk (p. 2)
The editor reflects on historian John O’Brien’s study of an iconic photograph of Gen. Robert E’ Lee and Traveller. Specifically, how the power of observation can profoundly impact historical accuracy. He notes, “History is improved by keen observation and scholarship. Take a close look at all the images published in this and other issues of MI. You just might change history.”
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Mail Call (p. 3)
Feedback includes a compliment to contributors for sharing their images, a new identification of a musket held by a South Carolinian in the Palmetto Faces gallery, and a suggestion to produce an article that examines the possible use of bugles as props.
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Passing in Review (p. 4)
From its early days as a hotbed of colonial rebellion to its role during the Civil War as a prolific supplier of men and materials, the six states of New England have served as a powerhouse for American ideals and revolutionary action. When it came to conformity of Civil War uniforms however, New England was no different than any other region of the country, North or South. In Rally Round the Flag—Uniforms of the Union Volunteers of 1861: The New England States, author and MI Senior Editor Ron Field examines the dizzying array of early war uniforms. A modified excerpt provides background on the short-lived Edmands hat.
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Lexington, Not Petersburg by John O’Brien (pp. 6-7)
An iconic image of Gen. Robert E. Lee astride his trusted horse Traveller has long thought to have been taken in Petersburg, Va., during the final months of the Civil War—a reasonable conclusion considering the content of the photograph. Author John O’Brien takes a fresh look at the image, and suggests a new location and date for the image, and identifies the photographers who made it.

Antebellum Warriors (p. 8)
Massachusetts militiaman Hosea Ballot Ellis sits in his full-dress uniform, which includes a pompon-topped dress cap adorned with the brass letter “H” surrounded by a laurel wreath. The letter may signify Ellis’s membership in the Hancock Light Guards, a militia company formed in Quincy in 1855.

The Honored Few (p. 9)
Brave. Aggressive. Fearless. Uncompromising. A writer once used these words to describe Milton Holland – leadership qualities that came into play when he and his regiment, the 5th U.S. Colored Infantry, went into action in Virginia along the front lines of Richmond and Petersburg in the autumn of 1864.

Men of Nerve: The 5th Massachusetts Cavalry in the Civil War by James Paradis (pp. 10-15)
Capt. Andrew F. Chapman filled a photo album with cartes de visite of his comrades in the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, one of only seven African-American cavalry regiments in the entire Union army during the Civil War. Selected images from the album, published here for the first time, and from the Rick Carlile collection, illustrate the esprit de corps of its cadre of white officers. A profile of the regiment explores the role of the 5th during the final year of the Civil War.

Thoughts on Private Booth by J. Matthew Gallman (p. 16)
“When we attempt to understand history, we often find that empirical truths unfold alongside significant symbolic moments,” writes noted historian Gallman in this reflection on a portrait of Pvt. Booth of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. He 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.

Hidden Treasures: Inside the only museum dedicated solely to Civil War soldier images (pp. 17-27)
The first time Ronn Palm visited the red brick row house on 229 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, Pa., the prominent archway in the entrance captured his attention. “Holy hell,” he though to himself, as the graceful shape of the building reminded him of a page in a carte de visite album. “That’s how my mind works, you know,” Palm said as he discussed the origins of the museum that bears his name. The building became home to Ronn Palm’s Museum of Civil War Images, and it is the only museum in America dedicated solely to soldier photographs. Representative examples from Palm’s extensive collections are highlighted here.

Photo Sleuth by Kurt Luther (pp. 29-30)
In “How Fellow Collectors, Field Photos and Muttonchops Identified an Unknown Officer,” Luther explains how two less commonly used, but equally valuable resources, namely fellow collectors and field photography, helped him identify 1st Lt.and brevet captain William Ball of the 93rd New York Infantry.

Assassination in Jackson County: A defender of Freedmen is murdered in Reconstruction Florida by William Mason-Palmer (pp. 32-34)
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.

Soldier, Author, Bugler: The extraordinary life and lasting military legacy of Oliver Wilcox Norton by Theodore J. Karle (pp. 35-37)
Modest and self-effacing Pennsylvania schoolteacher Oliver Wilcox Norton left behind one of America’s lasting military legacies. His Civil War service included the perils of combat, the joy of perfecting a classic bugle call and leading men of color into battle. Norton’s post-war writings contributed greatly to our understanding of the struggle for Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Moreover, he helped compose “Taps,” the timeless bugle call honoring fallen soldiers. Lastly, the free thinking Norton served as an officer for two years in the 8th U.S. Colored Infantry.

Uniforms & History by Michael J. McAfee (pp. 38-39)
McAfee explores the Hungarian connection to the Union Army’s Model 1858 uniform hat. It was known by various nicknames, including the “Kossuth hat” in honor of Louis Kossuth (1802-1894) of Hungary, a freedom fighter celebrated across the antebellum U.S. but hardly remembered today.

“Conquer We Must, For Our Cause Is Just” by Kathleen Heyworth (pp. 40-41)
White attitudes towards African Americans varied greatly throughout the Union army during the Civil War, even within regiments. Such was the case in the 7th Illinois Infantry. The respected commander of the unit’s Company G, Capt. Henry Willard Allen, publicly supported the Emancipation Proclamation—an endorsement that cost him his life at the hand of one of his own men.

Riding the Rail, Revisited by Robert L. Kotchian (pp. 42-44)
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, Kotchian discovered its origins and connections to Old World punishments.

Stragglers (pp. 45-49)
This issue’s selection of distinctive and unique images from MI contributors is focused on Confederates. Included is Hiram Rathbone of the 62nd North Carolina Infantry, a soldier with a small Confederate national flag protruding from the upturned brim of his hat, a private who may hail from the Virginia Piedmont, John William Rhea of the 6th Texas Cavalry, Edmond R. Brown of the 11th Virginia Infantry, Zachariah Angel Blanton of the 18th Virginia Infantry, and a soldier wearing fur gauntlets and muffler.

The Backdrops of Benton Barracks by Mike Medhurst and Brian Boeve (pp. 50-52)
The bustling Union army’s training facility on the outskirts of St. Louis, Benton Barracks was capable of housing up to 30,000 soldiers at one time. Recruits from Missouri and elsewhere poured into the sprawling complex, where they learned the military arts. Many of these green troops were eager to send home photographs dressed in newly issued uniforms and equipment. And, they did not have to go far. Enterprising photographers used painted canvas backdrops to lure in the soldiers. This survey examines a half dozen examples used by these photographers to bring soldiers into their studios.

Dark Memories After Antietam by Scott Valentine (pp. 53-55)
“Soldier’s Heart” was one term used in the 19th century to describe a mental health condition known today as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Other terms were used by physicians, families and comrades as well, to define the changes that occurred to a man as a result of his Civil War experience, including “Melancholia,” “Nostalgia” and “Homesickness.” One man afflicted was Bernard F. Blakeslee of the 16th Connecticut Infantry. The horrors of Antietam and other wartime experiences left numerous physical injuries that healed over time, and a psychological injury from which he never recovered.

At Stones River, A Sword Lost and Found by Ronald S. Coddington (pp. 56-58)
In the maelstrom of fighting at Stones River, Tenn., on the last day of 1862, dense clouds of gun smoke hung like a pall over the bloody battlefield. At times, the smoke would drift apart to reveal a brief glimpse of the desperate struggle between blue and gray. At one such moment, a federal soldier observed a Union captain drop his sword, grab cartridges and a musket from a fallen comrade, and blast away at the enemy. The event would be recorded in an after-action report as a remarkable act of bravery. The captain, 54-year-old Richard M. Waterman of the 31st Indiana Infantry, was old enough to be the father of many in his command. The story of his participation in the battle and what happened to him afterwards is revealed.

The Last Shot (p. 60)
Collector Dan Binder shares an ambrotype of a bearded Union infantryman with a furrowed brow uses the bayonet of his Prussian Model 1809 Potsdam musket as a convenient hat stand. Three letters attached to the flat part of his cap reveal a C flanked by a pair of Gs. The letters appear reversed here, a limitation of the photographic processes of the time.

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