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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 25, 2010
Deciphering a Photo, Civil War Style
Posted by Maureen

GibsonCivil War Photo.jpg

Nancy Gibson's story will sound similar to many readers. She found this photo in her great-grandmother's album. Initially, she had no idea who the man might be, but now she thinks it might be her great-grandfather, born in 1822.

This is a fabulous photo! It's a man dressed in uniform posing with his weapons—sword at his side and pistol on the table. At his feet (to the right) you can see the brace that holds him in place:

GibsonCivil War Photobrace.jpg

He wears an officer's or enlisted man's nine-button frock coat. These coats were worn by company-grade officers and enlisted men. In this case, I think he's an officer. The sash could be for dress-up for the photo, or it could signify that he's the officer of the day. The symbol on his hat signifies the type of unit:

GibsonCivil War Photo headress.jpg

I've called in a military expert to help with that. I'll add the information here as soon as I have it. The type of cap is a kepi. It was worn by thousands of soldiers during the Civil War. A great source for information on uniforms is William K. Emerson's Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms (University of Oklahoma Press, $135.00). 

GibsonCivil War Photoeditback.jpg

On the back of the picture is the photographer's name and a revenue stamp (above). Unfortunately the photographer's imprint is lightly stamped and too faint to see here, but it reads "J.D. Wardwell, Photographer, Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia."

The US Treasury Department collected revenue from photographs from Aug. 1, 1864 to Aug. 1, 1866. Photographers were required to put their initials and the date on the stamp, but few fully complied. Wardwell wrote his initials on this two cent stamp. It signifies that Gibson's ancestor paid 25 cents or less for this image.

As for Wardwell ... He was taking pictures at a temporary earthwork fortification built in Alexandria County, Va. You can learn more about it on Wikipedia. Today it is a state park. It's likely Wardwell was one of those photographers who spent his days photographing soldiers so they could send images home to loved ones.

There are a lot of story angles in this picture. The man and his days in the service during the Civil War, the photographer, or the fort.

It's possible that this man is Gibson's great-grandfather. A good way to check would be to determine which units served at the fort during the latter part of the War. She also could check Civil War papers at the National Archives or the Civil War service records or pension records online at Footnote.com.

You can see more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. If you need help researching your Civil War ancestors, check out the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com).

1860s photos | Civil War | Military photos
Monday, October 25, 2010 7:29:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, October 18, 2010
Civil War Roll Call, Part 2
Posted by Diane

I hope you enjoyed last week's gallery of Civil War soldiers. I have several more to share with you this week.
 
Merle Ladd's ancestor Lemuel Ladd (below) lost his life at Blackburn's Ford, near Manassas, Va. on July 18, 1861. He served with the 12th New York.

Lemuel Ladd1838-18612.jpg

Roxanne Munns sent in this photograph of George Allen (below). This photo was stored with her Young family pictures. She doesn't know who George is, but she thinks he might be George Allen of Co. G of the 7th Wisconsin. If anyone is related to this man, email me and I'll forward your message to Roxanne.

munns2.jpg

Bruce A. Brown's great-great-grandfather John McNown (below) enlisted Oct. 6, 1861, into Company F, 16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment from Lemonweir Township, Juneau County, Wis.  He lost his life on April 6, 1862.

John McNown immigrated from the Isle of Man to Canada about 1825, and then to the United States in 1849.

JohnMcCwar2.jpg

This picture of John is a copy of the original photo. From its appearance, the original is a tintype or an ambrotype. There are distinctive marks that suggest it was once in a case with a mat framing the image.

Four children of Oliver and Lucinda (Boodey) Leathers of Maine served in the Civil War.  John served with the Maine cavalry, Alphonso served with a New Hampshire regiment while the other two brothers enlisted with a Minnesota unit. Lynn Kent submitted the photo below and thinks it depicts Charles Leather from the 1st Minnesota regiment.

Leathers CW perhaps Charles2.jpg

Look closely at Emvira Smith Fuller's dress (below). She was the wife of Calvin Fuller of Barnard, Maine. She wears his picture in a piece of photographic  jewelry.






Thank you for all the photos! 

For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com).

1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | women
Monday, October 18, 2010 7:44:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 11, 2010
Civil War Roll Call
Posted by Maureen

Last week I posted a call for Civil War images...so many folks answered that request that I have enough material for two columns. I also mentioned some tips on how readers could find images of their Civil War ancestors. In William C. Darrah's Cartes de visite in the Nineteenth Century (out of print), he claims that virtually every soldier posed for at least one image of themselves in uniform. In fact, many sat for multiple images. 

Rachel Peirce sent in this photograph of Charles C. Baker of North Kingstown, RI. This young man was the first Civil War casualty for the town. He was only 17. He'd served with the 4th Rhode Island Co. H.



It's possible this image was printed as a memorial piece.  Two months ago, Rachel saw this ambrotype on eBay and bought it.  It appears to be a similar but slightly different image of Baker.



Donna G. Pilcher sent an image of her great-grandfather George W. Morrison, who fought for the Union as a private in Co. G 54th Indiana Volunteer Infantry from June 9, 1862 to Sept. 13, 1862. He injured his left eye and remained partial deaf in the left ear after his service.

The original was a reversed image (common in tintypes) and his belt buckle used to say S.U., but someone fixed that.

PilcherFile0076.jpg

Deb Wilson has a bit of a mystery in her photo. On the right is John Thomas Boofter, who served with Company B., 97th Infantry Regiment of Pennsylvania, but the soldier on the left is unidentified. She thinks it might be Boofter's brother Edward, who also served in the war for Maryland. Given the affectionate pose, it's quite possible. 

CWBoofter.jpg

Kim Dolce's ancestor, Isaac Sharp Heisler posed in uniform for the 23rd New Jersey Volunteers. He died of typhoid in Virginia on Feb. 15, 1863.

Heisler civil war.jpg


Nora Patton Taylor e-mailed me a photo of her great-uncle Marinus King McDowell, who enlisted three times and was wounded at Antietam. This is a copy print of an earlier image. According the Nora, he was supposed to be at the theater on the night Lincoln was shot. He didn't go because his leg bothered him.




See more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com).

Civil War | men | Military photos
Monday, October 11, 2010 4:19:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 04, 2010
Drum Roll for the Civil War
Posted by Maureen

I'm deep into research and writing for Family Tree Magazine's forthcoming new book on Life in Civil War America.

  cwbook.jpg 
I'm busy working on the Afterword on Civil War photography.  I love having a project I can immerse myself in.

Last week The Genealogy Insider wrote a post about the "hand-in-jacket" pose favored by so many military men.

If you've ever wondered whether or not your Civil War soldier posed for a picture, then here's a statistic for you: According to the 1860 census, there were at least 1,500 individuals who operated as photographers just prior to the war. This number only includes those who claimed it as their primary business and doesn't include individuals who had side businesses snapping pictures. That's a lot of photographers. 
civil war.jpg
Private Frank A. Remington and two other unidentified Union soldiers

According to William C. Davis, editor of Touched By Fire: A National Historical Society Photographic Portrait of the Civil War (Black Dog & Levanthal Publishers, available used), these photographers took an estimated one million pictures, but only several thousand still exist.

Maybe my Civil War ancestor really did take time to pose for a picture—many soldiers did. I feel inspired to look. Right now, all I have is a pension file description of a man with red (!) hair and blue eyes. No 20th century family member has or had that color hair. I'm intrigued.

So here's how I'm going to look:
  • Check with relatives
  • Post a query online (haven't decided where yet)
  • Search reunion site such as DeadFred.com and AncientFaces.com
  • Try searching the United States Army Heritage & Education Center. It has thousands of images and an online database. Not everything is online, but it's worth a look. Since I think it's unlikely I'll find an identified photo, I'll also try searching for the companies in which my ancestor served. 
  • Contact local and state historical societies to see if they have relevant images. I know that to search these collections might require hiring a researcher. If so, I'll find a local researcher using the Association of Professional Genealogists.
The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs division has a lot of Civil War images. Look in their catalog, but also check the American Memory project. CivilWarPhotos.net has searchable database of 1,200 photos. A good resource for information on Civil War photography is the non-profit Center for Civil War Photography.

If you have a picture of a Civil War soldier in uniform, e-mail it to me. I'd love to see it. Please use "Civil War photo" in the subject line.

Now you can pre-order Family Tree Magazine's 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar, which features historical photos of people and scenes from the war, plus facts about the era from Life in Civil War America.


Military photos | photo-research tips
Monday, October 04, 2010 2:12:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]