Freelance Historian
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Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

Civil War Chaplain Photo Archive

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on September 16th, 2011


My most recent job for a client was scanning and researching what is possibly the largest collection of Civil War chaplain carte de viste photos ever assembled by one person, and perhaps the largest in existence. Notable inclusions are several veterans of Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor;  Henry Trumbull of the 10th Connecticut, who was taken prisoner at Ft Wagner when attempted to rescue wounded soldiers after a battle;  Hiram Eddy of the 2nd Connecticut, captured at First Bull Run with a rifle in his hand and became the first POW of the Libby Prison in Richmond; and John Van Petten of the 34th New York, who ended the war as a brevet Brigadier General!

These are just a few of the captivating stories of the men of the cloth featured in this collection. Click the “Civil War Chaplains” link at the top of the page for the tales of many more! Please note that this archive may have already been sold, but I will forward any messages to the client upon request. I am available for research on historical documents, manuscripts and photos ranging from colonial times to the 20th Century. If you are looking to sell, I have many contacts in the field, and can help you maximize your proceeds.

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Civil War Union Army Payroll Checks

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on February 9th, 2011

An interesting item I’ve received is this sheet of uncut Civil War Union Army payroll checks. Printed in dark green on buff paper, there are no folds or tears- this item is in pristine condition. (Click image for full size.)

This would look marvelous matted and framed, suitable for numismatists as well as Civil War collectors.

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Secret Message Found in Lincoln’s Watch

Posted in Old Stuff in the News  by Steven on March 11th, 2009

Secret Message in Lincolns Watch National Public Radio reports on a family legend about Abraham Lincoln and the start of the Civil War that turns out to be true!

Watchmaker Jonathan Dillon as an old man told his family that he had been employed at a Washington DC jewelry store in 1861, when the recently-elected President sent his favorite pocket watch in for repair:

Dillon told his family that as he held the watch in his hands, the store’s owner rushed up and shouted, “Dillon, war has begun.” Dillon was a Unionist — he lived in a city that bordered the South but was loyal to the North and the federal government — and as the story goes, he brashly opened the watch and secretly engraved the words: “The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try.”

Or words to that effect, Dillon told his family. And in 1906, Dillon, by then an elderly man, also told his tale to a reporter from The New York Times.

Doug Stiles, Dillion’s great grandson, was researching his family history when he came across the story in the New York Times (apparently the story had been forgotten by the family.)  He tracked down where the watch was now- the Smithsonian- and asked the curator if the story was true.  No one there had heard of the story, and no one had opened the 150 year-old watch, so it was decided to find out if there actually was a secret message in Lincoln’s watch, inscribed upon the dawn of the Civil War:

Smithsonian officials invited a group of journalists to bear witness as a master watchmaker carefully opened Lincoln’s watch to the inner workings. When he spied scribbles lightly engraved onto the back of the watch face, he handed the magnifying goggles to Stiles — so he could have the honor of being perhaps the first man to read them in almost 150 years.

“Jonathan Dillon April 13-1861 Fort Sumpter [sic] was attacked by the rebels on the above date. J Dillon,” his great-great-grandfather had written, followed by “April 13-1861 Washington. Thank God we have a government. Jonth Dillon.”

The inscription wasn’t precisely the way Dillon remembered it when telling the tale to family. But the moral still holds: Sometimes tall tales are true.

More photos and the complete story at  NPR’s “All Things Considered”.

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1864 Union Soldier’s Letter: “Fighting Rebs & Copperheads”

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on January 27th, 2009

This is the complete transcript to a letter home written by Corporal Erastus Winters of the 50th Ohio Infantry in General Tecumseh Sherman’s army.  He talks about the fall of Atlanta and fighting General Hood’s Rebels across Georgia, and his feelings about the Rebel sympathizers back home.  This letter is currently up for auction on eBay (see the link at bottom)

Decatur Georgia Sept 28, 1864

Dear Parents
Your kind letter received a few days ago reminds me of my duty of writing to you in which I have been too negligent.  With duty pressing me I am to apt to forget that you may feel lonely without me , but rest assured that I never cease in my affection nor forget for a moment how much I am indebted to the best of Parents.

I am in very good health at this time, our campaign is over and we are resting from out labors. In the last four months we have performed a great work one that we may well feel proud of and indeed we do feel proud that we have gained so noble a victory as we have.

I may also point to the splendid success of Farragut at Mobile and of General Grant’s victory on the Weldon Railroad and of Sheridans and Averills grand success in the Shenandoah Valley.  Summing all those great victories up it is enough to rejoyce the heart of every true American Citizen and especially of the careworn Soldiers who have been fighting for the Union for the last four years. We have been fighting two armys you may say one in the rear and one in the front. Hood and Johnson Commanded the Army in our front and Vallendingham Pendleton and Pugh the army in our rear and as much as I dread to meet Hood’s vandals I believe there is whiter hearts among them than there is in those poisonous Copperheads of the North.

The 23 Corps was the last to withdraw from the works in front of Atlanta and so we was on the left flank of the army and did not get to see any of the fighting but the army of the Tennessee the 18th and 16th and 17th corps and the Army of the Cumberland 4th and 14th Corps got in it pretty hot. The Rebs charged them three or four times in which they was badly used up our men then charged them capturing two Batterys and many prisoners. We retook Loomis’s old Battery which they took from us at Chicamauga. They left all their dead and wounded in our hands but as we were not in the fight of course I can give no particulars but I suppose you have read the full account of it before this in the papers. We followed the retreating Rebbels till we reached Lovejoy Station where we found them strongly fortified and in a Splendid position so we built strong works to protect us from shells and rested two or three days and then withdrew and left them and they did not dare to follow us. That shows that they was used up pretty bad.

Click here for Auction: Ends February 2, 6:15pm Eastern

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Confederate Veteran Writes Former Commander

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on January 19th, 2009

May 26, 1900 letter written by BP Haynes, late Second Sergeant of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry, to his former brigade commander, General WL “Old Tige” Cabell.

In part:

“My Dear General and Friend — It is with pleasure I acknowledge the receipt of three copies of your report of the part that Cabell’s Brigade took in Gen Price’s raid to Mo in 1864. I have read and reread it, and being an eye witness to most all the engagements you describe, I give it my hearty endorsement, and prize it very highly…

I belonged to Col. Monroe’s Regt and was on duty all the way round and as you know the “Raw-hide” Regt was always on hand when there was any fighting to do. I was slightly wounded at the charge on the fort at Pilot Knob where our beloved Col was badly wounded but our gallant Lieutenant Col Reiff was still with us and led us the balance of the way and after your capture he being the senior officer that was left Commanded the Brigade until we got back to Washington Ark.

I have often wondered that any of us escaped with our lives. I was in line not more than ten feet from you when your horse was killed at the fort in the fight at Pilot Knob. I was in all the battles of note that you recount and most of the skirmishes.”

He goes on to say that he regrets not being able to attend the United Confederate Veterans reunion in Louisville, and urges Cabell, as Commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the UCV to organize an effort to bring the reunion to Arkansas,

“…as we have never had it here and Ark was a veritable battle-field as you know.”

Signed “B.P. Haynes 2nd Seargt Co E 1st Ark Cavl (Col Monroe’s Regt) late of the Confederate Army in the Trans-Mississippi Department”

This letter is part of an archive kept by General Cabell after the war.

Letters of Confederate Veteran of Price's Raid

Link to auction of this letter, ending January 26, 9:10pm Eastern

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Auction of Civil War VMI Cadet Autograph Ends Tonight

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on November 26th, 2008

Here’s something you don’t run across every day. This is the clipped signature of John S Wise, who was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute during the Civil War, and fought as cadet at the Battle of New Market.  Later in the war he became a Lieutenant in the Confederate Army.

After the war, he got his law degree, served as US District Attorney in Virginia, and served in Congress.

Ebay Listing

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Durbin Ward (1819 – 1886)

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on November 22nd, 2008

Thought I’d get back into the the habit of really updating the blog, instead of just posting “twitters” in the side column.

Today’s look is at Mr. Durbin Ward of Ohio. Self-taught and a voracious reader as a youngster, as an adult he passed the bar and became law partners with fellow Whig Thomas Corwin, who would later serve as Ohio’s Governor and as both US Congressman and Senator.

By the eve of the Civil War, he had switched parties to Democrat and served in several state offices, as well as being an established attorney. When President Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the Rebellion in April 1861, Ward was the first man in his Congressional district to volunteer.  He refused a politically-appointed commission as an officer, preferring to enlist as a private in Co. “F”, 12th Ohio Infantry.  By August 1861, he had been promoted to Major of the 17th Ohio, Lt Colonel 16 months later, and commanding the 17th Ohio as Colonel in November 1863.

It was leading the 17th Ohio at Chickamauga that he was severely wounded, crippling his left arm for life. At the end of the war, he received a brevet promotion to Brigadier General in recognition of his “gallant and meritorious conduct” at Chickamauga.

He returned to the practice of law after the war, and served as US District Attorney of Southern Ohio.

Here is his clipped autograph, formerly mounted in an album, but now unmounted. You may bid on this item by using the “Hollingsworth on Ebay” link to the right.

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