Rare Harriet Tubman photo acquired by Library of Congress and NMAAH

Guest blogpost: Ron Coddington | Publisher of Military Images Magazine

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BREAKING NEWS: RARE HARRIET TUBMAN PHOTO ACQUIRED BY LOC AND NMAAH.—The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress today announced the joint acquisition of an album of 44 rare photographs, including a previously unrecorded portrait of abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman and the only known photograph of John Willis Menard, the first African American man elected to the U.S. Congress.

The collaboration ensures these pieces of American history will be accessible to the public in perpetuity.

“It is a distinct honor to have these photographs that tell an important part of America’s history,” said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “We are pleased and humbled to work with the Library of Congress to ensure that this rare and significant collection will be preserved and made accessible to the American public.”

“To have a new glimpse of such key figures in American history is rare indeed,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Through this extraordinary collaboration, these images will be forever part of our shared heritage and will be a source of inspiration for many generations to come.”

The images are part of the photo album of Emily Howland (1827–1929), a Quaker school teacher who taught at Camp Todd, the Freedman’s School in Arlington, Va. The album contains 44 images taken circa 1860s, including the Tubman and Menard images, as well as a print of a more commonly known Tubman portrait taken later in life, and images of Charles Sumner, Lydia Maria Child, Samuel Ely, William Ellery Channing, Colonel C.W. Folsom and Charles Dickens.

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened Sept. 24 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument, the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.

About the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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Ed Bearss wins the 2014 Douglas Southall Freeman Award for book on Petersburg Campaign

BearssSavas Beatie LLC announced today that Ed Bearss has won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for 2014 for his book entitled The Petersburg Campaign. The award is given to the best published book of high merit in the field of Southern history.

Edwin C. Bearss is a world-renowned military historian, author, and tour guide known for his work on the Civil War and World War II. Ed, a former WWII Marine wounded in the Pacific Theater, served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service (1981-1994) and is the author of dozens of books and articles. He discovered and helped raise the Union warship USS Cairo, which is on display at Vicksburg National Military Park.

About the book (Savas Beatie web site)

Layout 1The wide-ranging and largely misunderstood series of operations around Petersburg, Virginia, were the longest and most extensive of the entire Civil War. The fighting that began in early June 1864 when advance elements from the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and botched a series of attacks against a thinly defended city would not end for nine long months. This important—many would say decisive—fighting is presented by legendary Civil War author Edwin C. Bearss in The Petersburg Campaign: The Eastern Front Battles, June–August 1864, the first in a ground-breaking two-volume compendium.

Although commonly referred to as the “Siege of Petersburg,” that city (as well as the Confederate capital at Richmond) was never fully isolated and the combat involved much more than static trench warfare. In fact, much of the wide-ranging fighting involved large-scale Union offensives designed to cut important roads and the five rail lines feeding Petersburg and Richmond.

New historical novel about the former slave Robert Smalls

From Amazon:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.49.41 PMA slave steals a gunboat and escapes with his entire family. Robert Smalls boarded the Confederate gunboat Planter and steamed her under the guns of Fort Sumter to the blockading Union Navy and to freedom. Robert was a slave and he surrendered to Admiral Francis Du Pont, one of the wealthiest men in the country. Robert and Du Pont created a friendship of equality that destroyed the barriers of race, wealth, and class. When he escaped with the Planter, Robert became The Man Who Stole Himself.


CSS Georgia Ironclad to be recovered

The once former Confederate ironclad – CSS Georgia – will be recovered from the bottom of the Savannah River in Georgia according to an AP report.  The CSS Georgia was sunk by Confederates in December 1864 to prevent it from being captured by Sherman’s Union forces. Ironically, the reason its being recovered is because the state wants to widen the busy seaport in Savannah but the CSA ironclad blocks the path. The AP reports that it will costs taxpayers roughly $14 million for the recovery project.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to salvage the wreckage which has been under water for almost 150 years.

The Confederate Secretary of the Navy – Stephen R. Mallory – wanted to have 34 ironclad vessels built and used by the Confederacy. Only 21 such vessels were ever used by the Confederacy though, largely because Confederate iron was so hard to come by during the Civil War, and the Confederacy lacked the railroad system and logistics to ship it.

Most Confederate ironclads were modeled after the CSS Virginia, a former captured Union vessel known as the USS Merrimack.

What will the engineers find when they raise the ship?

Underwater surveys show two large chunks of the ship’s iron-armored siding have survived, the largest being 68 feet (21 meters) long and 24 feet (7.3 meters) tall. Raising them intact will be a priority. Researchers also spotted three cannons on the riverbed, an intact propeller and other pieces of the warship’s steam engines. And there’s smaller debris scattered across the site that could yield unexpected treasures, requiring careful sifting beneath 40 feet (12 meters) of water.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/05/05/20120505civil-war-wreck-ga-port-projects-way.html#ixzz1uCU1nreb

The AP story states:

Once the remains of the Georgia are removed from the river and preserved by experts, the Army Corps will have to decide who gets the spoils. Morgan said ultimately the plan is to put the warship’s artifacts on public display. But which museum or agency will get custody of them has yet to be determined.

Right now the Confederate shipwreck legally belongs to the U.S. Navy. More than 150 years after the Civil War began, the CSS Georgia is still officially classified as a captured enemy vessel.

Hunley excavation team completes conservation of infamous lantern aboard the C.S.S. H.L. Hunley

The following text is taken from the Friends of the Hunley web site in its entirety (4/19/12):

A lantern that helped give birth to one of the greatest maritime legends of the 19th century has finally finished a complicated, multi-year conservation process. The small tinplate artifact was found inside the Hunley’s crew compartment. The last time it looked in such good shape was during the waning days of the Civil War when it may have been used to give the Hunley captain’s last communication to land – the famous blue light signal – before he and his crew vanished
into the depths of the sea…

A blue light has long been a central event in the unsolved mystery of the Hunley’s disappearance. Historical records indicate the experimental submarine’s crew was to signal to shore with a blue light if they achieved their mission to take down one of the Union ships blockading Charleston harbor. Confederates on land would then light a fire to help guide the Hunley safely back to shore.

The evening of February 17th, 1864, the Hunley hit her target and became the first successful combat submarine in world history by sinking the USS Housatonic. Both Union and Confederate historical records outline a blue light being seen on the water after the attack.

The signal has confounded those working to discover and chronicle the events of that night. A popular theory to explain the Hunley’s demise is that the explosion that sank the Housatonic also fatally damaged the submarine. If the Hunley crew displayed the light, that means they did not die immediately and survived the actual attack.

This small lantern found near the Captain’s station was likely used to display the famous Hunley signal of maritime history, except there is one problem: scientists aren’t quite sure how it would have emitted a blue light.

The lantern’s glass lens, which is completely intact, appears to be completely white and scientists have found no evidence of blue tinting. It is possible whatever helped the lantern display a blue-hued light was lost to corrosion during the submarine’s 136-year stay of the ocean floor.

This amazing artifact — and the lingering questions surrounding its use — adds another element to the Hunley saga. With your continued help, more artifacts like these will be saved and available for future generations.

The Civil War gets “personal’ with Virginia

Richmond, VA (December 15, 2011) – The Virginia Tourism office has announced a new Web site for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and Emancipation that tells unexpected stories of real people who did extraordinary things during the Civil War.  These compelling stories, found at www.WalkinTheirFootsteps.com, will engage online visitors in personal and lesser known historical happenings of men, women, slaves, soldiers and others who lived through one of the most turbulent times in American history. Visitors to the web site will discover the sites where they can encounter those stories and “walk in their footsteps” 150 years later on a visit to Virginia.

“We believe that visitors will be drawn to these stories of everyday people who not only endured but in some cases made a dramatic difference for others in the midst of war,” said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of VTC. “We know about the larger-than-life figures of our history books, but the people featured in this web site have something important to tell us as well.”

Read the full press release

New Civil War timeline book by the LOC is a superb volume

The newly released “The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War” by Little-Brown is instantly the best resource of its kind on the market, and well it should be. The senior writer and editor in the Publishing Office has led an effort to produce a first-rate reference book.  Every public library should have this book and even the casual Civil War enthusiast will thoroughly enjoy perusing its pages.

It’s a typical over-sized reference book ( 13 x 9 3.4), but thin enough – with just 240 pages – to stand alongside one’s existing Civil War atlases.  The layout is consistent, pleasing, and chalked full of interesting quotes and with more than 350 color illustrations.

The illustrations are not just eye-candy for the reader either, although many of the images used in the book are very rare. A few I have to admit I’ve never seen before.  One will find

manuscripts in Lincoln’s own hand, onsite drawings made by a Civil War combat artist, maps, color lithographs, political cartoons, posters, [and] period photographs.

Margaret E. Wagner is no stranger to Civil War reference books either. She is the co-author and co-editor of “The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference” and “The Library of Congress World War II Companion.” She is also the author of “The American Civil War: 365 Days,” “World War II: 365 Days,” and “Maxfield Parrish and the Illustrators of the Golden Age.”

Most pages are divided into two parts. The top half (about 40% of the page layout) contains the artfully chosen illustrations to supplement the text. My favorites are images of actual hand-drawn pictures from the period.  The bottom 60% of the page contains the text based on a pertinent event for a given day of the month/year.

I was delighted to even find an entry for May 12-13th, 1862, for the escape of The Planter by Robert Smalls and his clandestine crew. The inclusion of this event shows the editor and her staff are well-informed as to an event that is normally overlooked by most resources of its kind.

The fine book retails for just $35.00 but can be purchased from Amazon for a mere $22.00 or so.