One of the toughest and also one of the most gratifying things about this project as been discovering the stories of some amazing men with disabilities who served this country. Often, the disability is not mentioned in one biography but may be mentioned in another. A photo may show a disability but nothing in their obituary mentions it. Disability is just not a part of the information that is preserved; and sometimes it is even purposely hidden. There is nothing quite like the thrill of discovering a piece of information in once place and then connecting it to another and finding that “disability was there.”
I was searching for images of Fort Stevens, Washington DC, and the Brightwood area and came across this image in the Library of Congress. It is listed as: Camp Brightwood. Col. Henry S. Briggs. 10th Regt. Mass. Volunteers and was put out by Sarony, Major & Knapp, 449 Broadway N.Y.
It is a lovely lithograph with a lot of things going on in it. And while I loved it, it isn’t quite right for the film. HOWEVER, in the lower left below the image it says, “John Donovan, Deaf Mute, DEL Oct 17th 1861”. Much to my frustration though, the Library of Congress didn’t have any additional information.
Here is where the digging came in. From “Rebellion Record: a Diary of American Events: Poetry and Incidents” (New York: Putnam, 1861/1862,” Volume 4):
“Tenth regiment Massachusetts volunteers, stationed at Camp Brightwood, Virginia, is a deaf mute, named John Donovan, who is regularly enlisted as a soldier and detailed as the regimental tailor … An accurate draft of Camp Brightwood, made by him, is in the hands of lithographers, and will shortly be issued. John was always spoken of in the highest terms of praise by the officers of his regiment, and, notwithstanding his infirmity, was fully equal, bodily and mentally, to the rank and file of the grand army of the Union…”
And do you what is REALLY cool? He actually drew himself into the picture. In the lower right, you can see him seated next to the wagon sketching the soldiers drilling – THIS VERY SCENE.
So no, Private John Donovan was never in the Invalid Corps, however, he was a member of Company A of the 10th Regiment of the Massachussetts Volunteers and worked, for a time, quite successfully as an enlisted soldier in the Union Army. I say “for a time” because when I looked up the regimental history, “Ours”. Annals of 10th regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the Rebellion, I found this:
“John Donovan, of Lee, (a deaf mute,) was enlisted July 24, 1861, and followed the Regiment to Brightwood, where he, being a tailor by trade, repaired clothing for officers and men; was enlisted unlawfully, and appears to have been dropped from the rolls; had a fine taste for drawing, and made a good view of the camp at Brightwood, which was lithographed, and had an extensive sale. He came home to Massachusetts, where he died about 1864.”
The news has been one of our best sources for information and images for this film. When it comes to news, some of the most important articles and illustrations during the Civil War came from weekly magazines, many of whom had reporters and artists at the front. Throughout the war, Harper’s Weekly was the most widely read journal in the United States, with Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (Leslie’s Weekly) right behind it, both boasting tens of thousands of readers. They focused on newsworthy events with illustrations and stories printed within days of its occurrence, unlike previous conflicts where news might take weeks before the public was aware.
I thought I might share a few of the most striking images:
From the opening days of the Civil War at the attack on Fort Sumter
General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on Palm Sunday
And of course, in celebration of the season, I have to include one of my favorite Thomas Nast holiday illustrations from the Civil War
We’re currently in the midst of negotiating the licensing for several images and assembling what we have. One of the photographers is in the UK and so it has been talking to him, then his UK agent, then his American agent, then the staffer who can coordinate the sale; and then there is a slightly better version of the same image done by a Baltimore journalist and do we want that one instead….it goes on and on.
But, rather than fill your page with text, it seemed beetter to show you an example of what we’re doing with the images. Below is a 30-second test run. It isn’t the final music and we’re still smoothing out the effects, not to mention it is still me narrating (which will not be the case in the final cut) but I thought it’d give you a taste of what our film will look like.
As you know, we’ve been learning so much about amazing Civil War soldiers with disabilities and the various roles they took on during the war – doing patrols, guarding supply depots, escorting prisoners and chasing down deserters, among other things. However, much as we all like our heroes, not everyone can be heroic. One of the stories we came across was that of Colonel Benjamin Sweet who commanded Camp Douglas in Chicago, a Civil War prisoner of war camp. Although not a good fit for our documentary which focuses more on the Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens, his, is a fascinating tale.
Benjamin Jeffrey Sweet was born in New York in 1832. He enrolled in Appleton College in Wisconsin at 17. A year later he returned home to teach school at neighboring Brothertown and study law. He married Lovisa L. Denslow and practiced law. In 1859, a Republican and abolitionist, Sweet was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate.
When war broke out, he promptly enlisted and joined the Twenty-first Wisconsin Regiment. His first and last battle was in Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862. “A minnie ball from a sharp-shooter’s rifle came crashing into his right elbow, crushing the bones, tearing up the arm, and lodging in his chest.”* He survived, but his right arm was permanently paralyzed. Refusing to leave the army, Sweet joined the 8th Regiment of the Invalid Corps.
In May of 1864, Sweet took command of Camp Douglas, in Chicago. Camp Douglas has been described as the “Andersonville” of the North. It was the largest Union prisoner-of-war camp. There were already 5,000 Confederate prisoners in the camp when Sweet took command, and 7,500 more would be sent to it over the next few months. Two regiments, the Eight and the Fifteenth of the Invalid Corps, a total of about 1,000 men, were all the troops Sweet had to guard his prisoners.
The Monster of Camp Douglas
In some histories and documentaries, Benjamin Sweet is portrayed as a vengeful monster, inflicting terrible cruelties upon the prisoners in his care. His tenure was marked by a variety of punishments bordering on torture, harsh treatment, and corruption. One of the more common punishments was to have the prisoner “ride the wooden horse.” This was a sawhorse-type structure with a thin, almost sharp cross-piece that the prisoner (and in one case a guard) were forced to straddle.
There were some of our poor boys, for little infraction of the prison rules, riding what they called Morgan’s mule every day…He was about fifteen feet high; the legs were nailed to the scantling so one of the sharp edges was turned up, which made it very painful and uncomfortable to the poor fellow especially when he had to be ridden bareback, sometimes with heavy weights fastened to his feet and sometimes with a large beef bone in each hand. This performance was carried on under the eyes of a guard with a loaded gun, and was kept up for several days; each ride lasting two hours each day unless the fellow fainted and fell off from pain and exhaustion. Very few were able to walk after this hellish Yankee torture but had to be supported to their barracks.
— Milton Asbury Ryan, Company G, 8th Mississippi Regiment
When Secretary of War Edwin Stanton decreed a ration reduction to be enforced throughout the entire prison system, Sweet also enforced the rationing with a heavy hand, even when it was clear the food was insufficient to meet the needs of the prisoners.
The Hero of Chicago
Other reports describe Sweet as a “reliable officer.” He made improvements to the camp: the grounds were thoroughly drained and policed, streets were graded, the barracks in the prisoner area were re-arranged into streets with alleys between the ends, and the barracks were white washed inside and out and raised off the ground on blocks. He even petitioned for additional barracks with enclosed kitchens, but was told no.
In the summer and fall of 1864, wild rumors of Confederate sympathizers proliferated throughout Chicago. It had begun with the Democratic Convention in August, and as the city geared up for the November elections (it was a much closer race than history books usually tell us), it seemed there was an even greater undercurrent of fear.
The city is filling up with suspicious characters, some of whom we know to be escaped prisoners, and others who were here from Canada during the Chicago convention, plotting to release the prisoners of war at Camp Douglas.
– Benjamin Sweet to General John Cook, commander of the Military District of Illinois
Colonel Sweet had already invested in spies and detectives to inform both on prisoners at Camp Douglas and Southern sympathizers in Chicago. On the night of November 6th, he decided to strike first. His Invalid Corps troops marched into the city and raided the homes of several individuals, arresting Confederate officers, known Copperheads, and others suspected of supporting the insurrection. The seven ringleaders were brought to trial in Ohio a year later. All were found guilty.
After Sweet mustered out of service, he bought a small farm and opened a law office. In 1869 he was appointed a United States Pension Agent. A year later he joined the Internal Revenue service and in 1872 he became First Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue. He died 2 years later at age 41.
So, was Benjamin Sweet a hero or a monster? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Like the rest of the military, the Invalid Corps was made up of men, some good and some not-so-good, and in the end, all were simply human.
Stephen E. Towne, Quelling Camp Douglas Conspiracies – https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/handle/1805/7991
Dennis Kelly, A History of Camp Douglas, Illinois, Union Prison, 1861-1865 – https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/ande/douglas.pdf
David L. Keller, The Story of Camp Douglas: Chicago’s Forgotten Civil War Prison
*Biographical Sketch of the late General B.J. Sweet – History of Camp Douglas: A Paper Read before the Chicago Historical Society (June 18, 1878) by William Bross, A.M., Lieutenant Governor of Illinois 1865-9 – http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/ref/collection/isl7/id/2436.
Ada Celeste Sweet: Strength In Extraordinary Circumstances – http://evansfamilytreeclimb.blogspot.com/
Images from Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation – http://www.campdouglas.org
And various General Orders.
In this documentary about the Invalid Corps, one of the things that has come up over and over are the devastating injuries received by the soldiers and the significant loss of life.
Looking at the numbers, an estimated 620,000 men died. That breaks down to about 2% of the population. One in four men who went to war, never came home. There’s likely not a family, nor a household that went untouched by the war. More than 476,000 soldiers were wounded leading to almost 40,000 amputations.
One of the reasons for this was the 1849 invention of the Minié bullet, or as Americans called it, the “minie ball”. Rather than the round ball-shaped bullets of the past, the minie ball was a .58 caliber conical bullet made of soft lead with, three ridges in the side, and a hollow base. It weighed about 1 oz. and had a 1/2 inch circumference.
In the 1850s, James Burton, a master armorer at the U.S. Arsenal in Harpers Ferry improved on Minié’s design. He made the bullet longer, thinned the walls of its base and did away with the iron plug, leaving a heavy, all-lead bullet that expanded to fit the rifling in guns better and could be easily and cheaply mass-produced.
What made the minie ball so harmful was its very design. A solid ball, when fired, passes through the human body but the minie ball flattens and expands, doing much more damage, shattering bones and tearing flesh; creating much larger, much more complex wounds. Both Union and Confederate soldiers used the minie ball in their muzzle-loading rifles.
I wanted to find a way to illustrate exactly how damaging these are to the human body. Below is part of a 1970s video from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. It is a series of ballistics experiments conducted by shooting bones embedded in gelatin blocks.
Warning: Even though the video shows the firing of a Minié ball through gel and bone, it isn’t hard to imagine what it would do to a human body and some may find it a bit gruesome.
You can find the full video that includes several different pistols, rifles, and types of ammunition on YouTube
Just had to share this image that a friend sent. I thought readers of the blog and those interested in this project would appreciate the humor. Her note said, “I found this and thought it would be helpful for your documentary.”
Image: Black and white photo of General Sherman on horseback. In the background above him is a fighter jet. Text reads, “A rare photo of an F-14D Tomcat providing Close Air Support for Union Troops during the American Civil War. Circa June 1863.”
For those of you who may be wondering, this is actually a fun photoshop of a Library of Congress photo taken by George Barnard in Atlanta, somewhere between September and November, 1864.
Whew! It’s been a little while but more than past time for an Update. Last month, we drove a couple of hours over to Richmond. We’re really working to get the most out of every trip so we visited the Museum of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis’ home (the White House of the Confederacy), and Chimborazo Confederate Hospital Museum. So actually, I’ve got enough information for several blog posts.
The Museum of the Confederacy is a small 3-floor museum, the topmost floor was dedicated to an exhibit on Flags of the Confederacy. There were several glass cases of uniforms and clothing of the period, including pieces specific to well known officers such as Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood, etc. I am a bit disappointed in not finding much mention of what happened to disabled veterans both during and after the war but nevertheless it was an educational and informative visit. And we looked for footage that might be useful as B-roll.
“The Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson” originally titled “The Heroes of Chancellorsville,” a gigantic oil on canvas done by Everett B.D. Julio. The painting depicts a romanticized final meeting between General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson before the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, where Jackson was wounded and later died. The original painting was acquired by the Museum of the Confederacy in 1992 and currently dominates their lobby area, even from its place in an alcove by the stairs.
This photo is from the July 3, 1913 50th Reunion of Gettysburg. This was a reenactment of Pickett’s Charge by the survivors. The musem has it blow up to poster size and it fills a wall. That day, thousands of spectators gathered to watch as the Union veterans took their positions on Cemetery Ridge, and waited as their old adversaries emerged from the woods of Seminary Ridge and started toward them again. First it was a walk, then they got faster, and faster, until it was an all out run. They converged as they had 50 years earlier at the stone wall but this time the Confederates were met with embraces of from the men they once battled.
And to close, I just want to give a quick snippet of video. This is from the headquarters tent of Robert E. Lee. While the display is exactly that, the items and personal effects actually belonged to Lee and went on campaign with him.
The cards are back from the printer and they look amazing. For those of you who participated in our Kickstarter Fundraiser. One of our rewards at the $50 and up level was: FACES OF THE INVALID CORPS. CDVs or cartes-de-visite were popular for soldiers to carry and send home – Images for their loved ones. To emulate that, we researched and created 8 “trading cards”, each with an image of an individual soldier from the Invalid Corps or pivotal participant in the Battle of Fort Stevens. It is a great looking set of cards with information and stories about the men – their units, their disability, what they did, and what happened to them after the war. The cards are 2.25 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall, the size of bridge cards and made of 300gsm professional quality card stock with a blue core (smooth finish).
Happy New Year! Okay, maybe a little late. 🙂 I hope everyone had a great holiday and is ready for a “fresh” 2017. And what better way to celebrate the New Year (belatedly) than to share with you some words from the Civil War diary entries of Lemuel Abijah Abbott. Although not a soldier in the Invalid Corps, he was with the Tenth Regiment of the Vermont Volunteer Infantry that helped to stall Jubal Early at the Battle of Monocacy when the latter was on his way south through Maryland headed for Washington DC and Fort Stevens.
Although attached to Company B, Tenth Regiment Vermont Volunteer Infantry, (Capt. Edwin Dillingham’s of Waterbury, Vt.), Lieut. Ezra Stetson commanding, I am Second Lieutenant of Company D (Capt. Samuel Darrah’s of Burlington, Vt.) of the same regiment, having been promoted from First Sergeant of Company B last spring.
All are wishing me a “Happy New Year”! God grant that I may have one. I was awakened long before daylight by the band serenading the birth of the New Year. Lieut. G. W. Burnell took his departure early this morning for Washington, D.C.; he has been promoted Captain of U.S. Colored Troops and is about to take up other duties in Baltimore, Md. It was quite pleasant early in the day but it is very muddy under foot; had a grand New Year’s dinner. There has been a very cold wind this afternoon. This evening it is clear and intensely cold. Will Clark has made me a short call; am feeling very well but studying hard.
SATURDAY, Jan. 2, 1864.
Another day of the new year has passed but a very busy one for me. It has been very cold all day. This afternoon I have been papering my hut so our quarters are quite comfortable now. The band has been out this evening and played some very pretty pieces, and I am thankful for it relieves the monotony of dull camp life. This evening Lieut. D.G. Hill and Captain Goodrich, the brigade Quartermaster called; they were in fine spirits. It is bitter cold, but no wind as last night; have received no letters which of course is provoking.
SUNDAY, Jan. 3, 1864
Quite a comfortable day; no snow yet, but it looks likely to storm in a day or two; wrote to Pert (Note from Day: Pert Thomson was Lemuel’s cousin and a teacher at Goddard Seminary, in Barre, Vermont), and had our usual inspection this forenoon. Since dinner, I have read “Washington’s Farewell Address”, and the “Declaration of Independence”. This evening quite a number of recruits arrived for the regiment, but none for Company B. Capt. J.A. Salisbury has been in to call on Lieut. Stetson, and broken my camp chair. This is still more provoking than not to get a letter from home for chairs are not plentiful here. He is a big man.
Text available at: https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=15&page=transcript
The final designs for the “Faces of the Invalid Corps” cards just went out and we will receive the first physical set of cards in about two weeks. I cannot wait to actually hold them in my hands. Shortly after that we anticipate sending out surveys to mail the Kickstarter rewards.
Now for the bad news. Sadly, we are behind schedule on the film itself. We’ve just passed the one year anniversary of the Invalid Corps film Kickstarter. Our team had hoped to complete the project by this time, however, many personal challenges, including a new job for me, have made that impossible. But we are moving forward.
There is a wonderful book called, “Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoir of Private Alfred Bellard.” What is unique about his story is that it follows his journey into battle, to being injured, to joining the Invalid Corps, and even includes the actions of his regiment at the Battle of Fort Stevens. The book has fallen out of print and the rights reverted to the family.
Even after several discussions with the publisher, we were having difficulty in finding them. You can read sections of the book and see illustrations from Bellard’s diary and letters all over the internet but when we inquired further, although many cite the source as the Alec Thomas Archives, we could not find anyone who had the rights to use the material. This is where a friend and supporter of the film who happens to be a private investigator donated time over several weeks to hunt down the rights owners and their descendants. (Yes, we here on the Invalid Corps team will stop at nothing to give you the best documentary possible…even using a P.I.) 😉
This resulted in me having a wonderful chat with Roseanne who is thrilled to find so much interest in her family’s legacy. I am excited to share with you that we will be using some of Alfred Bellard’s story, quotes, and illustrations in the documentary.
Whew! It’s been a while since we’ve sent an update but never fear, we’ve been hard at work in the intervening few months. We’re currently 1/3 of the way through assembling our footage and next week, work begins on the special effects. Things are starting to move much more quickly now.
A key component of this project was to bring you the histories and voices of these Invalid Corps soldiers. One of the best places to go to find personal narratives, orders, and even images, is the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. They have a large collection of both contemporary and historical materials related to “strategic leadership, the global application of Landpower, and U.S. Army Heritage to inform research, educate an international audience, and honor Soldiers, past and present”.
We spent two days in their Archive and special thanks to the staff there who helped us dig through and find individual stories to include in the film. We hope to return in the next month or so for some last photos.
And here’s a quick collage of our weekend: The AHEC Archive, Renee doing some reading, a copy of a diary page, an ACTUAL diary page, and a snippet showing our library cart with 14 boxes of correspondence. It was a VERY busy two days. 🙂
Aloha! Yes, we are in Hawaii. The Invalid Corps team was proud to be invited to the 2016 Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity to talk about our film.
The Pacific Rim International Conference, considered one of the most ‘diverse gatherings’ in the world, encourages and respects voices from “diverse” perspective across numerous areas, including: voices from persons representing all disability areas; experiences of family members and supporters across all disability and diversity areas; responsiveness to diverse cultural and language differences; evidence of researchers and academics studying diversity and disability; stories of persons providing powerful lessons; examples of program providers, and; action plans to meet human and social needs in a globalized world.
This morning we presented the history of the Invalid Corps, told the stories of several soldiers, and gave a play-by-play of the Battle of Fort Stevens. We even got to talk in some detail about Aunt Betty. Unfortunately, we had some technical issues but were able to show our trailer.
An exciting time but we can’t wait to get back home and back to work on the project!
PS The PacRim Conference also has an amazing disability film festival put together by Laura Blum with award winners like: Becoming Bulletproof, Margarita with a Straw, Right Footed (director Nick Spark was actually able to attend), and Touched with Fire presented by Spike Lee.
So far, the documentary research is moving ahead slowly but steadily. In the next few weeks we will be seeking out more detailed and more specific images that are connected to Fort Stevens, the battle and Early’s raid. Unlike more famous (and more bloody) battles, there are fewer sketches, photos, and even first-person reminisces of the event.
Right now, like the rest of America, we are bombarded by election information. One can’t say we are not in a tumultuous time. Of course, in 1865 it was equally tense. President Lincoln has been dead for less than a week. The North is furious; the South, uneasy. An entire nation mourns but during this time (April 15 to April 26), there is a desperate manhunt for the conspiracy of assassins. What does that have to do with this project and the Invalid Corps? You might be surprised.
It is the night of April 14, 1865. President and Mrs. Lincoln decide to visit Ford’s Theater and see a play, “Our American Cousin.” A little after 10:25, John Wilkes Booth moves into position outside the President’s box. At the line in the play where the lead character says, “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out.” John Wilkes Booth pulls out his derringer and fires a bullet into the back of the President’s head. He then leaps from the box to the stage, breaking his leg, but before he escapes through a back stage door, he delivers his last line from center stage: “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” (Thus always with tyrants!). Lincoln is dying, and his guard was nowhere to be seen.
Provost Marshal James Rowan O’Beirne of the Invalid Corps was responsible for the safety of the President and his family. The night of Friday April 14, O’Beirne acceded to Mrs. Lincoln request he assign John Parker, a soldier with a record of bad performance to guard the President’s box. When Parker left his post, it cleared the way for John Wilkes Booth to shoot the President. That decision would haunt James O’ Beirne for the rest of his days.
At the start of the Civil War James O’Beirne was a Captain in the Irish Rifles, or the 37th New York Volunteers. During a bayonet charge at the Battle of Chancellorsville he is wounded several times, shot in the head, leg, and chest, puncturing a lung and paralyzing his right arm from shock.
“Guardedly the long line[s] groped through the woods. Glimpses only of the midnight moon flitted through the tall and sentineled forest … and gave a silver, ghoul-like sheen to the battalions. … Occasionally a soldier stumbled and pitched forward. Up! Forward again! No detention, no hesitation! How could he halt? The rear rank and others were striding behind him at close distance.” And then, “It seemed for the moment as if the doors of a blast-furnace had opened upon us.” There was terrible fire from both friend and foe.
O’Beirne survived the Chancellorsville campaign but when he appeared before a Medical Board, he was pronounced unfit for field service. He asked for a transfer into the Invalid Corps. On July 22, 1863, he was commissioned Captain into the Invalid Corps.
“I was detailed on duty at the War Department here In Washington, in the provost marshal general’s bureau. I helped to organize the enlisted men of the Veteran Reserve Corps, composed of wounded soldiers and temporarily invalided men. There were twenty-two regiments of them. Then I was ordered by the Secretary of War to take charge of the provost marshal’s office of the District of Columbia.”
O’Beirne ended up playing a critical role in the defense of Washington during the Battle of Fort Stevens. He was the one who provided arms and equipment to soldiers, clerks, and any man willing to take arms to defend the city. He stood with Lincoln on the ramparts as sniper fire whizzed past them from Jubal Early’s Confederate troops. And when it was over, O’Beirne was the one who ensured care for the wounded and saw to the prisoners.
But even then his job wasn’t done. Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, ordered him to chase down Early’s men as they retreated back through Maryland to Virginia. For his efforts, he was eventually promoted to Provost Marshal for the District of Columbia which put him in charge of the President’s safety on that fateful night. Saturday, April 15th, 1865 at 7:30 Abraham Lincoln died and from that moment on O’Beirne was committed to hunting down the President’s killers.
“When I went to get Vice President Johnson and bring him to the bedside of [dying] Lincoln, as I had been ordered to do, he lived at the Kirkwood House, on the spot where now stands the Raleigh Hotel. When I told Mr. Johnson that Lincoln had been shot he informed me his suspicions had been aroused that night at the Kirkwood House. Mr. Johnson had heard footsteps for hours in the room above him. In the morning I went to the hotel again, and in the room which had been let to George Atzerodt, I found Booth’s hank book, a large bowie knife, a Colt navy revolver, and a handkerchief with the initial H embroidered on it. This turned out to be evidence of the complicity of Booth, Herold and Atzerodt, and established the fact that there had been a plot.”
Also included was a map showing Atzerodt’s escape route. O’Beirne followed and ensured his capture. One day passed, and then another, and another. The search for Booth through the countryside was proving fruitless. But O’Beirne followed his instincts and explored intelligence that Booth had crossed over to Virginia. Unfortunately, he was denied permission to search the Port Royal area and was recalled to Washington.
Although Colonel Lafayette Baker and his 16th New York Cavalry, who took over the search, garnered the praise and the place in history for eventually capturing Booth, it was James O’Beirne, Invalid Corps, and his detective work that lead them there.
Thanks for being a part of the Invalid Corps Team!
New York Times Magazine (December 7, 1930): Accounts of John Wilkes Booth’s Capture and Death – Major O’Beirne’s Diary, Recently Brought to Light, Describes The Difficulties of the Chase After Lincoln’s Assassin
*As stated previously, for the purposes of this project (and to keep confusion to a minimum) we will be using the term Invalid Corps throughout the time period of the corps commissioning rather than Veteran Reserve Corps.
Today is President’s Day, February 12 was Lincoln’s birthday, and this entire month is #BlackHistoryMonth. As such, it seems like a good time to post a quick update. We’ve been very busy! We’re currently putting together the segment-by-segment breakdown for our short film with preliminary language and quotes. The goal is to use this frame and outline to recognize gaps in our narrative and to better steer our research. In addition, we’re still scouring archives and records for stories from Invalid Corps members themselves.
On Saturday, we visited with the National Park Service who hosted a fantastic presentation on Elizabeth Thomas, the original owner of the property that became Fort Stevens, which of course, played such a critical role in our project. Although Elizabeth’s story is only tangentially connected, I wanted to share with you what we learned about this exceptional woman.
Elizabeth Proctor Thomas was born in the early 1800s. She lived in Brightwood, a community of free blacks in northwest Washington, D.C. (I believe it was then called Vinegar Hill). Elizabeth’s property was of a significant size and value (88 acres) with a barn, garden, orchard, and a two-story wooden house. And because of its location on a hill beside the Seventh Street Turnpike (now Georgia Avenue), they controlled the major tributary leading into Washington from the north.
As such, with the advent of the Civil War, Elizabeth would lose her farm to the Union army when they took the land to build what would eventually become Fort Stevens. As she later told a reporter, one day soldiers “began taking out my furniture and tearing down our house.” As the soldiers were German immigrants, they couldn’t understand Thomas, nor could she understand them.
“I was sitting under that sycamore tree with what furniture I had left around me. I was crying, as was my six months-old child, when a tall, slender man dressed in black came up and said to me, ‘It is hard, but you shall reap a great reward.’”
It was President Abraham Lincoln.
When Jubal Early’s Confederate army marched to Washington and stood at the very gates of Fort Stevens, Elizabeth Thomas did not flee with other refugees. She did not hide with civilians. She stayed. Affectionately nicknamed “Aunt Betty” by her soldiers, she continued to cook and do laundry for them. When battle was imminent, she carried ammunition back and forth on the walls of the fort itself. And as the President stood on the fortifications, she kept her old shotgun by her side to kill any “Rebs” who would try to harm her Lincoln.
Even after the war Elizabeth continued to be a civic leader doing much to shape the DC community. Her warmth and courage was respected by many. In fact, for many years after the war, when the Grand Army of the Republic held their reunions in the city, they would do so at her house – with the African American woman who was brave enough, who cared enough, to fight beside them to save the city.
Pretty powerful stuff and a great example of amazing stories of men and women that can and should be told before they are lost to history. And because of you we shall endeavor to capture similar stories about the Invalid Corps. Special thanks to National Park Service Ranger Kenya J. Finley and Patricia Tyson of the Military Road School Preservation Trust and Female RE-Enactors of Distinction.
A quick note this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. NPS always has great programs – history, nature, culture – and they’ve been staunch supporters of our own Invalid Corps project with information and advice, so I have to give a shout out and encourage you to spend some time this year and #FindYourPark.
Find out more about Elizabeth Proctor Thomas from the National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/cultural_landscapes/People-Thomas.html
A wonderful detailed article about Elizabeth Thomas from the Civil War Round Table of Washington DC: http://files.cwrtdc.org/62-1-Newsletter-September2012.pdf
You can also read more about her and how she was thought of from the Afro-American, a local newspaper (August 30th, 1952): https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2211&dat=19520830&id=uOklAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ffYFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3002,632358&hl=en
We were fortunate enough to visit Shepherdtown, WV for their Second Annual Civil War Christmas. Check out my previous post for details and images. However, we missed their shadow play based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells.”
It has long been a favorite carol of mine; what I did not know, was the story behind the poem. There is a sad melancholy attached to the piece that is impossible to miss, and yet it still ends on a happy note with that single abiding human emotion that links us all together – hope.
So, in celebration and in contemplation for this Christmas week, please find the words to Longfellow’s poem below and a beautiful video put together by SpiritandTruthArt.
Happy Holidays from all of us on the Invalid Corps Team and wishing you always, “peace on Earth, and goodwill to men.”
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said; ”
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!
This weekend, we went out to Shepherdtown, WV to see if we could get a little extra footage. This was the second annual “Civil War Christmas in Shepherdstown.” Organized by the Shepherd University Department of History, the George Tyler Moore Center, and the Shepherdtown Visitors Center there were a plethora of activities and things to see. We got lost a few times. I am not sure the maps were created for out-of-towners like us, either that, or we just had a terrible sense of direction. I suspect the latter.
There was some great living history and we took a tour of the Conrad Shindler House, which houses the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, and finished off our day at the Ferry Hill plantation. Both of the buildings had portions that existed during the Civil War. We also saw the making of 19th-century ornaments, but sadly missed the shadow play that was scheduled to highlight Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells.” Below are a few photos from the day.
It seems fitting that on this day of giving thanks and thoughtful reflection to wonder just a little bit about Thanksgiving in the Civil War. The first Thanksgiving was in the 1600s-ish but the tradition didn’t really catch on until the Civil War. On July 15, Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring a national day of thanksgiving for October 3rd, 1863.
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
One of the most moving remnants from the #CivilWar are the letters to soldiers and from the soldiers to their loved ones. I’ve written previously about the importance of and impact of mail during this time but thought I might include a couple of examples. One of the best resources for anything Civil War is the National Park Service. They have some fantastic educational materials suitable for classrooms, including a collection of letters and some fantastic videos. Although only one of the examples below are from men in the Invalid Corps, they are letters from soldiers themselves giving us insight into a moment in their lives.
My Dear Wife;
Day before yesterday I dressed the wounds of 64 different men – some having two or three each. Yesterday I was at work from daylight till dark – today I am completely exhausted – but stall soon be able to go at it again.
The days after the battle are a thousand times worse than the day of the battle – and the physical pain is not the greatest pain suffered. How awful it is – you have not can have until you see it any idea of affairs after a battle. The dead appear sickening but they suffer no pain. But the poor wounded mutilated soldiers that yet have life and sensation make a most horrid picture. I pray God may stop such infernal work – through perhaps he has sent it upon us for our sins. Great indeed must have been our sins if such is our punishment.
Our Reg. Started this morning for Harpers Ferry – 14 miles. I am detailed with others to remain here until the wounded are removed – then join the Reg. With my nurses. I expect there will be another great fight at Harpers Ferry.
Carrie I dreamed of home night before last. I love to dream of home it seems so much like really being there. I dreamed that I was passing Hibbards house and saw you and Lud. in the window. After then I saw you in some place I cannot really know where -you kissed me – and told me you loved me – though you did not the first time you saw me. Was not that quite a soldier dream? That night had been away to a hospital to see some wounded men – returned late. I fastened my horse to a peach tree – fed him with wheat and hay from a barn near by – then I slept and dreamed of my loved ones away in N.H.
Write soon as you can. Tell me all you can about my business affairs and prospects for the future in Bath. Will Dr. Boynton be likely to get a strong hold there. One thing sure Cad, I shall return to Bath – if I live – and spend my days there. I feel so in that way now. Give me all news you can. Tell Parker and John and the girls to write although I can not answer them all. Tell Parker I will answer his as soon as I can.
In this letter I send you a bit of gold lace such as the rebel officers have. This I cut from a rebel officers coat on the battlefield. He was a Lieut.
I have made the acquaintance of two rebel officers – prisoners in our hands. One is a physician – both are masons – both very intelligent, gentlemanly men. Each is wounded in the leg. They are great favorites with our officers. One of them was brought off the field in hottest of the fight by our 5th N.H. officers – he giving them evidence of his being a mason.
Now do write soon. Kisses to you Clint & Kate. Love to all.
Yours as ever
James Robert Montgomery, Signal Corps, Heth’s Division, 3rd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, C.S.A.
May 10, 1864 (Spotsylvania County, Virginia)
This is my last letter to you. I went into battle this evening as courier for Genl. Heth. I have been struck by a piece of shell and my right shoulder is horribly mangled & I knowdeath is inevitable. I am very weak but I write to you because I know you would be delighted to read a word from your dying son. I know death is near, that I will die far from home and friends of my early youth but I have friends here too who are kind to me. My friend Fairfax will write you at my request and give you the particulars of my death. My grave will be marked so that you may visit it if you desire to do so, but it is optionary with you whether you let my remains rest here or in Miss. I would like to rest in the grave yard with my dear mother and brothers but it’s a matter of minor importance. Let us all try to reunite in heaven. I pray my God to forgive my sins and I feel that his promises are true that he will forgive me and save me. Give my love to all my friends. My strength fails me. My horse and my equipments will be left for you. Again, a long farewell to you. May we meet in heaven.
Your dying son,
The video below from the NPS tells a bit more about Montgomery’s story. You can also see/hear the letter in Ric Burn’s Civil War documentary, “Death and the Civil War.”
Dear Mother I take my pen to inform you that I got safe to my home in the hospital on Sunday at two o clock today I have been down to Alexandria to get some papers and envelopes so as to write to you I have been examined twice since I came back from home the doctor says that I will always be lame
I am thankful to think it is no worse then it is I think they will put me in the Invalid corps but I can stand it in the condemned Yankees for the balance of my time if they only ask me to stay for the next three months I can get out by [illegible] next if they want to stay all summer in the invalid corps I shant do it for I am sick of the war I want To stay at home some of my life don’t you think so Frank I suppose you are at home yet
I want you to take good care of the girls for me I was homesick when I began to [illegible] the hills of Virginia I tell you but it is of no use to have the blues here for a fela has got to stay but I cant write any more at present this from Alwah Sarah you must be a good little girl until I come home I don’t mean Sarah Hathaway for I know that she will be good you know I think so How is Alice and Miss [illegible] write to me as soon as you can
from A W Marsh
Unknown Confederate Soldier
July 3, 1863 (Gettysburg, PA)
Dr. Holt worked in a field hospital behind Seminary Ridge. He spoke of the unforgettable courage of a wounded soldier stating, “His left arm and a third of his torso had been torn away and he dictated a farewell letter to his mother.” It read simply,
“This is the last you may ever hear from me. I have time to tell you that I died like a man. Bear my loss as best you can. Remember that I am true to my country and my greatest regret at dying is that she is still not free and that you and your sisters are robbed of my youth. I hope this will reach you and you must not regret that my body cannot be obtained. It is a mere matter of form anyhow. This letter is stained with my blood.”
*from http://www.brotherswar.com/ – The epic story of the Battle of Gettysburg as told in the participants’ own words.
The Kickstarter is officially over!
This it! We’re down to the last 24 hours of the Kickstarter for the “Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens,” if you haven’t, please take a moment to go donate. If you have, thank you for helping us bring this amazing story to the screen.
For these last few hours we’re asking you to please pass along word of this project – Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…even just word-of-mouth. We’d love to have as many people as possible be aware of this; not just because of the crowdfunding but because of the many stories out there that still haven’t been heard.
The Civil War is the story of our country’s first major internal challenge and it is a history of our country’s people. It is that latter that both surprises and elates us. It captures the imagination of historians, genealogists, reenactors, and families. This isn’t just a story about long ago battles and famous generals, but a story about families and individual people and their choices of how to live, and what they were willing to die for. The Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens documentary film has been couched as a lost disability and veterans’ history but it is more than that. It could be your family history too.
I had a discussion with author and musician Shawn Humphrey about this project and out of the blue he says, “I think one of my ancestors may have been a part of that.” After a bit of research it comes to light that James Mulvaney was listed as “absent/sick” in Washington, DC on March, 16, 1864. Mulvaney was not formally mustered for the 9th Veterans Reserve Corp. until August 16, 1864, but what is clear is that he was present in Washington, DC when the attack occurred. Now Shawn is on a hunt to discover what his ancestor may have been doing at the time. Was he a part of the defense of the city? Was James Mulvaney actually on the walls at Fort Stevens?
Perhaps the biggest surprise came last week when a family member, my uncle and his wife, sent me a package with information about her great great grandfather:
Meet Jonathan Lyman of Company K of the 8th Regiment of the Invalid Corps (Veteran Reserve Corps).*
So yes, even I, who was born more than 10,000 miles away, on a different continent, have a connection to the Invalid Corps. 🙂
This documentary is called, The Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens, but in truth, it is about the men themselves and all of our connections to this history. Veterans’ stories and disability history seem sanitized, academic terms for what this really is: family history.
So today, this last day of our crowdfunding, please help share the message and spread the word this one last time and ask people, “Who is in your family?”
The answer may surprise you.
*Special Thanks to Uncle Gary and Aunt Erma for sending such wonderful detailed information about Jonathan Lyman!
A very quick, short, yet important, Update:
We did it!
Thank you everyone for your help, support, donations, and social media savvy to spread the word about the Invalid Corps documentary.
It seems fitting that on the eve of #VeteransDay, that we get the news that we are fully funded and will now be able to make our short film about Civil War disabled veterans who never got the chance to have their story told and their sacrifice fully recognized.
The Kickstarter still has 7 days and we have some amazing stretch goals to make the project even better. As such, our team will be working hard right up to the very end to give you the best possible film.
But for now, let’s take a moment to celebrate. You made this happen. Thank you.
It was Day who first told me of the Invalid Corps. I had never heard of it before. I remember listening with rapt attention as she painted a picture of the night when members of the Invalid Corps defended the Capitol against a Confederate army of 15,000. It was a classic, incredible story epic.
Intrigued, I went and did more research. It began to boggle my mind the pure numbers of soldiers injured during the war — we all know that in theory, but in literal, stark numbers … approximately 17,300 Union casualties at the Battle of Chancellorsville alone (the one where Stonewall Jackson was injured, later dying from his wounds), with almost 10,000 of those being wounded, rather than killed or missing. Ten-thousand. Ten-thousand bodies, strewn about, amongst those who have already perished. How do you even know which ones are still alive?
“Near by, the ambulances are now arriving in clusters, and one after another is call’d to back up and take its load. Extreme cases are sent off on stretchers. The men generally make little or no ado, whatever their sufferings. A few groans that cannot be suppress’d, and occasionally a scream of pain as they lift a man into the ambulance. To-day, as I write, hundreds more are expected, and to-morrow and the next day more, and so on for many days. Quite often they arrive at the rate of 1000 a day.” – Walt Whitman, Specimen Days, Ch. 33
With so many soldiers and varieties of injuries, I began looking into the army surgeons who had to navigate this chaos — the ones who had to determine how to triage the patients, who ultimately had to “wield the saw.” One particular surgeon stood out.
Mary Walker’s story unfolded in front of me as I flipped through the virtual pages of the internet, piecing together information about her career. She was clearly a “disruptive” person — the only woman at the time enrolled in her medical degree program at Syracuse, the first woman surgeon ever to be employed by the US Army.
As I read more about Mary, I found her story incredibly modern. Mary wore men’s clothes. She surely faced discrimination and ridicule for this choice — and indeed on more than one occasion she was arrested for “impersonating a man.” It strikes me as incredible that she existed so long ago, but that she could just as easily be a next door neighbor of mine, who faces similar concerns and judgments about her identity today. We are divided by centuries of time, but when I look at her, I see a saturated, piercing image of the modern world staring back.
Mary’s story as well as the stories of the members of the Invalid Corps inspired me to write my own short fiction film inspired by both historical narratives, for which I am now beginning the pre-production process. I felt that Mary’s role in disrupting the status quo of women, but also in standing on her own as an influential person regardless of her gender, paralleled so beautifully with the story of these men of the Invalid Corps, who defied not only their labels as “cowards” and “cripples,” but who rose up to show that they mattered, fully and fundamentally, as people.
It has been a great pleasure intertwining these stories together in a creative way, and it has been a perfect complement to my working with Day on her documentary on the Invalid Corps. Every day, we are learning more and more, and it only makes me more excited to share what we have discovered, and what we are creating, with you.
Don’t forget to visit our “The Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens” Kickstarter:
Please share widely. We need you to help get the word out about this documentary!
A quick Update from our Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens Kickstarter. We’ve reached 90%! We are thrilled and humbled by the support we’ve received. And now we have 13 more days to reach the full amount. Considering the closeness to our goal, we thought it prudent to unveil our first Stretch Goal.
Our first Stretch Goal is a simple one, and one we hope is in relatively easy reach: $8,000. We hope to entice more people to support this project and/or to consider backing at a higher level. Why? Because at its heart, the Invalid Corps documentary is about the content and the stories of these men. Additional funding will allow us to begin to pay for direct production and have higher production values – To get this done right.
It means being able to afford things like a professional sound editor; some compensation for musicians (we have a composer so this project will have an original score but musicians have to eat too); and being able to send a full crew out for additional interviews with historians and descendants of Invalid Corps members. As for those who may be wondering, what additional reward that may entail, I give you the paragraphs below. 🙂
Mail has always been very important to soldiers. During the Civil War, these fragile notes are what connected families and in many ways have continued to connect military families, even today. These letters tell a much more intimate story than our textbooks of generals and battles. And of course, as we know, many soldiers carried letters in their pockets, to be forwarded to loved ones if they were killed in action.
About 45,000 pieces of mail per day were sent through Washington D. C. from the eastern theater of the war, and about double that in the west, through Louisville. According to Bell Wiley’s “Billy Yank,” a civilian worker with the U. S. Sanitary Commission, who visited a number of units, reported that many regiments sent out an average of 600 letters per day, adding up to more than 8 million letters travelling through the postal system per month. Franklin Bailey wrote to his parents in 1861, that getting a letter from home was more important to him than “getting a gold watch.” (via Dave Gorski at CivilWarTalk.com)
In recognition of the role that letters played, with this first stretch goal, we will send each backer (at the $25 and up level) an actual piece of PHYSICAL mail. They’ll receive a custom postcard of Invalid Corps imagery via the US Postal Service. Sent the same way families mailed letters more than 150 years ago, this is our “letter,” in thanks.
Don’t forget to visit our Kickstarter! We need your to help get the word out about this documentary.
“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”
– Frederick Douglass
As a woman of color, while doing research on the Invalid Corps one of the things that I wondered about was what happened to African-American injured soldiers? In fact, while doing research on the Invalid Corps it occurred to me that I had not seen one image of an injured black soldier. So, I started where everyone does: Google. I put in “Black Civil War Soldier” and found several images. I added the term “Injured” and I found a Thomas Nast illustration from Harpers Weekly came up a lot.
Considering that more than 180,000 African Americans served, making up about 10% of the Union Army, and more than half survived the war, I would think there would be some evidence of their presence and their survival post injury. I changed to the word “amputee.” Granted, it’s very specific but so far I had not been able to find ANY images of injured black soldiers.
With that change, one image came up. Only one. It’s a photo of Private Lewis (sometimes spelled Louis) Martin, of Company E, 29th United States Colored Troops. His photo was found glued to his certificate of disability for discharge by Civil War Conservation Corps volunteers while compiling records at the National Archives. His wounds were described in his discharge form: “Loss of right-arm and left-leg by amputation for shell and gunshot wounds received in battle at Petersburg on July 30, 1864 in charging the enemies works. In consequence of which is totally disabled for military service and civil occupation wholly.” He was a forgotten Civil War veteran for more than 120 years, buried in the paupers section of Oak Ridge Cemetery in an unmarked grave until a community effort was made to mark his grave with a tombstone.
From what is known, Private Lewis Martin was born in Arkansas, a slave, but somehow became free, enlisted in Illinois in February of 1864. A muster roll record lists his place of birth as Arkansas, his age as 24 years, his height as 6 feet, 2 inches, and his occupation as a farmer. A few months later he took part in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia and was wounded, resulting in the amputations. He was sent to the General Hospital at Alexandria, Virginia, then later transferred to Harewood Hospital in Washington, DC before finally being discharged. He returned to Illinois.
After that, his story is hard to follow, but from what I can find, it is a sad tale. He obviously was unable to work, and was the victim of discrimination and public humiliation. He became an alcoholic. It would seem his obituary and articles in several papers made mention of it:
Died from Exposure & Drink
Louis Martin, a Colored Man, Dies Alone
At FindaGrave the IL State Register’s obituary reads:
A negro named Lewis Martin, who is well known in this city as the one-legged and one-armed old soldier, was found dead yesterday morning in his bed. He resided in a house, corner of Lincoln avenue and Jefferson street, and up to a short time ago he had been having a white woman at his home as a housekeeper, but she left him recently and he had since lived alone. About 7 o’clock yesterday morning, Mrs. Carrie Boone, colored, who came to the house frequently to look after him, found him dead. Mrs. Boone immediately notified some of the neighbors.
He was a private in the Twenty-ninth Illinois volunteers during the war, and received a pension of $72 per month for the loss of his limbs and one eye in the army. He received some time ago back pension money amounting to $6,500, a portion of which he invested in property on West Jefferson street, including the place where he lived. He also had some money saved up. He was about 45 years of age, and has two brothers residing in Alton, who have been notified of his death. IL State Register, Springfield, IL 1-27-1892
On November 2, 2013, citizens from the Springfield community held a ceremony honoring Private Martin. A marker for his grave was erected and Civil War re-enactors presented the colors; a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps,” all the things Lewis did not get when he died. Considering, the dedication was exactly 2 years ago today, it seemed pertinent to write and reflect on Private Lewis Martin, his service and his sacrifice.
Some great resources, articles, and posts of Private Martin’s story
Dave Bakke: Black Civil War veteran’s grave identified at Oak Ridge – http://www.sj-r.com/article/20120516/NEWS/305169913/?Start=1
They were Men who Suffered and Died – http://usctchronicle.blogspot.com/2011/01/they-were-men-who-suffered-and-died.html
Public Comes Through for Civil War Icon – http://www.sj-r.com/x452551251/Public-comes-through-for-Civil-War-icon#ixzz2ieFsiaGJ
Teaching With Documents: Preserving the Legacy of the United States Colored Troops – http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/article.html
Please don’t forget we are in the middle of our Kickstarter to raise funds to tell the story of the Invalid Corps; of soldiers with disabilities who continued to serve: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dayalmohamed/the-civil-war-invalid-corps-and-the-battle-of-fort
I couldn’t resist a quick post in recognition of the season. So for Halloween, lets take a look at some myths and mysteries of the Civil War. Can you separate fact from fiction? The Civil War Trust has a great little quiz. (Actually, their whole site is fantastic). But for tonight, start with the quiz. 🙂 Try it out! Just click on the image below, answer a few questions, and let us know how you scored!
And if you really must know…I got a 70%. Obviously, I need to do a whole lot more reading and research!
And of course, our Kickstarter for the documentary film, “The Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens” is still running this month: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dayalmohamed/the-civil-war-invalid-corps-and-the-battle-of-fort
Just a quick update. We’re thrilled to announce that we were just selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick! I had to take a quick screencap of the email because I didn’t believe it for myself. Thanks for all the support folks! Let’s keep going! Please continue to spread the word: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dayalmohamed/the-civil-war-invalid-corps-and-the-battle-of-fort
And yes, I had to post a Kickstarter Staff Pick Logo!
Yes! This morning we launched the crowdfunding for the Invalid Corps documentary film. We’ve spent months already doing research, trying to make sure we are well grounded in the subject and putting together the outline of what is an amazing story of sacrifice and devotion to duty.
Our goal is to raise the funds for pre-production, licensing, and rights. We’ve found some great images that unfortunately have costs associated with them. Now, we basically have 30 days to raise the full $7,776. And with Kickstarter it is all or nothing.
We here at the Invalid Corps Team are excited and hope you’ll join us.
You can explore the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dayalmohamed/the-civil-war-invalid-corps-and-the-battle-of-fort
I had fun filming in North Carolina last weekend at a Civil War reenactment event. I’ve never been to something like that before. Highlights included riding the train that drew Lincoln’s funeral car and a lesson on wartime surgery tools. Good research for both this documentary and my own current projects. Plus, special bonus, I got my very own pocket watch!! And it even tells time! Imagine that! 🙂
Although not directly related to our documentary, we learned a lot this weekend. In particular, one of the items was Lincoln’s coffin. Along with our own pictures, a bit of Googling gave us some more information.
The Great Rivers Lincoln Coffin was 6ft 8 inches long with black leather and silver trim. It had 8 silver bullion handles, more than 1,000 silver tacks, and an inscribed silver shield on the lid: Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States; born February 12, 1809; died April 15, 1865.
Also, all the newspapers at the time said his coffin was mahogany but in the 1940s, the National Archives found a receipt for his coffin and according to the payment records, it was made out of walnut and cost the government $1,5000.
I know I don’t keep my tax receipts for that long. It’s kind of amazing what little things give us information to build a more full and more accurate historic picture.
Just a quick collection of images from the Civil War Union encampment and funeral parade. First up though is a collage from this whole weekend. 🙂
Collage Image: Civil War Union soldiers with reversed weapons. The Leviathan steam locomotive. A drummer. An older soldier with the American flag behind him. In the center, the seal from the Lincoln funeral car, the United States – an eagle with wings outstretched.
There were several locomotives that pulled the Lincoln Funeral Car but one of them was a 440 named Leviathan No. 63. From 1999 to 2009, Dave Kloke basically built a replica of the original. It is period-specific in EVERYTHING except where the Federal Railroad Administration required modern safety features. 🙂 Check out the images. What do you think?
And yes, we got to ride on the Leviathan. There is something very different about a steam train versus the sleek silence of modern Amtrak. The rocking and swaying, the chugga-chugga sound, the water dripping from the front, and the steam billowing overhead, like a trail of clouds that followed us. You could even feel the humidity in the air from it.
Image Collage: Julia checking her shots. The Leviathan, steam locomotive that drew Lincoln’s funeral car. Leviathan’s engineer checking the water levels. Me, on the ground with Gamma trying to get “just the right shot.”
Hello from North Carolina! This weekend, the North Carolina Transportation Museum is hosting the Lincoln Funeral Car and has an array of events and exhibits. Civil War food and dances, a Union and Confederate camp, artillery demonstrations, several actors and people doing impressions, and – why we’re going – to see the Lincoln Funeral Car and steam locomotive.
Just like we have Air Force One for the President today, then, considering trains were considered the primary form of long distance transportation, President Lincoln had his own train car, the “United States.” He never got to travel in it, during his lifetime. It was delivered and he was to have toured it the day after he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, the day he died.. Draped in black bunting and staffed by an Invalid Corps honor guard, it became his Funeral Car and would carry Lincoln’s body over 1,600 miles, through 150 cities so mourners could say their goodbyes before the President returned home for the last time.
The original funeral car was sold, stripped of its elegant interior, and put in service as a part of the Union Pacific Railroad. Years later it was sold to a private entrepreneur who thought to exhibit it. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a prairie fire in Minnesota in 1911. But, fortunately for us, there are many photographs of it from the time period and over the last five years, with the help of those photos, the original blueprints, a lot of hard work, and some inspired support (you have to read the story about the paint chips to believe it), Dave Kloke rebuilt the United States as it was, when it carried Lincoln from Washington, DC to Springfield, IL.
The train is beautiful and looks so much like all the photos of the original. You can see the care that was taken in the details.
The inside is just as opulent. While there are many many photos of the exterior, it seems the same was not true for the interior with many details written in the 1930s by men who were young when they saw it: Green leather walls, ceilings of crimson silk, brass lanterns, medallions, and insignia from each of the states. Kloke and his volunteers I think went above and beyond. Many of the items inside are either actual antiques or closely modeled on antiques (or handmade in the same style). You could feel the history as you stepped on board. Practically smell it.
AND it was the first to actually have a bathroom (although I think they’re still working on building that).
We are in the middle of our Kickstarter to raise funds to tell the story of the Invalid Corps; of soldiers with disabilities who continued to serve. Please donate and/or Share: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dayalmohamed/the-civil-war-invalid-corps-and-the-battle-of-fort
Although not directly linked to the making of this film, I couldn’t help but include this description of the aftermath of a battlefield during the Peninsular Campaign from the autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard. It is striking and will haunt you. It says a lot about war, about the men who fought and died, and about what they thought of each other.
As we approached the front a thick mist was setting in and a dark cloudy sky was over our heads, so that it was not easy at twenty yards to distinguish a man from a horse. Miles, guiding us, remarked: “General, you had better dismount and lead your horses, for the dead and wounded are here.
A peculiar feeling crept over me as I put my feet on the soft ground and followed the young officer. Some stretchers were in motion. A few friends were searching for faces they hoped to find. There were cries of delirium, calls of the helpless, the silence of the slain, and the hum of distant voices in the advancing brigade, with the intermittent rattle of musketry, the neighing of horses, and the shriller prolonged calls of the team mules, and soon the moving of lanterns guiding the bearers of the wounded to the busy surgeons.
I remember that the call of one poor fellow was insistent. He repeatedly cried: “Oh, sir! Kind sir! Come to me!” I walked over to where he lay and asked: “What regiment do you belong to?”
He answered: “The Fifth Mississippi.”
I then said: “What do you want?”
He replied: “Oh, I am cold!”
I knew it was from the approach of death, but noticing that I had a blanket over him I said: “You have a good warm blanket over you.” He looked toward it and said gently: “yes, some kind gentleman from Massachusetts spread his blanket over me, but, sir, I’m still cold.”
A Massachusetts soldier had given his only blanket to a wounded man – a wounded enemy.
Okay, I DO know what CDVs are, but doing some reading on them gives such a deeper picture on WHY they gained such popularity during the Civil War.
Carte de Visite or CDVs were small photographs printed using a glass negative, allowing for multiple copies. The photos were then affixed to a larger piece of heavier paper. The phrase “carte de visite” is obviously French and means visiting card or calling card. In the 18th century, in Europe they were a required part of societal etiquette and used to introduce the arrival of their owners (as you did not call on someone in their home uninvited.) Sending the card, declared your intention to visit. A response with a card indicated a willingness to accept the visit. Sounds ridiculously complicated to me.
In America, CDVs didn’t really take off until the Civil War. With the huge growth of photography, they offered an inexpensive way for soldiers and family members to send and receive photographs of loved ones. Many soldiers carried these photos with them in small wood or thermoplastic cases with velvet lining. And of course, later on, they became popular trading items. I know Sojourner Truth had many made and sold them to fund her travel for speaking engagements.
One of the things I really want to be able to provide as a part of our crowdfunding effort is a way for people to actually see and learn about individual men from the Invalid Corps, learn about injured veterans, and learn about some of the people pivotal to the Battle of Fort Stevens. It occurred to me, what better way than a postcard CDV with an image of the individual and information about who they were, what their disability was, and what they accomplished? Granted, that is a bit more like a “baseball card” rather than a true CDV, but I don’t want to just tell the story of the Corps and the battle but of the individuals who were a part of it. And considering CDVs were collected and traded with “celebrity” cards being more valuable. I guess they weren’t too different from baseball cards after all. 🙂
So…as an example to mock up what I’m thinking:
Name: Colonel Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson
Army: Partisan Rangers of the Confederate Army
Disability: Blindness. On August 21, 1864, he was blinded by an accidental shot from one of his own men during a skirmish. He was captured by the Federals. Exchanged near the war’s end, and despite his blindness, he attempted to return to active duty.
His Story: In July 1862, Johnson captured the town of Newburgh, Indiana (and I’ve seen Newburgh spelled three different ways in three different places). He tricked the large Union militia force into surrendering. Johnson only had 12 men with him and two “Quaker Guns,” fake cannons made from stovepipe mounted on an abandoned wagon. Newburgh, Indiana was the first Northern city to fall to the Confederates and from then on he was nicknamed “Stovepipe.”
After the War: Johnson went on to found the town of Marble Falls, Texas, sometimes referred to as “the blind man’s town.” He was a rancher, mine owner, cotton magnate, real estate dealer, author, and proud father of nine.
You can find out more about CDVs here: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/glossary/g/What-Is-a-CDV.htm
UPDATE: CDVs are now a part of our FACES OF THE INVALID CORPS $50 reward level on Kickstarter! You will get 8 postcards, each with an image of an individual soldier from the Invalid Corps or pivotal participant in the Battle of Fort Stevens.
I first wrote about the uniform of the corps in March but did not really include any images. Today, after visiting the 151st Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stevens and special Thanks to David Welker, below I’m posting some images of what an Invalid Corps soldier would look like in uniform.
As we know from Captain J.W. De Forest’s description [the uniform]: for enlisted men it consisted of a dark blue forage cap and sky blue trousers according to the present regulation and of a sky blue kersey jacket trimmed with dark blue and cut long in the waist like that of the U.S. cavalry. Officers were directed to wear a sky blue frock coat with collar cuffs and shoulder strap grounds of dark blue velvet and sky blue trousers with a double stripe of dark blue down the outer seam the stripes half an inch wide and three quarters of an inch apart.
Also, if you get a chance, check out Dave’s Civil War books. His next one will actually be about the Invalid Corps!
We were very proud to present at this year’s Society for Disability Studies national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The Society for Disability Studies (SDS) is a scholarly organization dedicated to promoting disability studiesand their conference examines “multiple and significant possibilities at the intersections of disability and (getting it) right/s” with “hundreds of participants [who] gather every year to share expertise, perspectives, and community.” The story of the Invalid Corps is a part of disability history and it was great speak on a panel about soldiers with disabilities and this “hidden history.”
Although most of the presentation was an introduction to the Invalid Corps and their role in the Civil War, I thought I’d blog a little bit about how I opened the talk. An aspect of “Black History Month” has always struck me: how little of history has been captured that includes the contributions, heroism, sacrifice, and inventions of African Americans. The same for women. History has primarily been written by a certain class of individuals, who were likely men, and white. What that means is that history doesn’t often include mention of minorities. That includes disability.
So, when speaking with the audience I wanted to highlight “bright and shining” examples of disability that, because of the way we view the world, have had their disability erased and that part of the story goes untold. I wanted to include examples of men who meet that description, and although they were never part of the Invalid Corps, they were individuals with disabilities who many people do not know had disabilities – hidden disability history.
Oliver Otis Howard
O. O. Howard is known as a man who was a general in the civil war. He is known as the first head of the Freedmen’s Bureau who was dedicated to supporting the new independence of freedmen. He is known as the founder of Howard University. But what I discovered is that many graduates of the institution don’t realize (I’ve spoken to almost a dozen at this point) that he was also a man with a disability. General Howard lost his right arm at the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862 when he was still a brigade commander. Disability was so ubiquitous that it was seldom mentioned; everyone had a brother, son, father, husband, or neighbor who had been injured in battle. And over time, this piece of history becomes lost. While it may not seem important in the “broad picture,” when it comes to recognition of disability and its place within our society, knowing this history suddenly becomes quite important.
Mathew Brady, the photographer of the Civil War. The man whose thousands of scenes of war give us the vision of the time. We all know the images. We all have seen at least one picture attributed to him (or more likely, his company.) Mathew Brady had a disability. Although Brady had his own studio and permission from President Lincoln himself to photograph the battlefield sites, many of the photos were in fact, taken by his assistants. Brady had an eye condition and his vision began to deteriorate in the 1850s. He was almost totally blind the last few years of his life.
John S. Pemberton
And of course, because we were in Atlanta, I had to mention John Pemberton, inventor of Coca-Cola. Yes, he too had a disability. A Confederate Lieutenant Colonel, he was wounded at the Battle of Columbus, in what was, arguably, the last battle of the war. Shot and then slashed across the chest with a saber, the wound gave him chronic pain. This led to a morphine addiction, ailment that was so common among veterans it was called the “soldier’s disease.” Pemberton invented Coca-Cola as an alternative to the highly addictive morphine. In his own words: “free from opium…a remedy to meet the urgent demand for a safe and reliable medicine.” Whether to address his addiction and/or to manage the pain from his war wounds, Pemberton, inventor of Coca-Cola, was also a man with a disability.
The Invalid Corps story is a part of this “hidden history” and for the SDS attendees, one that they were excited to learn more about. I hope to be able to show their story at the 2016 conference!
I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading to make sure we are solidly grounded in the history of these events. It has been a fun challenge in some ways. The information is split up in multiple places: Stories about men injured during the war is in one place, information on the Battle of Fort Stevens is in another, and information on the Invalid Corps itself is somewhere else again. Pulling it all together is the part that is most exciting.
I’ve looked at several websites, explored library collections, spoken to people in online forums, and perused journal articles as well as general articles for the public. But I thought it might be useful to just list some of the actual books that I’ve been reading. Granted, not all fit the topic fully, but they’ve all been very informative and have helped immensely.
So, in no particular order, to date I have read:
- Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III
- The Day Lincoln was Almost Shot: The Fort Stevens Story by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III (this one is my favorite)
- Lincoln Under Enemy Fire by John Henry Cramer
- Jubal’s Raid by Frank E. Vandiver
- Maryland Voices of the Civil War edited by Charles W. Mitchell
- Desperate Engagement by Marc Leepson
- Scraping the Barrel: The Military Use of Substandard Manpower, 1860-1960 edited by Sanders Marble
- Union Soldiers and the Northern Home Front edited by Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller
- After Chancellorsville: Letters from the Heart edited by Judith A. Bailey & Robert I. Cotton
- Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard edited by David Herbert Donald (my second favorite from this list)
Although I don’t have the book yet, I’ve gone through Ronald S. Coddington’s website “Faces of the Civil War” several times. Fantastic images and he’s obviously gone through a lot of trouble to get the stories of the men behind the photos.
AND after having a GREAT phone conversation with Susan Claffey who is a past president of the Civil War Roundtable of the District of Columbia, I have a new book for my list: As I Remember: A Civil War Veteran Reflects on the War and Its Aftermath by Lewis Cass White and edited by Joseph Scopin.
I also have to give a shout-out to the National Park Service who has a wonderful brochure on the Battle of Fort Stevens.
A quick picture collage from Julia and my research trip to the African American Civil War Museum to learn more about Washington DC during the summer of 1864 and about Fort Stevens in particular. We followed it up with a quick trip to the Washingtoniana room in the Martin Luther King Library looking for even more details.
Before beginning this project, I had never heard of the Fort Circle Parks. It is a 37-mile-long arrangement of fortifications that encircle the capital. They consist of 68 forts, 20 miles of rifle pits, and are connected by 32 miles of roads. Fort Stevens is one of those forts, built to defend the main approach to Washington from the north – 7th Street Pike (now Georgia Avenue).
In the 1900s, there was a plan to buy up land connecting all of the forts and create a green ring of parks and trails around Washington DC. Although not fully realized, there were some efforts made (and continue to be made) to realize the McMillan Plan. Today, nineteen of the fort sites are administered by the National Park Service, while four are administered by other local and state governments.
The video below is from a fantastic panel at the National Archives from 2014:
During the Civil War, the Union army constructed a series of earthen defenses in and around Washington to protect the nation’s capital from attack. The defeat of Confederate forces at one of these―Fort Stevens―helped keep Washington in Union control. Dr. B. Franklin Cooling, historian, author, and Professor of History, National Defense University, and Loretta Neumann, Vice President, Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington, will discuss the development of Washington’s Civil War forts, their role in the war, and their ensuing transformation into the public parks and cultural resources known as the Fort Circle Parks. This program is presented in partnership with the National Capital Planning Commission and will function as the kick-off for the official commemoration of the 150th anniversary of The Battle of Fort Stevens.
For more information check out the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington.