Tag Archives: Civil War

Making Her Father’s Grave: 1879

orphans decorating their fathers' graves

Decoration Day at Philadelphia: Orphans Decorating Their Fathers’ Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, 1870s

Making Her Father’s Grave

A Pathetic Scene Witnessed in an Ohio Cemetery

[From the Sandusky (O.) Register.]

A little girl with tangled locks, peeping from under a calico hood, clad in a dress of chintz, loitered behind us as the great dusty crowd moved out of the gates of Mount Adna the other day after they had scattered their flowers and done honor to the dead. Dreamily she gazed after them, her eyes filled with a far away look of tenderness, until the last one had disappeared and the rattle of the drums had died away. Then she turned and vaguely scanned the mounds that rose about her, clutching still tighter the fading bunch of dandelions and grass that her chubby hand held. An old man came by and gently patted her curly head as he spoke her name, but she only shrank back still further, and when he told a passing stranger that the little one’s father had died on shipboard and been buried at sea, there was only a tear drop in the child’s eye to tell that she heard or knew the story.

When they were gone she moved on further to a neglected, empty lot, and, kneeling down, she piled up a mound of earth, whispering as she patted it and smoothed it with her chubby hand: “This won’t be so awfully big as the others, I guess, but may be it will be big enough so that God will see it, and think that papa is buried here.” Carefully she trimmed the sides with the grass she plucked, murmuring on: “And may be it will grow so that it will be like the rest in two or three years, and then maybe papa will sometime come back and”–.

But she paused, as though it suddenly dawned upon her young mind that he rested beneath the waves, and the tear-drops that sprang to her eyes moistened the little bunch of dandelions that she planted among the grasses on the mound she had reared. When the sexton passed that way at night as he went to close the gates, he found the little one fast asleep, with her head pillowed on the mound.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 30 October 1879: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Victorian mourning was built around a fixed and ideal ritual: an edifying death-bed, preparing the loved one’s body for the grave, the funeral, and then the burial in a quiet, green cemetery beneath a headstone with a touching inscription, where the family could visit, plant flowers, weep, or picnic. Decoration Day was an important holiday for the bereaved. Graves were tidied and planted and the dead were remembered.

Those whose loved ones never returned: whose bodies were either not identified or were buried on a distant battlefield felt a sense of incompleteness beyond their personal loss: they had also been deprived of essential parts of the mourning ritual.

Mrs Daffodil knows of a person whose Great-Great-Great Grandfather was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. Family lore says that his head was shot off so that his body was never identified and was buried as an “Unknown” at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  The man’s daughter never turned away a tramp, believing it might be her father come back.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

A Toy Cannon at Antietam: 1862

Miniature Cannon on display in the White House of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. Curators believe that it was not owned by the family of Jefferson Davis. http://moconfederacy.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/43279EF6-D46F-42B1-981D-055826964540

Miniature workable cannon on display in the White House of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. Curators believe that it was not owned by the family of Jefferson Davis. http://moconfederacy.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/43279EF6-D46F-42B1-981D-055826964540

A WAR RELIC

How a Boy Fought and Lost His Life at Antietam

[Philadelphia Times]

General Hector Tyndale Post No. 160, of this city, has been presented with a small brass cannon, which is apparently a toy, but it has a historical interest.

It was used at the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, with deadly effect. It was drawn from Sharpsburg while the battle was in progress by a boy sixteen years of age, who lived in the vicinity, and who, like old John Burns at Gettysburg a year later, went into the conflict on his own responsibility. He took a position on an elevation and with his little cannon faced the enemy and poured load after load of deadly missiles from the muzzle of his miniature cannon into the ranks of the Confederates. The young hero fought for hours in the ranks of the Union army. Among the hundred thousand men with whom he fought there was not one with whom he had any personal acquaintance.

While thus engaged he was shot, it is believed, by a rebel sharp-shooter. When found he was lying upon his face, with his body across the little gun. After his death the cannon was kept until recently, when it was sold for old brass and brought to this city with other old metals. A comrade of the Tyndale Post, who is an extensive metal broker, learned the history of the little piece of artillery, then dirty and corroded, and presented it to the society. It has been cleaned and brightened up and looks like new. It is about three feet in length and has a bore of less than two inches.

Xenia [OH] Daily Gazette 3 August 1886: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Battle of Antietam of 17 September 1862, was the bloodiest single day in the American Civil War. Over 500 cannons were deployed with terrible effect. Participants dubbed it “Artillery Hell”  for the fire that rained down from the artillery batteries on the heights. One can have no conception of the infernal noise of the battlefield.

Toy cannons were a popular amusement of the young.  While many were designed to fire wooden projectiles, a surprising number were designed to be actually fired, to deadly, sometimes fatal effect. For example, in 1901, 244 persons across the United States were injured by toy cannons over the Fourth of July holiday.

Mrs Daffodil has, alas, not been able to corroborate this touching story of youthful soldiery, nor locate the original cannon.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Somebody’s Father at Gettysburg: 1863

The Children of the Battlefield.

The Children of the Battlefield.

Somebody’s Father.

I think that one of the saddest incidents of the war which I witnessed was after the battle of Gettysburg. Off on the outskirts, seated on the ground with his back to a tree, was a dead soldier. His eyes were riveted on some object held tightly clasped in his hands. As we drew nearer we saw that it was an ambrotype of two small children. Man though I was, hardened through those long years to carnage and bloodshed, the sight of that man who looked on his children for the last time in this world, who, away off in a secluded spot, had rested himself against a tree that he might feast his eyes on his little loves brought tears to my eyes which I could not restrain had I wanted. There were six of us in the crowd, and we all found great lumps gathering in our throats and mist coming before our eyes which almost blinded us.

We stood looked at him for some time. I was thinking of the wife and baby I had left at home and wondering how soon, in the mercy of God, she would be left a widow and my baby boy fatherless. We looked at each other and instinctively seemed to understand one another’s thoughts. Not a word was spoken, but we dug a grave and laid the poor fellow to rest with his children’s picture clasped over his heart. Over his grave on the tree against which he was sitting I inscribed the words: “Somebody’s Father. July 8, 1863.”

Riverside [CA] Daily Press 9 September 1893: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil trusts that her readers will excuse her for a moment; she has something in her eye.

Mrs Daffodil is unsure whether the soldier mentioned above is the same as in this story:

IDENTITY ASCERTAINED.— The identity of the dead soldier who was found on the bloody field of Gettysburg, with the picture of his three pretty little children tightly clasped in his hands, has been ascertained within a day or two. The wide publicity given to the touching circumstances through the medium of the press produced the desired result. The name of the deceased was Hummiston [Humiston], and his widow and three children reside at Portville, Cattaraugus County, New York. Large numbers of photographic copies of the picture upon which the dying eyes of the warrior-father closed have been sold, and the profits realized from their sale will be appropriated to the benefit of the children. It is hoped that a sufficient sum may be realized in this way, and by future sales, to aid materially in the education of the little ones who were made orphans at Gettysburg. Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1864

Two vs. three children is a significant discrepancy, but may be due to inaccurate reporting. The three Humiston children are pictured at the head of this post, and here is an admirably detailed article about Sergeant Humiston. Since the soldier from the first story had his children’s picture buried with him, it must mean that this was, sadly, not a poignant and isolated incident.

See these other posts about Elizabeth Thorn: The Angel of Gettysburg, the man who decorated his own grave at Gettysburg, and a Quaker Prophetess who foresaw the Battle of Gettysburg.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

A Lady Soldier Receives her Back Pay: 1864

A female Lieutenant

A LADY SOLDIER

We desire to record the incident which occurred at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday last, which was witnessed by Hon. Charles Case, a member of the Thirty-sixth Congress of the United States, from the Tenth or Fort Wayne (Indiana) district, and from whose lips we have the following story. While calling upon the President on the day referred to, a modest young girl, apparently about twenty years of age was ushered into the room in company with an orderly, bearing a letter from the Paymaster General’s office, and in a few words she related her story. Born of poor, but honest parents, she resided in Jefferson township, Huntington county, Indiana. Her name was Mary E. Wise. At the beginning of the war her parents both died, and her only brother enlisted in the 34th Indiana Regiment. Being thus deprived of her protector, and left entirely alone in the world, she determined to join the army and thus be enabled to follow him. Procuring a disguise, she succeeded in being accepted as a private soldier, and through two long years of arduous service, during which the regiment engaged in several severe battles among which was that of Stone river, she prevented the discovery of her sex, although she never failed to perform her duty as a soldier.

At the battle of Stone river she was wounded slightly in the arm, but recovered and again entered the ranks without being detected. At the terrible charge of the regiments of Western troops, at Lookout Mountain, however, she was badly wounded in the breast and all her secret was ascertained by the surgeon. She was carefully nursed for some time, and as soon as she was able to travel was dismissed the service and returned to her home in Indiana, having first been so marked upon the arm as to render re-enlistment impossible. Five months’ back pay was due her, but upon application the paymaster declined to allow it, on the ground that there was nothing in the regulations that would permit him to pay a United States soldier of the female sex. Hence her visit to Washington and her call upon the President. After patiently listening to her statement, the President, who was deeply interested wrote a note to the Paymaster General, saying that, as she had faithfully served as a soldier for two years, and received the pay as such for the greater part of the time, he could see no good reason why she was not entitled to the remainder, and therefore directed payment of the balance, concluding with the assurance that, if hereafter it would be found to be contrary to the regulations, he himself would be responsible for the amount. The young lady retired, well pleased with her interview, and started for her home in Indiana the next day, having fully accomplished the object of her visit. Washington Chronicle.

Providence [RI] Evening Press 17 September 1864: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Since this is “Veterans’ Day” in the United States, Mrs Daffodil thought that the story of a lady soldier of the American Civil War would interest. It is shameful that such a gallant soldier had to petition the President of the United States—in this case, President Abraham Lincoln—to intercede so that she could  receive the pay she had already gotten for two years. Mrs Daffodil is always puzzled how lady soldiers passed as male, living and sleeping in close quarters with men who either shaved daily or grew luxuriant beards. Perhaps facial hair was applied with spirit gum.

The note about Miss Wise being marked so that she could not re-enlist refers to the practice of tattooing a persons with India ink. Usually the tattoo was applied to deserters or other malefactors.

Mrs Daffodil has written before on Elizabeth Thorn, “The Angel of Gettysburg,” and a “munitionette,” aiding the war effort in a munitions factory. Both of these women—and hundreds of thousands of their compatriots—received scant recognition despite doing their duty at considerable personal cost. Mrs Daffodil, had she a hat on, would take it off to them and to all men and women who have served their countries.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

Encore: The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

Peter and Elizabeth Thorn

Peter and Elizabeth Thorn

This has proved to be one of the most popular posts from this blog, so it is repeated here on the 151st anniversary of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

In honour of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a story of an ordinary woman thrown into extraordinary circumstances and how she rose to the occasion: Elizabeth Thorn, known today as The Angel of Gettysburg.

 A Woman’s Courage at Gettysburg.

Mrs. Peter Thorn, of Gettysburg, lived in the house at the entrance of the borough cemetery. The house was used as headquarters by General 0. 0. Howard. Mrs. Thorn’s husband was away from home at that time (serving in the 148th regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers, and stationed in Virginia), leaving her with two [actually three] quite young children. During the first day of the fight General Howard wanted someone to show him and tell about different roads leading from Gettysburg, and asked a number of men and boys who were in the cellar of the house to go with him and point them out. But these persons were all fearful and refused to go. Then Mrs. Thorn showed her courage and patriotism by voluntarily offering to show the roads. This offer was at first refused by General Howard, who said he did not wish a woman to do what a man had not the courage to do. Mrs. Thorn persisted in her offer, saying: “Somebody must show you, and I can do it; I was born and brought up here [a misunderstanding, perhaps–Elizabeth and her husband were German immigrants.] and know the roads as well as anybody.” Her offer was accepted, and with the general and his horse between her and the fire of the enemy, Mrs. Thorn went from one spot to another pointing out the different roads. When passing along the line of troops the general was greeted with: “Why do you take a woman for a guide? This is no place for her.” “I know it,” said the officer, “but I could not get a man to come; they were all afraid.” This answer to them started cheers for Mrs. Thorn, which lasted several minutes and showed that our soldiers admired the courage shown at such a time. The Popular History of the Civil War in America (1861-1865), George B. Herbert, 1885

General Howard wrote of Mrs Thorn in his autobiography: “After the battle Slocum, Sickles, and I took our headquarters on the ground near the gatekeeper’s cottage. Mrs. Peter Thorn, whose husband was a soldier, with her daughter [this is inaccurate—her daughter was not yet born] was caring for the cottage. I had been all day from breakfast at sunrise without food and was nearly famished. Mrs. Thorn, before we had time to ask, brought us some bread and cups of coffee. Those refreshments have never been forgotten.” Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General, United States Army, Oliver Otis Howard, 1907, p. 419

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is interesting, yet disheartening to see that these are the anecdotes most often told about Mrs Thorn, 20 years after the close of the American Civil War. The story of her pointing out the local roads appears in multiple publications during the 1880s, yet the General, whom she guided, only mentions her “refreshments.”  Let us look more closely at Mrs Thorn’s extraordinary story.

Elizabeth Thorn and her husband, Peter, as well as her parents, lived in the gatehouse to the Evergreen Cemetery at Gettysburg. Her husband enlisted as a soldier, leaving her with three small children—ages 7, 5, and 2.  She was six months pregnant when she volunteered to show General Howard the Gettysburg roads.

Her obituaries say merely that she witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg. Occasionally they mention that she assisted the General, or that she was Superintendent of the Cemetery in her husband’s absence. The papers are silent on her condition. They did not report how she did her duty in the aftermath of the battle.  Working almost entirely without help, in the heat and storms of that July, among the rotting corpses of men and horses, she dug graves in the rocky soil and buried over one hundred soldiers.

Mrs Thorn herself somewhat understated the trauma as she spoke in her memoir of scrounging supplies, baking bread to distribute to the troops, and returning to find her household and livestock destroyed. Here she recounts her memories of those days, beginning with the first day of the battle, July 1, when the family took refuge in their cellar:

I wanted to go upstairs once more to see if our men gained, but when I came on the stairway a shell had cut in the window frame, then jumped a little, then went through the ceiling, so I would not go up any more… Soon one of General Howard’s men came and ordered me to have supper for Gen. Howard. I complained I had no bread, for I had given it all away in the morning. But I said I could make cakes, and he said they were good enough for war times. They did not come for so long, it was near twelve o’clock. It was Gen. Howard, Gen. Sickles, and Gen. Slocum. The house was so full of soldiers that the boys had to lay on the floor in the kitchen, on feather beds. And as they saw the children lying there, they said it was very sad. After they had had some supper and I found they were going to leave I asked them if they thought I should leave the house in the night. Gen. Howard rubbed his forehead and said: “Leave the house? Leave the house?” Then he looked towards the others and said: “Comrades, I say stay.” Then he said we should take our best things and pack them up and in two hours he would send two men to carry them to the cellar. Then he smiled and said: “I guess you call all best.” But I said: “Some I call better than others.” He said they would begin hard fighting about day-break, near four o’clock, and then we should go to the cellar. About two hours after they left the men came and took the things to the cellar. Gen. Howard said: “When I give you orders to leave the house, don’t study about it, but go right away.” About four o’clock we went to the cellar. There were seventeen of us (other civilians)…We were in the cellar about two or three hours. The noise of the cannonading was terrible. At last the door flew open and someone said: “This family is commanded by Gen. Howard to leave this house and get as far in ten minutes as possible. Take nothing up but the children and go.” They said we should keep (to) the pike, where the soldiers could see us, and that would save us. When we were a little way down the pike a shell bursted back of us, and none of us were killed, but we commenced to walk faster…

Near midnight [this would be on the second day of the battle, July 2], when everything was quiet, my father and I undertook to walk home to the Cemetery house. As we left the [neighbor’s] house we had to pass through a room where the Union soldiers were sleeping, lying in two rows, with only one candle to light the whole room. About the middle of one row a man raised himself on his elbow and motioned me to come to him, my father signaled I should go to him, and he took a picture out of his pocket and on it was three little boys, and he said they were his, and they were just little boys like mine, and would I please let him have my little boys sleep near him, and could he have the little one close to him, and the others near him? And so, he took them and had them lying by him…. 

The next day Mrs Thorn and her family fled to the country, going to a farmhouse where the wounded were being treated. She wrote of seeing the amputated limbs tossed into a corn crib and removed by the wagonload.

 We were down the country four days and the fifth we went home. On the way home we met Mr. McConaughy. He was the president of the Cemetery at that time and he said to me: “Hurry on home, there is more work for you than you are able to do.” So we hurried on home. When we looked at the house I could only say “O my!” There were [sic] no window glass in the whole house. Some of the frames were knocked out and the pump was broken. Fifteen soldiers were buried beside the pump shed. I went to the cellar to look for the good things I had put there on the first night. One chest was packed with good German linen, others packed with other good things. Everything was gone, but three featherbeds and they were full of blood and mud. After I had dragged them out of the cellar I asked an officer who was riding by, if I would ever get any pay for things spoiled like this. He asked me what it was, and I told him bed clothes that were in the cellar, and he said in a very short way: “No!” So as soon as the pump was fixed I sent for three women and we washed for four days before we got them clean.

Then I got a note from the president of the Cemetery, and he said: “Mrs. Thorn, it is made out that we will bury the soldiers in our Cemetery for a while, so you go for that piece of ground and commence sticking off lots and graves as fast as you can make them.” Well, you may know how I felt, my husband in the army, my father an aged man. Yet for all the foul air we two started in. I stuck off the graves and while my father finished one, I had another one started. This lasted for days, until the boys sent word, if I couldn’t get help at all I should telegraph to some of my friends to come and help me. Two came, but one only stayed two days, then got deathly sick and left. The other stayed five days, then he went away very sick, and I had to pay their fare here and very good wages for their work. By that time we had forty graves done. And then my father and I had to dig on harder again. They kept on burying the soldiers until they had the National Cemetery ready, and in that time we buried one hundred five soldiers. In front of this house there were fifteen dead horses and beside the Cemetery there were nineteen in that field. So you may know it was only excitement that helped me to do all the work, with all that stench. And in three months after I had a dear little baby. But it was not very strong, and from that time on my health failed and for years I was a very sickly woman. In my older days my health has been better, but those hard days have always told on my life. Gettysburg [PA] Times 2 July 1938, p. 3

In the battle, nearly everything the family owned had been destroyed or stolen. For her efforts, Elizabeth Thorn received no extra money beyond her husband’s salary of a little over $12.00 per month and she and her father were criticized as unpatriotic for daring to ask for compensation for their substantial losses. President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address from a platform in Evergreen Cemetery on 19 November, 1863.  One wonders if Mrs Thorn, her new daughter in her arms, heard the President speak? Peter Thorn survived the war and returned to the cemetery. He and Elizabeth died within months of each other in 1907 and are buried at Evergreen.

You may see more photographs of the statue of this intrepid woman here. The sculptor hid a Civil War relic—a minie ball—in the base of the image. 

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

A Rag Doll at Appomattox: 1865

The rag doll who witnessed the end of the American Civil War.

The rag doll who witnessed the end of the American Civil War.

For Mrs Daffodil’s American readers, on this anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General U.S. Grant at Appomattox, the story of an unusual witness to history.

A VALUABLE RAG DOLL

The Part She Played in the War of the Rebellion

Almost every little girl in this country has at one time or another rejoice in the possession of a rag doll which was quite the dearest thing she had. Just as mother ducks show the ugly duckling the most attention, so do make- believe mothers think the most of their plain rag babies.

You would hardly believe it possible, however, that a full grown man would care for a rag doll, at least care enough for it to keep it always locked up in a safe deposit vault with his gold and most valuable papers. No, it is not a doll that once belonged to the man’s little daughter and precious on that account. There are a hundred men who would like to own it and would give several hundred dollars for it.

“Whatever makes the thing so valuable?” you ask, and here is the answer: This particular rag doll is an historic doll. With its eyes of ink it saw General U.S. Grant draft the terms for the surrender of the Confederate army, and the same black eyes saw courtly General Lee place his signature to the papers. All this happened at Appomattox, when the army of Northern Virginia surrendered on April 9, 1865. Except for the signing of the Declaration of Independence this is, perhaps, the most important event in the history of the nation.

The conference over the surrender was held at the McLane [McLean] house, one of the largest in the village. Some child in the household left the doll in the corner of a sofa in the parlor as she scampered away at the approach of the officers. During the signing of the papers Dollie sat up as well as she could, clad only in a sort of sleeveless shirtwaist of faded calico.

When the conference was over and the generals had left the room, some of the younger officers, exceedingly full of spirit now that the long war was ended, discovered the rag doll and recognized in her the “silent witness.” Though this scarecrow of rags had done nothing to warrant the familiarity, young Custer, afterward killed in an Indian massacre on the plains, caught her up and threw her at the head of “Mike” Sheridan. He in turn used her as a playful missile with another office as target. So she suffered the terrors of war, though she had been a witness of the peace conference.

When the rush for souvenirs came, Colonel T.W. C. Moore, of Sheridan’s staff, secured the doll as his portion and carried her off to an honorable captivity in his Northern home. She is now the highly prized possession of T. Channing Moore and dwells in a safe in the city of Hartford.

There is not the least doubt of the rag doll’s authenticity. She seems to have made a strong impression on the young officers who romped with her on that memorable afternoon in the quiet little Virginia village. At one time Colonel Sheridan wrote to the doll’s owner: “I well remember the rag doll obtained from the room in the McLean house at Appomattox, where the surrender of Lee’s army to General Grant took place. The relic was unique and, though much fun was made over it at the time, as years go on the ‘silent witness’ will become more and more valuable. Do not let it get out of your possession, as I foolishly did the ink-stand I obtained as a relic of the same occasion.”

New York Daily Tribune 30 November 1902: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although it may have been said that the military does not war on children, one imagines there were many tears shed by some child over the loss of the precious baby. Shockingly, there is no word about compensation for this unprincipled looting by officers of the United States Army.  T. Channing Moore was Thomas Channing Moore, a member of the New York state assembly and son of Colonel Moore of Sheridan’s staff.  “Mike” Sheridan was Michael Vincent Sheridan, brother and aide to General Philip Henry Sheridan, who was present at the surrender. “Young Custer” was, of course, General George Armstrong Custer. A story written from the point of view of the doll herself, with her photograph, may be found here, at the Appomattox Courthouse National Park website.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

Taking Pictures of the Dead: An Interview with a Photographer: 1882

The dead at "Bloody Lane" after the Battle of Antietam.

The dead at “Bloody Lane” after the Battle of Antietam.

A first-hand narrative from a photographer of the dead and how he came to such a vocation. This past week was the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, where this photographer had a grim experience.

GHASTLY PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPERIENCES.

[Sunday Mercury.] I’ve been engaged in taking pictures of the dead for twenty years or more, was the remark of a photographer of Philadelphia, as he arranged his camera to photograph the first corpse ever brought to a Philadelphia gallery for that purpose. A little coffin or casket was under the sky-light in a slanting position, supported by two chairs, and in it was the body of a fair-haired child, whose peaceful, smiling expression, despite the ghastly pallor of death, make it appear to be in tranquil sleep. The head lay in a perfect bed of flowers, and the waxen hands clasped held a spray of mignonette and two delicate tea rosebuds. The sun, shaded as it was by curtains, threw a bright glare over one side of the little dead face, leaving the other half in shadow. The tube of the camera was brought to the proper focus on the silent subject, and in a few seconds the negative was ready to go into the “dark room” and be prepared for printing in its chemical bath. No one was in the place except the proprietor, a solemn-faced undertaker and your correspondent. This is the first time, said the photographer, as he critically examined the negative, that I have ever been called upon to picture the dead in my own place, but this case was such a peculiar one that I could not refuse, although it would undoubtedly draw away custom if it were known. People have a foolish horror of death, you know, and would actually be afraid to come if they thought I had dead bodies here. It only took a moment, and there was really nothing awful about it. The mother, poor soul, will have something to look at and cry over now, and the speaker stopped, as the undertaker had turned the last screw in the lid of the coffin and was preparing to carry it out to the hearse again.

THE CAMERA ON THE BATTLE-FIELD.

My first experience in photographing the dead, resumed the photographer, as the hearse rattled away from the door, was on the battle-field of Antietam. It was a warm September morning, three days after the great fight. I had a boy with me to assist in preparing the chemicals. He only worked for an hour. With boyish curiosity he went poking about, and picked up an unexploded shell. He was then on the bank of the creek about half a mile off. I never knew how it happened, but the bomb exploded, and almost blew him to pieces. A little darkey came up to where I was waiting for the boy’s return, and completely unnerved me by shouting: “Say, boss, de red-headed gemmen has done gone and blowed hisself up wif a shell!” He was a bright, intelligent boy, and I felt his loss keenly, but I pressed the negro boy into service, and went to work.

It would be useless to go over the scene of that carnage again; to tell of the ghastly after-sights of that awful fight which made so many widows and orphans. I was nervous and excited, and you can depend it did not tend to quiet my nerves when I unwittingly planted one leg of the camera stand on the chest of a dead Union drummer-boy. By some means he had been partly buried in a patch of soft soil. Nothing was visible but the buttons on his blouse and one foot. I changed my position rather hastily. A “dark room” was improvised by hanging army blankets from the limbs of a low tree; and after taking four negatives, I packed up my traps and started for Philadelphia. It was a slow and dangerous journey, but I made it in safety, and went to work printing pictures. They sold like wildfire at fifty cents and one dollar each. I was nearly two thousand dollars in pocket in less than two weeks, and determined to repeat the programme after the next big battle. It came with Fredericksburg. My anxiety to get a view of the field after the retreat of the Union army led to trouble. I was captured by three Confederate stragglers and taken down the Rappahannock in a rowboat. They suspected me to be a spy, I suppose, and the photographic apparatus merely a blind. At any rate the valuable camera, chemicals, glass and everything else were dumped into the river. I was taken before General Lee, personally, and charged with being a Union spy. No explanation availed anything; it was not even believed that I was a photographer. One of General Lee’s staff—I think his name was Murray—proposed that I should be tested. An aide-de-camp galloped off and procured the necessary apparatus, and I photographed the rebel general and his entire staff, on a day cold enough to freeze the words in a man’s mouth. The officers were evidently impressed with the idea of my innocence. A short consultation followed, and then General Lee himself said to me: “Sir, it appears that you are simply engaged in earning a livelihood, and, I believe, honestly. You are at liberty.” I was blindfolded, put back in the boat, and landed within twenty miles of where Burnside had his winter quarters. From that day to this I never knew where I was. Here is the picture of Lee and his staff, and the photographer exhibited the faded likeness, which had probably saved his life.

FRIGHTENED BY A SUPPOSED CORPSE.

After the battle of Gettysburg, he resumed, it became very common for photographers to go to the front. They all appeared to be making money, and I finally made up my mind to try it again. The three days’ fight at Spotsylvania Court House was the last battle-field I ever saw, or want to see again. I arrived there before General Grant had driven the enemy into Richmond. Many of the dead had been removed, but there were still many bodies on the field—enough, in fact, to make a good picture, I thought. I never took it. After getting the best site to have the sun on a half-dozen dead soldiers and two abandoned cannon for the central figures of the picture, I covered my head with the cloth and brought the tube to bear on the group. I had just got the proper focus when a most startling incident occurred. I saw the arm of a supposed dead man lift high in the air and then fall. The day was mild, beautiful and sunny. Everything was as still as death, except the faint booming of a far distant cannon. I dropped the cloth and ran forward to where the dead soldiers lay. There was not the least sign of life in any of them. Decomposition had set in, except in one of them, a dark-haired young man wearing the gray uniform of the Confederacy. He was dead, to all appearance, and a ragged bullet-hole in his forehead precluded any other idea. Thinking it was only imagination, I went back to the camera to make another attempt. No sooner had I lifted the cloth to put over my head than I saw the arm lift up a second time. There could be no mistake. Again I approached the dead men, and looking first at the young man who seemed to have met death later than his companions, I plainly saw a tremor in his fingers. Quickly I bent over him, and placing my hand on his forehead found it clammy and cold. He was not dead, but dying. I spoke, and his eyelids trembled in a sort of unconscious recognition of the presence of the living. I heard a faint flutter of the breath, and saw the shadow of a smile hover for a moment about the lips. Then came a long-drawn sigh, a weak gurgle in the throat, and the soldier boy was dead.

I opened his coat. An old-fashioned daguerreotype of a gray-haired lady, a pack of cards and a Catholic prayer-book I found wrapped up in a small Confederate flag. On the fly-leaf of the book was written, “Henry Barnes MacHenry. From his mother.” The poor fellow had evidently lain where he fell for two or three days, suffering from the tortures of hunger and thirst. Earlier attention might have saved him. The incident, simple as it may seem to you, frightened me. I went home, and for a year devoted myself to regular photography.

A GHASTLY KIND OF BUSINESS.

Business grew dull, and I got poor. The war had just about ended, when one day, when pushed to my wits’ end for money, I was struck with an idea which I have followed out successfully ever since. The death columns of the morning papers were carefully gone over, and when the funeral was advertised from an humble neighborhood I was usually sure of a five dollar bill. I visited the houses and offered to photograph their dead. Out of a dozen visits I would probably get one job. In a couple of years my reputation grew, and now I am almost as frequently sent for as the minister. Only last May a messenger came from a West Philadelphia family for me to photograph their dying father.

When I got there he was too far gone and I had to wait. Half an hour after the old gentleman had breathed his last, and before he became stiff, we had him sitting in a chair, with his eyes held open with stiff mucilage between the lids and brow, and his legs crossed. He made a very good picture. I once photographed two children—sisters—who had died the same day of diphtheria. They were posed with their arms about each other’s necks. An Irish family, living in the southern part of the city, called on me about two years ago to take a picture of their dead son—a young man—with his high hat on. It was necessary to take the stiffened corpse out of the ice-box and prop him up against the wall. The effect was ghastly, but the family were delighted, and thought the hat lent a life-like effect. Sometimes, and at the suggestion of the family, I have filled out the emaciated cheeks of dead people with cotton to make them look plump. The eyes are nearly always propped open with pins or mucilage, but when people can afford to engage an artist it is an easy matter to paint the eyes afterward. Another time I took a picture of a dead man who had been scalded to death. It was a full-length photograph, and an artist was engaged to fill out the burns on the face and then make a copy in oil. For that piece of work I got $50, and I think he got no less than $500.

TAKING THE DEAD FROM THE TOMB.

I recall an instance, continued the photographer, which is probably the most remarkable thing ever related. Two young men came into my place in the winter of 1874 or 1875, I forget which, and said they wanted a photograph of their dead father, whose body was in the family receiving vault awaiting interment in the spring. They cautioned me that their step-mother was violently opposed to having her husband’s body taken from the vault for such a purpose, and that she daily visited the place of sepulture to prevent any such attempt. It was agreed that I should engage a couple of men to assist in taking the body out, and another to keep watch for the widow. We went to the vault early in the morning to avoid the woman, who usually made her visit after twelve o’clock. It took some time to get the body properly posed against the side of the vault, and then it began to drizzle. We threw a horse blanket over the coffin and retreated to the shelter of a tree. About noon the sun came out, and I hurriedly prepared to secure the negative. The camera had just been placed in position when our sentinel came running breathlessly in, with word that the widow was nearly at the entrance to the cemetery gate, a quarter mile distant. It did not take a moment to restore the corpse to the coffin, screw on the lid, and carry all back to the vault. I packed up my kit, and with the two men got out of another gate. Four months after that one of the sons came to me with a most remarkable story. He said his step-mother had lost her reason. When the dead man’s body was exhumed in the spring in the presence of the widow, she insisted on having the coffin opened. The corpse was found partly turned over and the lining of the coffin disarranged. The widow went into hysterics, under the impression that her husband had been buried alive. The stepsons tried to reassure her, and finally confessed that they had authorized the taking up of the body to have it photographed, but the explanation came too late. The woman’s reason was affected, and she could not understand that in our haste to escape we had turned the corpse on its side.

Photographic Times and American Photographer, Volume 12, J. Traill Taylor, Editor, 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This gripping narrative contains several popular themes of the era: dying Civil War soldiers, post-mortem photography, and burial alive. The mistaken placing of the tripod on a drummer boy’s corpse, the “dead” soldier’s moving arm, and the descent into madness of the obviously disliked stepmother are thrilling touches. And it is always useful to get a professional’s tips on how to make a dead body seem alive using common household items.

This excerpt and more on post-mortem photography may be found in The Victorian Book of the Dead. 

For a piece on the myth of standing post-mortem photographs see this post, Dead Man Standing.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Hoodoo Hat: 1862

Union soldier daguerreotype

An unidentified Union soldier in a slouch hat. Image courtesy Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

A FATAL HEADPIECE

Tale of a Hoodoo Hat and the Many Victims of Its Influence in the Civil War.

John Cooper, one of Dooly County’s most prominent citizens, was lately in this city on his way to Augusta to attend the old veterans’ reunion. When he got off the train he looked up Capt. Warren Moseley, one of the bravest of the boys who went out in the ‘60s, and they immediately began swapping reminiscences about their army life in Virginia. Finally Mr. Cooper asked Capt. Moseley if he remembered the Yankee hat. A reporter who was standing there heard the following story, which both men vouch for as being absolutely true:

On the first day of the battle of Winchester a Yankee was killed so near the line of battle that a soldier by the name of McLondon, Company I, Fourth Georgia, picked up the hat and put it on and wore it, says the Macon (Ga.) News. He had not had it on his head for more than two hours when he was shot through the head, the bullet piercing the hat in almost the same hole that the bullet had entered that killed the Yankee.

Another soldier by the name of Wooten, of Company H, Fourth Georgia, picked up the hat and put it on, and in less than an hour he, too, was killed, the bullet striking him in the head near the place where the two other bullets had entered.

The next day another soldier by the name of Kilpatrick, of Company H, Fourth Georgia, was wearing the hat, when he, too, was struck in the head and killed.

Although the hat was a fine one, it was left lying on the field, as there was no one who would wear it, as four men who had worn it were then cold and stiff, and each one had been shot through the hat in almost the same place.

Daily Herald [Biloxi, MS] 16 February 1901: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This, of course, sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true tales so often found in the American newspapers. However, Mrs Daffodil likes to be thorough and found a history of the so-called “Doles-Cook Brigade” by Henry W. Thomas, published in 1903. Much to Mrs Daffodil’s surprise, on the roster of the Brigade, dating from the time of the War, were John Cooper, Captain Moseley, and the late Wooten, all present and correct. Whether or not one believes in “hoodoos,” it may at least be said that three of the dramatis personae actually existed, two of whom survived and agreed upon their story. Hoodoos of various descriptions (persons with red hair or suffering from strabismus, lilacs, the number 13) were much in vogue around the turn of the century and the newspapers rejoiced in telling of the corpses and the bad luck that piled up as a result. The paltry four dead in this story argues a hoodoo of inferior quality. Mrs Daffodil has seen an article in which thirteen (naturally) of an unlucky family were wiped out by a really efficient hoodoo. And, of course, she has brought to the reader’s notice a “hoodooed” royal ring.

Saturday Snippets: 7 June 2013 A parson’s perplexity; love found in a pair of men’s drawers; wedding gown box fad

Bride and very dapper groom.

Bride and very dapper groom.

More snippets today about weddings, courtship, and the relations between the sexes.

The Wedding Gown Box

The wedding gown box is a recent fad for the well-to-do bride to adopt, and it bids fair to have quite a vogue. That every bride possessed of any sentiment wishes to keep her wedding gown in a state of preservation is a foregone conclusion, and this elegant receptacle is admirably suited to the purpose of which it was designed, says the Philadelphia Telegraph. It is made of light wood, enamelled white, and having the bride’s initials in silver letters on the outside. A lining of tufted white satin is revealed on opening the box and locks of silver and white leather straps fasten it. A photograph of the wedding gown is often taken by the modiste before sending it home, and making a collection of the photographs of wedding gowns or any other distinctive costumes is one of the present fads, the idea being to preserve the pictures as mementoes for future generations and also as illustrations of present day fashions. Boston [MA] Herald 1 June 1902: p. 32

A Singular Occurrence. An exchange paper says that a young lady moving in the upper circles at Chicago was betrothed at the beginning of the war to a lieutenant in the army. He was killed in battle, and his body taken home and buried by his nearest friend and comrade, who was with him when he fell. To this young man the lady’s affections were very naturally transferred in time, and she engaged to marry him. When the happy day arrived, and just as the clergyman was about to pronounce them man and wife, the lady fainted, and being revived forbade any further procedure, as she said she had seen the spirit of her former lover, and he was opposed to the match. She persisted in her decision, and has since retired to a convent. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

There is a rich man in the Black Hill,s says the Bismarck Times, who dates the beginning of his fortune from the day when he sold his wife for $4,000. Osgood Ripley [IN] Journal 14 April 1887: p. 6 

 Not Her Husband After All. A young married woman has just lost her life at Lyons by a curious mistake. She was returning from Vaise, where she had been to spend the day with a young man, when, in passing the quay, she exclaimed, on seeing a person approach: “Heaven, here is my husband!” and running to the river, jumped in and was drowned. The man who had unintentionally caused her alarm was a stranger to her Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 19 July 1885: p. 11. 

News comes from Vienna of a new idea at weddings—the wearing of a wreath of roses by the mother of the bride. Upon arriving home after the ceremony, the bride’s mother removes her hat and puts on a half circle of roses, composed of buds with silver petals and foliage. The Van Wert [OH] Daily Bulletin 5 November 1909: p. 7

GETTING AROUND A DIFFICULTY

Judge C., a well-known, highly respectable Knickerbocker, on the shady side of fifty, widower with five children full of fun and frolic, ever ready for a joke to give or take—was bantered the other evening by a miss of five and twenty for not taking a wife. She argued that he was hale and hearty and deserved a matrimonial mess-mate. The Judge acknowledged the fact, admitted that he was convinced by the eloquence of his fair friend that he had thus far been remiss, expressed contrition of the fault confessed, and ended with offering himself to the lady, telling her she could not certainly reject him after pointing out his heinous offense. The lady replied that she would be most happy to take the situation so uniquely advertised, and become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, but there was one—to her—serious obstacle.

“Well,” said the Judge, “name it. My profession is to surmount such obstacles.” “Ah! Judge, this is beyond your powers. I have vowed if I ever married a widower, he must have ten children.”

“Ten children! Oh, that’s nothing,” says the Judge. “I’ll give you five now and my notes on demand in yearly installments for the balance.” Iowa State Reporter [Waterloo, IA] 18 September 1872: p. 7 

Hired altars for use at home weddings is one of the more recent fashionable fads of the upper ten-dom of New York society. Fashion has some queer freaks.Western Kansas World 23 July 1892: p. 5 

A Singular Death-bed Scene [Montreal Dispatch to New York Times]

At a late hour last night a man named Alphonse Mousset went to the Civic Hospital, rang the door-bell, and on being asked who was there answered that it was a new patient. As soon as the door was opened by a nun he rushed into the hospital and upstairs into the women’s ward. There he knelt by the bedside of his dying wife and implored her before leaving him forever to sign some sort of a contract by which after her death he should be recognized as the sole possessor of some $500 she owned in bank shares. The gardener was called in, and by his aid Mousset was very quickly shown outside the door. The woman died to-day. The couple had been married only six weeks. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 19 July 1885:  p. 11. 

Three years ago a young woman in Nashua wrote a few sensible words of devotion to the Union and put the paper with her name in a pair of soldiers’ drawers she was making for the Nashua Manufacturing Company. The soldier who drew the drawers wrote to her, and the correspondence was kept up. He was promoted to a Lieutenancy, and was lately discharged; and later still the couple were married. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

ANECDOTE A certain Macaroni bien peudre et bien frize, with a feather hat under his arm, perfumed like an Egyptian mummy, and who had all the appearance of a modern puppy, went to church with his bride, to receive the nuptial blessing, when the Parson, struck with wonder at the strange apparition, for fear of a mistake, thought proper to ask before the ceremony, which of the two was the Lady? Spooner’s Vermont Journal [Windsor, VT]  7 April 1784: p. 3 

“Never write letters, young man, that you’ll regret in after life.” “You speak as from experience.” “I do. In early correspondence with her who is now my wife I signed myself, ‘Your obedient servant.’” The Day Book [Chicago, IL] 6 January 1913: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A previous post for this week contained18th-century suggestions for choosing an agreeable husband. You might also enjoy a post from last Valentine’s Day on vintage advice to select a worthy spouse.

The Soldier’s Mother: 1864

mothersoldiersonA Heart-broken Mother.

In 1864, notice was given that a boat-load of prisoners from Andersonville would be exchanged, and that they would be landed at Annapolis, Md.  Men and women came from every part of the United States, each with the hope of meeting a friend whom they knew to be confined at Andersonville. Of course, among such a large number there could not be more than one in a hundred that could find the friend they came after. When the boat came up to the wharf there was a great crowd to welcome the forlorn creatures, and to inquire after others who did not come.

Among the expectants was the mother of a soldier in the twelfth Connecticut regiment, who rushed on board the boat, asking every soldier she saw, for her boy. From deck to cabin, in the cots and among the barrels she searched for him; but he was not there, and no one had heard of him. She had brought a cap, a shirt and a pair of pants, that he might have a clean change, and with these across her arm she wandered among the crowd saying, in a half-inquiring, vacant tone, “He has not come; he has not come.”

For a year after she went regularly to the wharf at sunrise from her lodgings, which nobody could find, and gazed for an hour down the bay, and murmuring, “He has not come,” would go to the post surgeon with the same cap, shirt and pants, and ask why her boy had not come. They shut the door in her face, and she wandered down to the wharf and was found the next morning stiff and cold, sitting upright behind some old barrels on the wharf, with her glassy eyes still gazing down the bay toward the point where steamers first came in sight.

“He had not come to her                                            

But she had gone to him.”

Jamestown [NY] Journal 15 October 1869: p. 2

 

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.