The Army Heritage Education Center, (AHEC) at Carlisle, Pennsylvania recently uploaded over 2,000 digital images of Civil War Soldiers from its MOLLUS Massachusetts Collection of photographs. MOLLUS is the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, a fraternal organization founded after the war for former officers. The images in this collection included several officers of the 13th Massachusetts, which I added to my growing collection of images of men in the regiment. I already had low resolution images of most of these photos from another web-site, but the AHEC images are much higher quality and resolution. I get a particular thrill when I find a soldier’s image. It seems to bring the deeds of the men one step closer to reality. Suddenly there is a face to go with a story.
As stated before on this blog, the “13th Mass” is a well photographed regiment. I’ve been storing the collected images in folders on my computer, but sometimes I make 5 X 7 prints to put into a 3 ring binder, organized by company. There is something pleasing to me about having a large tangible photographic image of a particular soldier. When I share the latest edition to my long-suffering wife, Susan, she usually replies half-joking “The Soldiers of the 13th Mass…Collect all 1,000 !” I became curious as to how many images I had acquired and decided to take inventory.
Using the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s report, (a roster of all men who served in the unit) I marked off all the names I had put a face to.
This can be a bit tricky because the report contains duplicate records. Every man promoted is listed once with his original rank and once with the new rank and date of promotion. Some men were promoted two or three times and have multiple listings, so I had to be careful not to double count anyone. The total came to 200 men ! This doesn’t count group shots where I have several unidentified men, nor duplicate photos of the same soldier. It was common for an officer to have his portrait made in his new uniform, after each promotion.
Therefore, I have, 2nd Lt. Charles B. Fox, 1st Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, Captain Charles B. Fox, and Lt. Col. Charles B. Fox, (you get the idea) although I would be hard-pressed to identify the particular rank at the time any one of these likenesses was made, unless it is identified on the image. I have several different images of Colonel Leonard.
I’ve fantasized about marketing ‘baseball cards’ of the images with the service records and stats on the back of each card. “I’ll trade you two Col. Leonards for a Lt. Col. Batchelder.”
Or, they could be made into decks of playing cards with each company representing a suit, A, B, C, D etc. You could play 'go fish' with the deck; "Got any J. A. Howe's ?"
Probably not much demand for that though. And since most of the soldiers I have so far are in Company ‘B’ it would be a one-suit deck.
I’m grateful for the images shared with me by descendants. Those are especially rare and whenever I come across the image of a soldier whose descendant I know, I try to forward it along to them. This has proved to be a rewarding practice.
When I discovered I had 200 images I immediately wrote a collector friend of mine. He provided nearly nearly half of the images in my collection. I had to share my enthusiasm with someone who cared, (or at least marginally cared - it’s lonely to be obsessed). Again, it can be very difficult to obtain images of soldiers from any given regiment. A couple of days after I wrote him, my friend responded, and sent me image 201; private Samuel S. Gould!
Getting Gould’s picture inspired me. I’ve found a few images in old books listed at ‘Google books’ so I did a search and found picture 202, Melvin H. Walker, captured at Gettysburg. I’m on my way to 300!