Monday, May 17, 2010

General Pope Takes Command

It's time to announce a new web page is up at my website   This page covers the period in the regiments' history from June, 1862, through August 9, and the battle of Cedar Mountain.

Here is the link:

President Lincoln created the Army of Virginia in late June, and placed Major- General John Pope in command.   The 13th Mass. Vols., served in Hartsuff's Brigade, Rickett's Division, McDowell's Corps, within the structure of this new force.

It is interesting that I found the following quote in one of the first letters I posted, given by a contraband, (taken in by members of the 13th Mass Band):

"Taint always de man that makes the most talk dat gots da most sense."
It seemed a fitting description of General Pope himself, although given in answer to a question on a totally un-related subject. I placed the quote at the top of the page.

To set the stage for these 'history' pages I write brief introductions outlining the political climate in Washington, or other significant events happening in the war effort.   To do this I turn to books and informational websites. I've also had to learn about engagements I previously knew little about, such as Port Republic, Cross Keys, and Cedar Mtn.   I try to write brief accurate summaries of these events to add a little depth to what went on around the 13th Mass. For this page, I'm re-reading John J. Hennessy's "Return To Bull Run."   For information about the Battle of Cedar Mountain, I turned to Robert K. Krick's "Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain."   I also frequently look to James I. Robertson, jr.'s "Stonewall Jackson." All of these are excellent resources and its a pleasure to read them.

Beginning with Cedar Mountain, things really began to get hot for the regiment, in terms of seeing some real action. Its a challenge to summarize it briefly and accurately. Hopefully I got it right. 

There is a long article by Charles E. Davis, Jr. on the page, which I have titled, "Shelter Tents."    It's one of my favorites.  In the article Davis describes some of his tent-mates in detail, and the various fates they met. It culminates with an incident involving General George L. Hartsuff, and one of his staff officers, "Brown," that the boys didn't care for too much.   Its a great look into the character of the soldiers in the regiment.    I am also fortunate to have photos of all the boys mentioned in the reminiscence.

As usual, I've added a few somewhat humorous graphics to illustrate the text.   The technical aspects of building this site are a challenge to me at times.   Browsers don't act alike, and pages or images become distorted, as much as I try to prevent it.   Currently, I'm building the pages to have a somewhat 'fluid' layout, which will expand or contract with the visitors browser window size.   My screen resolution is set to 1280 x 1024 and the pages look beautiful, although they are designed to hold up with smaller screen sizes.    I've heard they hold up well in IE-8. I prefer viewing the pages on a full screen monitor at max-width, or with a sidebar opened on the left side of the screen. I may switch to a fixed width page layout to prevent the distortions I occasionally experience.   I appreciate feedback on the website, whether technical in nature, or regarding content.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fair Use

I just received a digital image from the Boston Athenaeum for use on the 13th Mass web site. I had to pay a digitizing fee and a one time only ‘use fee’ but it was reasonable and worth it to me. It will be the most costly item on my web site. It’s a lithograph by artist Henry Bacon, [Co. D, 13th Mass.], depicting two important events in the annals of the regiment; 4th of July, 1861 & 4th of July, 1862. It’s titled “Ye Two Galorious Fourths.” My philosophy for the website is to let the soldiers in the regiment tell its history as much as possible. Bacon’s semi-comic visual remembrance contains personal details that another artist might miss. I’ve been pretty fortunate in finding materials for the website, but there have been a few times when I’ve run into obstacles, and I think this is a topic that’s worth a little discussion.

A library recently denied permission to post some letter transcriptions from their collection on my site. Some of this soldier’s letters have been floating around at auction houses, and I own one of the originals. The soldier was killed at Gettysburg, so in a way, I’m exploiting his death for poignancy sake. But the real reason I wanted to post selective transcriptions, is because the soldiers’ voice is one more piece of the huge tapestry that tells the story of the 13th Mass. This brings up a question of ownership & ‘free use.’

I can understand the library’s position; they don’t want the letter transcriptions plastered across the internet. My position is that the context of the letters would be more easily understood if they appeared on a webpage featuring contemporary letters of his comrades. Plus the letters were written almost 150 years ago…but the library owns the letters, and they get some small revenues selling transcriptions and attracting visitors to their collection.

Many descendants of 13th Mass men have shared soldier’s letters or images with me, and I always ask if it is alright to post them on the website. These add to the voices of the regiment. Many descendants are pleased to do so, some are indifferent, and a few are reluctant for family considerations or for publishing considerations. Most are very generous. But it is still their decision to make, which I respect. I get materials from other places – books, and from private collectors. I used to think it was better for artifacts to reside in museums or libraries rather than with private collectors, because access would be easier but I have changed my mind on this point.

All the private collectors I have contacted and met, have been extremely generous, beyond belief, in sharing their collections with me. They are enthusiastic about their collections, and they take great pains to care for them and share them. Plus they have the means to keep up their collections. One gentleman let me hold the sword of Col. Corcoran, 69th NY Vols. I went to see the uniform of a 13th Mass officer that he keeps carefully preserved in his home. His wife has become an expert seamstress in mending collectible garments that have deteriorated. The collector assured me that I could get a photograph of the item should I ever want it. Another private collector shared with me about 100 digital images of 13th Mass soldiers from his own collection. There have been a lot more. In contrast, many valuable artifacts that belong to libraries or private institutions are never seen. Limited funds and prohibitive costs keep artifacts locked away in basements. I’ve been told that General Rosecran’s personal memorabilia is locked away in storage at UCLA because no one has the time or money to properly care for them.

I’ve had positive experiences with almost all the libraries and institutions I’ve contacted for permission to use materials on my website. Usually transcriptions can be used for free, provided credit is given the organization as holder of the document. Digital images, like scans of letters or pictures, are more likely to have nominal fees attached to their use. But a couple of prominent institutions have un-reasonable fees. Twice I’ve been prevented from using materials due to excessive fees. In addition, distracting watermarks were required by one institution in order to display an image. I wanted to use several drawings of a war correspondent, who sketched several locations and buildings where the 13th Mass traveled and bivouacked. The institution wanted all the images to have watermarks, and charged an annual use fee of $50 per image. I really don’t think they wanted to grant permission at all, so they put the high fees in place. I have limited funds to devote to this hobby, so I found substitutes to use in place of those images, but a few of the sketches were one of a kind - and I couldn’t find replacements. I admit, I prefer to use good quality images on my site; and perhaps they are sometimes too large, but I’m trying to recreate what the soldiers experienced as much as possible. Contemporary images provide that to visitors.

Like-wise, another large prestigious institution has Cdv’s of many 13th Mass men in their collection; and I can order digital copies of them, - at $50 ea. I settled for photocopies.

Believe it or not, I am selective about what I choose to post. If I were not the pages would be even loooooooooonger. I can’t use everything I find (or have) on my website. I have some lengthy web pages but that is because I like to have as broad a selection of materials as possible that depict life in the 13th Mass.

All this brings up the question or debate of what constitutes ‘ownership’ & ‘fair use.’ Personally, I think document transcriptions should be free to use. I don’t mind paying nominal fees for that privilege. For images, I don’t mind small un-obtrusive watermarks, but I’d prefer not to have any. I think scanning fees should be cheaper than $50 an image and use fees nominal (definitely not $50 dollars a year). I don’t mind paying a small amount if I have to, but fees give pause to using documents. I can sympathize with private institutions that need to pay staff and meet overhead costs to maintain collections. I just wish that some of these lesser known materials were available for use. These are my thoughts anyway. If any of you have more insight on the subject I’d like to hear your comments.

To those collector friends and families that have shared information with me, MANY THANKS! I think you’ve helped make unique.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who is Fred M. West ? A Mystery

     The Southern California Genealogy Society is transcribing the register of the 1886 Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) encampment in San Francisco.  They hope to have the project finished by June.  The G.A.R. was a post-war fraternal organization for honorably discharged Union Veterans.  The organization was a strong political force in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  My friend and fellow Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War comrade, Nick Smith is helping with the project and has compiled the records of about 20 G.A.R. posts himself.

     An appendix to the encampment book, lists members by the regiment they were affiliated with during the war.  Nick came across several former members of the 13th Mass listed in the department and sent me their names.  These are members that settled in California and the west.

     I recognized one of the names, Levi L. Dorr, a prominent post-war physician in San Francisco, who wrote several letters to the 13th Regiment Association in Boston.  Some of these letters were published in the annual circular; (a newsletter sent out once a year to association members).   I know of others who settled out west who were not on this list, but there is one ‘mystery’ name, that does not appear in any of the rosters of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.  That name is “F.M. West.”

     Here is Nick’s list which includes the name of the G.A.R. post the veteran belonged to, and its location.  I’ve added the soldier’s record from the rosters to each name:

  • Alonzo P. Bacon, Post 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco; 
    From the Roster:  age 21; born, Winchester, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, ’61; mustered out, March 9, ’63, for promotion; detailed as clerk at headquarters, June, ’62; appointed capt., Ulman’s brigade Colored Troops, March 9, ’63; resigned, July, ’63;  residence, San Francisco.
  • Bartlett M. Bramhall, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 19; born, Boston, clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, 1861; mustered out, Feb. 16, ’63; detailed for duty at War Department, Nov. 20, ’63.
  • Frank Coolidge, Post # 118, Riverside Post, Riverside, Cal.;
    From the Roster:   age 25; born, Sherborne, Mass; farmer; mustered in as priv. Co. H, July 16, 1861; mustered out as Corporal,  August 1, 1864, promoted to Corporal March 18, 1863.  Residence, Riverside, Cal.
  • John H. Crocker, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 20; born, Charlestown, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 16, ’61; mustered out, Dec. 30, ’62; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • J. Curtis, Post # 1, Lincoln Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:  John B. Curtis; age, 19; born, St. Johnsbury, Vt.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, '61; mustered out as corp., Aug. 1, '64.
  • Levi L. Dorr, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 21; born, No. Bridgewater, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 6, ’61; transferred, May 5, to V.R.C.; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • George Fred Ford, Post # 5, Custer Post, Carson, Nevada;
    From the Roster:   age, 19; born, Boston; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, Aug. 16, ’62; mustered out, Aug. 1, ’64; was detailed as clerk at headquarters; residence, Carson City, Nevada.
  • Samuel S. Hinckley, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 19; born, E. Bridgewater, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 16, ’61; transferred to V.R.C. as sergt.-major, July 1, ’63; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • Robert F. Johnson, Post # 63, Antietam Post, Petaluma, Cal.;
    From the Roster:   age, 27; born, Roxbury, Mass; painter; mustered in as priv., Co. E, July 20, ’61; mustered out Dec. 26, ’62.
  • F.M. West, Post # 23, Rawlins Post, Stockton
    No record in the rosters
     F.M. West who is listed as a member of Co. K in the G.A.R. register does not appear in any of the regimental rosters which I have been able to search.  This includes the Massachusetts Adjutant Generals report, & the roster printed in the official history of the regiment. Nor does the name appear in the corrections to the roster which appeared in the 13th Massachusetts association circulars.  He does not appear in the roster of Sergeant Austin C. Stearns book, which is a memoir of Company K.  Most Co. K men were from the town of Westborough, Mass.  An 1891 history of the town contains a detailed record of all the men from town that served in the military during the war.  F.M. West does not appear in the book.   Nick said the Stockton G.A.R. post listed him very specifically as having been in Co. K of the 13th Mass.  Nick was also unsuccessful in digging up information on West.  He wrote me, “I’m not finding anything in S&S that’s even and easy transposition of his name or his regiment, and he doesn’t’ show up in their roster of the 13th”  (S&S is an on-line database that lists the rosters of soldiers and sailors in the civil war).

    Authorities on the G.A.R. told me membership was very strict.  Applicants had to prove their service; their honorable discharge, and have comrades vouch for their good character and service record.  At first I thought perhaps this was a mis-spelling or an alias. I know of another 13th Mass soldier who settled in San Francisco under an assumed name. But the G.A.R. register appears to be correct.  I found two references to West in the 13th Regiment Association Circular #16, dated December 1, 1909. 

     The first mention of West is among the list of letters rec'd from comrades to the association secretary.  It is stated a letter was received from Fred M. West, Stockton, Cal.  So Fred M. West is apparently someone known to his comrades in the 13th Mass. 

     Levi L. Dorr, who is on Nick’s list, was very active in the GAR  At one time he served as the commander of his post, General Thomas, Post #2, San Francisco. Several of his letters are printed in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars.  Here is an excerpt of a letter that mentions West:
Crocker Building, San Francisco, Cal., Sept. 3, 1903.
     My Dear Comrade:  Our occasion of the G.A.R. has come and gone, and they adjourned to meet in Boston next year.  I wish I could anticipate being there with you, but at the present time that seems improbably.  We had a very glorious and satisfactory encampment, besides the many entertainments of various Posts and other organizations here.
     The Thirteenth Massachusetts turned up rather numerously.  Shepard, of company A, from New York; W. H. H. Howe, company B, from Boston; E. R. Jenness, Post No. 26 in Boston;  Fisk, of company H,  from near Boston; Morton Tower, of company B from Oregon; H. J. A. Hebbard, of Alameda, Cal., and F.M. West, of  Stockton, Cal.  Then there was B. T. Norris, of Sonoma, Cal.  All of these, but W. E. Shepard, who was not particularly well, joined me, and I gave them a lunch at the Olympic Club in this city.  There are two others of our regiment in San Francisco; John A. Neill, of company G, living 208 1/2 Leavenworth street, and S. D. Thurston, of company C, of  906 Geary street.  I invited these last comrades to join us, but I had no response from them, and I am not aware that they were seen by others visiting here.

    There were some inquiries for Sam Hinkley of company A, who formerly lived here, but I have not heard of him for years.  George Kimball, of company B, lives in Los Angeles but made no response to my initiation.  We were all so glad to meet and pass a couple of hours nicely, and all seemed to enjoy themselves in talking over old times and of old comrades.
     The identity and service of Fred M. West still remains a mystery.  His case is more perplexing than 1st Lieut. Francis H. Stowe, whose name was misprinted as 'Stone' in the rosters.  If anyone has any ideas of how he might have been affiliated with the regiment, and missed being on the rosters please let me know.   As far as I know he was not a sutler.  The sutlers to the regiment during the war were Mssrs. Chase. Robinson & Brown.