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Faces of the Civil War

Hardback
, 280 pages

77 halftones

ISBN:
9780801878763
November 2012
$31.95

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Faces of the Civil War

An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories

Before going off to fight in the Civil War, many soldiers on both sides of the conflict posed for a carte de visite, or visiting card, to give to their families, friends, or sweethearts. Invented in 1854 by a French photographer, the carte de visite was a small photographic print roughly the size of a modern trading card. The format arrived in America on the eve of the Civil War, which fueled intense demand for the convenient and affordable keepsakes. Considerable numbers of these portrait cards of Civil War soldiers survive today, but the experiences—and often the names—of the individuals portrayed have been lost to time. A passionate collector of Civil War–era photography, Ron Coddington became intrigued by these anonymous faces and began to research the history behind them in military records, pension files, and other public and personal documents.

In Faces of the Civil War, Coddington presents 77 cartes de visite of Union soldiers from his collection and tells the stories of their lives during and after the war. The soldiers portrayed were wealthy and poor, educated and unschooled, native-born and immigrant, urban and rural. All were volunteers. Their personal stories reveal a tremendous diversity in their experience of war: many served with distinction, some were captured, some never saw combat while others saw little else. The lives of those who survived the war were even more disparate. While some made successful transitions back to civilian life, others suffered permanent physical and mental disabilities, which too often wrecked their families and careers. In compelling words and haunting pictures, Faces of the Civil War offers a unique perspective on the most dramatic and wrenching period in American history.

Ron Coddington is a visual journalist whose work has appeared in USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the San Jose Mercury News. He currently writes a monthly column, "Faces of War," for The Civil War News. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Anne.

"An engaging and human portrait of the Civil War."

" Faces of the Civil War not only exhibits Coddington's appreciation and understanding of Civil War history but also his passion for early photography."

"The book helps to humanize the men who volunteered for 'Father Abraham's' army and illustrates that some of the war's experiences have changed little over the last century and a half."

"This is a well-written, well-documented and interesting little book."

"A fascinating window into the war's impact on the individual soldier... well researched and engagingly written. Any teacher of the Civil War would do well to consult this volume and incorporate some of the captivating tales into lectures and readings."

"I recommend this book to all the Civil War buffs out there."

" Faces of the Civil War is one of those rare prizes that has multiple entry points."

"77 brilliantly researched stories about the lives of Union soldiers during the Civil War."

" Faces of the Civil War is well worth purchasing and placing in a Civil War library... My copy will always be on a handy shelf."

"These are haunting stories—and so are their pictures."

"With the plethora of Civil War books that focus on battles, regiments, and the famous, this volume's subject matter and format are a welcome counterpoint."

"It was not a 'good war,' and these faces tell that tale all too well."

"A tour-de-force. The cartes de visite of soldiers proudly posed in their uniforms and the narratives of their lives, drawn from the veterans' service and pension records, enable the reader to better understand the grim realities that confronted Civil War soldiers and sailors on the battlefield, in camp, on the march, at the hospital, and also on the home front."

"First-class storytelling that skillfully combines words and images to educate and fascinate at the same time."

"Ron Coddington's research is prodigious and his writing excellent. The biographical sketches of common soldiers in Faces of the Civil War are engaging and endlessly fascinating. He has made and is making an important addition to Civil War study, bringing to life ordinary men who stepped forward to fight for the Union."

"With his meticulous research and a journalist's eye for good stories, Ron Coddington has brought new life to Civil War photographic portraits of obscure and long-forgotten Confederates whose wartime experiences might otherwise have been lost to history. This is more than just a fine compilation of Civil War photographs."

"Ronald S. Coddington has scored a masterpiece again. As a follow-up to his much applauded Faces of the Civil War featuring Union soldiers and sailors, he has authored a sequel. This time Confederates are center sage as they proudly pose for the all-important cartes de visite that are as treasured today by collectors and buffs as by their home folks and comrades of long ago. Complementing these are biographical profiles that inform but do not overwhelm, reminding us that each haunting face is a real person who lived, served and died many years ago."

"Ron Coddington has produced a fine new volume that will take its place beside William A. Albaugh’s Confederate Faces and several other Confederate photographic histories. Coddington’s Faces of the Confederacy: An Album of Southern Soldiers and Their Stories continues the tradition of publishing Confederate soldier portraits, and further restricts the collection to carte de visite format. That, however, is where the similarity with earlier books ends. Instead of the standard fare of somewhat small photographs and brief captions, he provides us with full page or nearly full page pictures, as sharp as modern digital technology can make them, and has thoroughly researched and presented the story of each individual pictured. In that way, he has widened our understanding of these men far beyond the normal presentation. Just as important, for the most part, these are not familiar photographs or well known faces. Instead, they comprise a broad band of individuals about whom little has been published before. Many served in the western theater, though there is certainly good representation from Lee’s army. While some of the photographs are from well known collections such as that of the Museum of the Confederacy, far more are from private collectors who have dedicated their lives to finding and saving these rare treasures. I was particularly delighted to see some of Bill Turner’s treasures in this book, as well as those of David Wynn Vaughan. In the world of Civil War photography, it is rare to find something that is truly new, but this book fits that bill."

"In developing parallels between the control of one's image in narratives and the use of the photograph as biography, Coddington makes a compelling argument for the reader to rethink the place of photography in telling history. His use of photographs as visual text allows the reader to reimagine history through the photographer's leans. This book maps new methodologies for researching and writing about photographs and plumbs the hidden history of the Civil War narrative."

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