Huzzah! Hathi Trust

5 March 2021

My favorite basic source for Louisiana troops is Andrew Bradford Booth’s three volume set (in 7 books) of the Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers and Louisiana Confederate Commands (1920). A one-stop shop for the military basics on more than 102,000 individuals.

Until recently I’d consulted an online text transcription of Booth’s work, but it’s disappeared. A couple of days ago I found the Hathi Trust Digital Library has all 7 of the books, but had limited access to three of them for copyright issues.

Books published in the US before 1925 are now out of copyright – in the public domain – so I took advantage of the feedback form on the Hathi Trust site and pointed the problem out to them.

Amazing! Within an hour I had an acknowledgement and a few hours later Jessica from user support responded that she was passing my request to a copyright expert. The next day I got an email from Kristina saying she agreed the books are no longer under copyright and would open up access for US users. And she did, immediately. She also took the time to explain why they’d been restricted in the first place: there was a 1974 microfilming date on the copyright page.

This is in sharp contrast to the results I’ve had over the years from Google Books in many similar situations: Crickets. Nothing. Nada.

Bravo Hathi Trust!

In 1864, building on information collected by others, civil engineer Simon G. Elliott documented the locations of more than 5,800 soldiers’ burials on the battlefield of Antietam on a map. His similar work for burials at Gettysburg has long been known, but a copy of his Antietam map lay largely unnoticed in the New York Public library for many years until library staff digitized the map and made it available online between 2015 and 2018.

In June 2020 Gettysburg researchers Tim Smith and Andrew Dalton were looking into Elliott, came upon this map, and brought it to the attention of other historians and the public.

I’ve broken my digital copy into 14 large segments, each covering about 1/2 square mile of the battlefield, to make it a little easier for you to explore and make sense of this huge map. They’re all now up on Antietam on the Web (AotW) in a special exhibit.

49 individual soldiers and 32 regiments are identified on the big map. I have highlighted each of them in white and linked them to related pages on AotW so you can get more information about them.

This is Lieutenant Charles Frederick Williams, Jr. of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry. He was mortally wounded in action at Fox’s Gap on South Mountain on 14 September 1862 and died of wounds in Middletown, MD on 22 September.

His photo is from the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the US, Massachusetts Commandery (MOLLUS-Mass) Civil War Photograph Collection, US Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC). The USAHEC, formerly the US Army Military History Institute (USAMHI) has hosted [gone in 2021] the excellent and massive MOLLUS Mass Collection online for at least 10 years (yay!), but they slapped this watermark over everything (boo).

Read more about the Collection history at Carlisle in a 2011 article by Molly Bompane.

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update, 10 February 2021

Thanks to Heather Goyette in Ridgway Hall at USAHEC for the following instructions to find the MOLLUS images online:

The digital MOLLUS images … have been uploaded into our current Arena search page … You can then search … by entering the names of people, places, things, etc [in the search box]. As before, be sure to spell them out and not use abbreviations …

Clicking on the “Museum & Archives” tab near the top of the search results page will weed out library-related items …

To browse through individual album images enter “MOLLUS-Mass Civil War Photograph Collection” [in the search box] to see a listing of all digitized albums available, or enter something more specific such as “MOLLUS-Mass Civil War Photograph Collection Volume 4” to see what is available for an individual album. After selecting an album click on “Show linked records” to expand the list, and you can then click on individual image links to open them.

This new search interface will take some practice, but I’m so glad I can get the images again. And no sign of watermarks yet. Thanks USAHEC!

Below is Lt. Williams on page 4943 of Volume 96 of the Collection, with other officers of the regiment, from USAHEC.

Site Redesign Complete

20 February 2018

Antietam on the Web was a bit overdue for an overhaul: some of the PHP code had been deprecated (gone obsolete), much of the HTML was clumsy and likewise obsolete, and the site navigation didn’t make it easy to find the information on the site. Most of the navigation dated from 2005, and even the newest PHP and HTML code was last updated in 2010.

So I re-wrote and re-organized the whole thing.

The content is now gathered into big clusters for people (soldiers & units), places (maps), events (narrative),  and features (special projects).  I hope you’ll find it easier and more intuitive to use. It’ll certainly run more efficiently and be easier for me to maintain.

Here’s a quick visual comparison, new vs. previous home page design.

I’d love to hear how it works for you.

I have been busy with the business of life, but not entirely ignorant of the world outside! I certainly noticed the October 2010 announcement of the incredible generosity of the Liljenquist family who donated their collection of more than 700 Civil War ambrotypes and tintypes to the Library of Congress. The Library is creating a physical exhibit for them opening in April 2011 as part of the Sesquicentennial observations.

In the meantime, they’ve scanned and posted the collection online on their own pages and through a Flickr photostream.  I’ve explored this treasure a little, and found some intriguing images with connections to our favorite battlefield.

[Unidentified woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of unidentifed soldier] (LOC)
Woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of soldier (1861 – 1865, Library of Congress via Flickr)

I’m sorry that so few of the subjects of these pictures are identified.  Only a couple of dozen are named, another dozen or so are identified by military unit from clues on their uniforms or in the photo background.  The remaining hundreds are unidentified.

I am moved all the more, however, by the anonymity of this woman in her grief. I presume from the context that the soldier in her lap has recently been killed. Her husband? It reminds me again of the deadly way the War ripped through families and brings perspective to battle maps, memorials and markers …

Tom Clemens makes his debut in the blogosphere today on The Maryland Campaign of 1862. That’s also the title of his two-volume series coming soon from Savas-Beatie: a carefully annotated edition of General Ezra Carman’s life’s work.

Tom's book, cover

Volume 1: South Mountain arrives mid-May 2010.

Among other things, Tom promises to use the site to get some of the hundreds of letters from battle veterans to Carman and the Antietam Battlefield Board online. Those eyewitness accounts formed much of the factual basis for Carman’s iconic narrative of the battle.

Tom’s new website/blog uses WordPress software, with a custom visual design built on the Thematic framework. I can recommend this software combination to anyone who wants to get online quickly, while still serving clean, fast-running and compliant code, with simple maintenance and vast flexibility in visual appearance.

In short, the tool doesn’t get in the way of the content.

WordPress makes it easy for Tom – who is not a web guy by profession – to maintain both the content and the look & feel of his online home down the road.

Good blogging and welcome, Tom!

Frank Schell’s battle

17 January 2010

Frank Schell accompanied the Army of the Potomac on the Maryland Campaign of 1862, and was on the field for the battle on 17 September. He was a civilian there from New York – a sketch artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Fortunately for those who study the battle, a number of his original battlefield sketches have survived. I’ve recently discovered a set sold at auction in 2007, and a group preserved in a collection at Boston College, in particular. I’ve grabbed some selected gems among them to use here.

Even better, in 1904 Schell published his recollection of the events that were going on around him as he was drawing these same pictures. So in sharing his pictures and his superb eye, I can also leave the writing to Frank – to narrate his own drawings and give us a sense of his Battle of Antietam.

Hooker crossing the Antietam (16 Sept 1862)click to see larger image
Hooker’s Corps crosses the Antietam (16 September 1862, pub. Leslie’s 11 Oct 1862)

As I awoke soon after daylight on the morning of September 17, 1862, the air was already vibrating with mighty sounds of battle … With spirits aflame, I speeded at my best from Keedysville for the headquarters of the commanding general … I joined the group about the commanding general, who was anxiously scanning through his field glass the situation to the right, across the Antietam. Looking more to the left, the thick west wood, with its dark, broad front so clearly emphasized by the little white Dunker church, was clearly in view along its entire extent upon the Hagerstown turnpike.

General McClellan suddenly lowered his glass, and, with a few animated words and expressive gestures, called Porter’s attention to something that caused an immediate ferment of buzzing excitement throughout the group and a close scrutinizing of the bit of woodland, for the time being, the focus of such absorbing interest …

An excellent companion to Moore’s Roster for researching North Carolina troops is the 5 Volume Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865, published by the State of North Carolina in 1901. Editor Walter Clark was Adjutant of the 35th Regiment at Sharpsburg, and later Lieutenant Colonel of the 70th Regiment.

All NC military units – along with an array of related subjects – are represented in one or more articles, and each piece is written by a veteran who served in the regiment, battalion, or battery. Their works range from brief essays to fairly sophisticated unit histories. As a bonus, most include selections of war-period photographs of officers and men. There are hundreds of faces altogether across the volumes.

Bethel Regt - from Clark's Histories

These volumes are available online from both GoogleBooks and the Internet Archive (IA) Collection. I like the IA image quality and paging interface best, so a hyperlinked table of contents (hyperTOC) for that online edition follows …

I’ve been on a fruitful run over the last couple of weeks looking into North Carolina soldiers who were at the battle of Sharpsburg. It began with the following haunting photograph from the Time-Life Voices volume on the battle of Fredericksburg …

William B. Whitaker, 1st Sgt, Co. I, 16th NC Infantry (c. 1861)
W.B. Whitaker (Time-Life’s Voices: Fredericksburg, courtesy Frances Honeycutt)

He’s First Sergeant – later Captain – William Benjamin Whitaker of Henderson County, North Carolina. Last week saw the anniversary of his death at Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862. He’d enlisted in Company I of the 16th Infantry in May 1861 and was promoted Captain in April 1862.

Looking into him, I found two extensive works online about North Carolina State Troops in the War. I’ll assemble hyperlinked tables of contents (hyperTOCs) for each to save a little time on future research.

First – in this post – an old standby reference work: Moore’s Roster. Next time, Walter Clark’s Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions

CWArtillery gets new home

7 December 2009

Bad news and good news. The bad news is that the famed website cwartillery.org is no more. The good news is that the core information – if not the lively, efficient design – is still available online.

CWArtillery, 1999 (C. Ten Brink)
header, The Civil War Artillery Page, 1999 (C. Ten Brink)

Unfortunately, original author Chuck Ten Brink can no longer maintain the site, but he has passed the material to the care of the Robinson Artillery. It begins on their Civil War Artillery page.

Chuck first put his work on the subject on the Web in 1996, and has been thereafter the go-to guy for many of us on terminology, equipment details, guns and artillerists, and (in partnership with Wayne Stark) the Civil War Artillery Encyclopedia and the National Register of Surviving Civil War Artillery (sample: Antietam’s page c. 1998).

I’ll very much miss the old site, but say Hurrah, Chuck, for your long online service!