Sunday, February 11, 2018

Help ID veterans, ladies in 1894 Antietam monument image

AFTER DIGITALLY RESTORED: An image of 16th Connecticut veterans at the dedication of their
monument at the 40-acre Cornfield at Antietam on Oct. 11, 1894.
BEFORE RESTORATION: The original albumen is tattered and separated into two large pieces.
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On Oct. 11, 1894, 16th Connecticut veterans gathered in a rolling field at the south end of the Antietam battlefield for the dedication of a monument where the regiment had shed so much blood. A prominent inscription on the multi-colored granite obelisk told of the regiment's sacrifice in the notorious 40-Acre Cornfield on Sept. 17, 1862 -- the Nutmeggers' first battle of the war:

"Number engaged --779
Killed 43
Wounded 161
Total 204"

Post-war image of  Frank Cheney,
 the former 16th Connecticut 
lieutenant colonel.
The afternoon was marked by speeches, of course, as well as by the invocation by former 16th Connecticut chaplain Charles Dixon, who recalled "noble men whose hearts glowed and burned with patriotic fire." But the most poignant event that day may have been the reading of a poem by 60-year-old Nathan Mayer -- the regiment's former surgeon -- which brought many of his comrades to tears.

At least two photographers were there to document the solemn event. Before the dedication -- one of four such events that early-fall day at Antietam for Connecticut regiments -- an unknown photographer shot an image of the monument blanketed by a massive American flag. Afterward, Gettysburg-based photographer William Tipton took several images, including the previously unpublished photo seen at the top of this post. The tattered and torn original -- digitally restored with the magic of Photoshop -- was found in a box with other family items by Willa Biewald, who has generously allowed me to dig into its secrets. (Hat tip: Matt Reardon, executive director of New England Civil War Museum.)

Unfortunately, there are no identifications on the front or reverse for the 28 people shown in the 13- x 16-inch albumen. The white-bearded gentleman to the immediate right of the monument almost certainly is former 16th Connecticut Lt. Colonel Frank Cheney, who suffered a severe wound to his left arm at Antietam and was discharged from the army on Christmas Eve 1862. A 62-year-old wealthy businessman and a beloved figure in the regiment, he contributed a large sum to pay for the land where the 16th Connecticut monument was located.

Further research surely will yield the names of some of the other veterans, several of whom hold canes, as well as the women who appear to the right of the monument. Those ladies, probably wives of veterans, may have traveled from the village of Sharpsburg, Md., to the dedication site in the carriage seen in the left background. Thanks to a complete list of the "excursionists" published in October 1894, we have a starting point for our investigation into the names of all subjects who appear in the photograph.

We do know with 100 percent certainty the photograph was taken by Tipton, whose name appears near the bottom left of the image. A meticulous record-keeper, Tipton compiled a catalogue of images he shot at Gettysburg and elsewhere in 1894. But the 16th Connecticut monument dedication photograph surprisingly does not appear in his 40-page booklet.

Perhaps by sharing this post with readers we'll soon know much more about this old image taken in the 40-acre Cornfield.

In the left background, a carriage used by some of the "excursionists" to get to the remote field. 
Photographer William Tipton included his name near the bottom of the image.
Among those who attended the dedication were four women, probably wives of 16th Connecticut veterans.
A photograph number and date the image was taken appear near the bottom right of the albumen.


* Hover effect does not work on phones, tablets

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1 comment:

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