Collecting WWI Portrait Photos – More Than What Meets the Eye


The title idiom of this post is an apt description when it comes to the wild world of collecting World War One photography, and especially portrait/studio shots.

More than meets the eye: A hidden significance, greater than is first apparent, as in This agreement involves more than meets the eye. [Mid-1800s]

The hidden significance, as stated in McGraw Hill’s Diction of American Idioms is what makes pursuing,collecting and  sharing “lost” photos from the world wars so interesting and important to researchers. The individual men and women who lived and breathed the history of our past are often presented as watered-down versions of the average Joe or Jill of their time period. By finding, researching and publishing these photos, I hope to help the public realize that every story is worth telling, irregardless of perceived heroism involved.  In the case of this blog post, I’ve decided to pick a current (May 31st, 2017) eBay auction that will certainly meet the criteria of the Mid-1800s idiom seen above.

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May/June 2017 eBay Auction

I will post auction details  at the conclusion of this blog post, but I wanted to start with a breakdown of why this photograph will sell for hundreds of dollars more than a normal, unidentified U.S. soldier/Marine/sailor from WWI. First, lets see some of the auction details (the seller did a great job of pointing all these out and deserves credit for his research!) that make this a 10/10 snag for the lucky bidder.

What makes this a 10/10 photo for the WWI portrait collector?

  1. Photo aesthetics – The young man in the French studio photo (Carte Postale postcards are French)  is striking a casual pose with the intention of showing off multiple pieces of his uniform/accessories. He’s sporting a bold eagle/globe/anchor (EGA) insignia on his cap, a very nice privately purchased trench watch on his left hand (indicating that he’s right handed), an overseas chevron, wound chevron and a nice set of sergeant stripes on his right sleeve.
  2. Identification – The period inked identification on the bottom right hand corner gives the intrepid researcher a good place to start searching. I own dozens of shots signed in the same manner. Jos L Moody 6th Marines, ex “SS San Juan” is a good jumping off place…
  3. Written content – The back of the postcard gives a vivid description of his service time to a friend who he appears to have some strong connection to. He mentions the occasion of his wounding, his promotion of sergeant “I was made charge of Bombers” as well as an ominous mention of being “bumped off” as well as his pending commission. Further, the reverse tells us that the photo was taken and sent at least two months before the end of the war, being dated September of 1918, and therefor raises it a few notches in desirability.
  4. Research! – The most vital piece of elevating the significance of a photograph is the story behind the photo. What do all the other key elements tell you? In this case we have, with further research, a photograph of a U.S. Marine who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Chateat-Thierry. His Silver Star valor award reads:

    By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 9, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), Corporal Joseph L. Moody, Jr. (MCSN: 92820), United States Marine Corps, is cited by the Commanding General, SECOND Division, American Expeditionary Forces, for gallantry in action and a silver star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded him. Corporal Moody distinguished himself while serving with the 79th Company, Sixth Regiment (Marines), 2d Division, American Expeditionary Forces at Chateau-Thierry, France, 6 June – 10 July 1918

    Additionally, he is further mentioned in the unit history for the 6th Marines and some additional info can be gleaned: “The six men above {Moody included} named delivered messages through intense machine gun fire from the front line to their battalion commanders , going and returning with important messages…”

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Postcard back (officer censured)

So where does this leave us? I’ve pointed out all the salient points that make an interesting photo. But my observations don’t need to be valued in any specific way. I enjoy collecting extraordinarily interesting portraits that don’t need to include identification or a “cool story”. On the flip side, a junky shot of a well-identified soldier/Marine/sailor with a cool history won’t make me open my wallet. It’s really about what you want. Go with your gut!

Ok – so here’s my prediction based on my 10+ years of buying/selling/trading WWI portrait photos. This photograph should sell for anywhere between US $175-$275. It may go for much more if someone has Sgt. Moody’s uniform, medals or has a specific affinity for the 79th Marines. I wouldn’t be surprised if it topped $350 on a good day. Tax returns are coming in?

As of  8:00 PM Eastern Time on 5/31/2017 the bid is at $23.49. I will update the post once the auction ends.

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Here’s the address for those of you who have some cash to spend! (Also, $7.75 is a crazy price for shipping!)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/WWI-US-Marine-Silver-Star-Winner-Signed-RPPC-USMC-AEF-79th-CO-2nd-Bn-6th-Mar-/182599306597?hash=item2a83c44d65:g:5LwAAOSwblZZLgWN

Gossip Column

Los Angeles Times, April 16th, 1937

FILM PRODUCER’S EX-WIFE SUES Divorce Action Filed Against Retired Officer Faith Cole MacLean Moody, ;former wife of Douglas Mac- ‘Lean, film producer, yesterday filed suit for divorce from’ Capt Joseph L. Moody, United States Marine Corps, retired, charging , incompatibility. Capt. Moody, a brother-in-law of Helen Wills Moody, tennis star, married Mrs. MacLean in Shanghai in January, 1932, while he was stationed in China as an adjutant in charge of American shore forces during the Sino-Japanese troubles. He now is in theatrical work here. The couple separated March 19, according to the complaint filed by Attorney A. S. Gold- ‘flam. There are no children.

 

eBay Auction Result

Surprisingly enough, my estimate on the final result of the photo sale came in slightly higher than the exact average of my original estimate of $175-$275. Well, maybe it’s not that surprising given that I’ve bid on over 1,000 WWI portrait photos in the past decade….

Here’s the result! – The photo sold for $239.50 plus shipping.

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6/6/2017 Final Price

 

Wounded WWI AEF Chaplain Poses in French Studio – Can We Identify Him?


It is never easy to identify someone from a photograph taken nearly 100 years ago, but it’s even more difficult solely based on obscure details from his/her clothing. In today’s blog post I will focus on a photograph purchased on eBay from a fantastic seller named Colleen ( eBay name: cacdivi) who recently sold me a superb French real photo postcard of an American chaplain posed in a studio during World World I (WWI). Here’s the shot:

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Wounded American Chaplain in WWI

The scene is fairly typical of what was common of the time period: WWI soldiers/sailors/marine/nurses posed in photo studios in far off places in order to document their experiences to send to relatives and friends. In this case, a currently-unidentified US chaplain (see the crucifix on his shoulder and cap?) strikes a chin-up pose for a French photographer. How do we know that the photo was taken in France?

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French Postcard Paper

French postcard paper during WWI almost always contains a central vertical dividing mark with CARTE POSTALE emblazoned across the top. I’ve noted a fair number of varieties likely due to differences in production, but the main bulk of French postcard paper of the period look very similar to the above scan.

 

Dissection of Photographic Context

What are we looking at? I’ve already mentioned that the man posed in the photo is a US chaplain in a French studio during the war. But what details have I been pondering while waiting for the photo to arrive in my mailbox? (Thanks to Colleen – you rock!)

  1. The chaplain has served at least six months in Europe

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    His Left Sleeve (6th Months Overseas Service) Right Sleeve (Wound Chevron)

  2. He was wounded or gassed at least once during his service

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    His Right Sleeve: Wound Chevron

  3. The photo was likely taken during wartime (before the armistice)
  4. He is oddly sporting a mustache and goatee

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    Rarely Seen Facial Hair in WWI

  5. He is wearing an identification bracelet made in France

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    WWI Bracelet Made in France

Why is a photograph of a wounded chaplain posed in a wartime studio worthy of devoting hours of research to? According to a website devoted to military chaplains, the number of wartime chaplains during WWI was incredibly low:

In 1918, Congress passed an act that called for one chaplain for every 1200 officers and enlisted men. Bishop Hayes, in a letter to Cardinal Farley, informs Farley of the current number of chaplains overseas. As of June 1918 there were 301 chaplains in the Army, 30 in the Navy, 7 with the Red Cross, 2 interpreters, and 95 volunteer or Knights of Columbus chaplains.

This photo most likely represents an Army chaplain included in the above June 1918 census: any US chaplain who served at least six months service would’ve been present in France in June of 1918. And to have been wounded or gassed, our unidentified chaplain was likely present during the earlier battles of the US involvement of the war.

Our Chaplain?

Okay, so we know our chaplain was wounded, was photographed at some point in the  spring or summer of 1918 and likely served in an Army division that arrived early (for the Americans). His identity, based on date, is narrowed down to 1 in 301 – a pretty good number when it comes to identifying a photo taken 100 years ago. Also, based on rules, he has to be less than 45 years of age.

But what was required to be a US chaplain in WWI? Before researching this photo I had no idea of the low number of volunteers or the actual requirements for acceptance. My personal photo collection contains a half dozen photos of chaplains, which is a surprisingly high number based on the scarcity of the subject matter. I was lucky to track down a copy of the rules and regs of chaplainhood here: http://archnyarchives.org/2015/11/10/military-chaplains-in-world-war-i/

Official Chaplain Requirements

Requirements for Commissioned Army Chaplaincies

  1. The law provides that no person shall be appointed chaplain in the Army who on the date of appointment is more than forty-five years of age.
  2. Applicants must be a citizen of the United States either by birth or naturalization. Must produce at examination proof of naturalization and must not have been born in enemy alien territory.
  3. Health and eyesight must be in excellent condition; if glasses are worn sight must be at least 12:20 in each eye without glass.
  4. Weight must be proportionate.
  5. Must produce an examination certificate of graduation from an approved College or Seminary which includes collegiate course. If not a graduate candidate must be prepared to stand mental test in general subjects: history, geography, arithmetic. etc.
  6. It is most desirable that each applicant write a letter addressed to the Secretary of War setting forth fully his qualifications such as experience with societies, clubs, dramatic circles, and knowledge of foreign languages. This letter must be be enclosed with application and sent to the Chaplain Bishop.
  7. Formal application must be made on regular blanks made by the War Department. These Blanks should be applied for to the Ordinariate, 142 East 29th Street, New York City.
  8. Must enclose to the Chaplain Bishop a formal letter of permission from his Ordinary.
  9. Must send a small photographic print of himself.
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1918 Chaplain Application Form

 

For now I have a good bit of information to extend my research with. Until then, stay tuned!

 

WWI Portrait Photo – Lt. Carl Wehner, 141st Infantry Regiment, KIA at St. Etienne, France


A recent eBay purchase has lead me down a warren of research avenues that are helping shed light on the American involvement at the bloody fray at St. Etienne during the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in October of 1918. The photo depicts Lt. Carl Wehner with the following inscription on the verso:

“141st Inf., 36th Div. Lt. Carl Wehner killed Oct. 8, 1918 by a German sniper.”

It was this writing that pushed me to purchase the photo at a reasonable $25.00 in hopes of researching and fleshing out the life of the young Lieutenant and Wisconsin native who was killed in action only days after his 26th birthday.

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Lt. Carl Wehner in France, 1918

This photo was most likely taken a month or so before his death in October, as he is sporting a 6 month overseas service chevron on his left cuff. August or September would roughly be six months after his arrival from stateside officers training. He was selected to be a Lieutenant with Company K of the 141st Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division – a unit comprised mostly of southern boys from Texas and surrounding states. Having been born in Lincoln, Kansas and spending most of his life in Madison, Wisconsin, he originally enlisted with the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division but elected to train to become an officer. At the time of his enlistment, he lived at 925 West Dayton Street in Madison.

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Carl’s WWI Draft Registration Card

And I was able to find a fascinating account of his death while commanding Company K following the death of his Captain (Source – Entry by RavenHawk)

…It was near St. Etienne, as his captain layed dead, Wehner led his unit forward, until he himself was struck in the head, by enemy gunfire, and killed. One account of the battle (perhaps a little exagerated), said: “Lieutenat Wehner died with three machine gun bullets in his forehead and a smile on his lips as he led Company K of the 141st Infantry over the top after his captain was killed by the fire of the enemy.”….In a letter signed by the Marshall Of France, Commander in Chief of the French Armies of the East, Petain, it was written: “Lt. Wehner displayed audacity and disregard of danger during the operations near St. Etienne. At the head of his men, encouraging them with his skill, he largely contributed to the success of the operations which made it possible to capture all objectives. He was killed at his post of combat.” For his bravery, Wehner was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for bravery….As for Wehner’s family, they didn’t find out until after Christmas, that Wehner had been killed, in battle…Wehner’s body was returned to Madison in 1921, and reburied at Forest Hill on 10/21/1921.

WWI Portrait Photo – 102nd Ambulance Company, 26th Division


This photograph is a true mystery for me. I can’t identify the sitter of this photograph even though there is so much information to work with:

  1. He’s identified on the print as Pvt. John Illiano of the 102nd Ambulance Company
  2. He’s sporting a 26th Division uniform with at least 1 1/2 years overseas service
  3. He was one of the first 100,000 US soldiers to enlist (conjecture based on star)
  4. He’s most likely from New England at the time of enlistment
  5. Probably Italian-American

I found a digital scan of this photo on War Relics Forum, a site dedicated to WWII artifact research. The OP of this photo, MD Helmets, doesn’t have any additional information but did claim he/she purchased it from Bay State Militaria back in 2013.

What do you guys think? Any leads?

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102nd Ambulance Company “Mystery Sitter”

WWII Canine Commando – Sgt. Hangover Delivers Well Deserved Kisses to Pvt. Carl Harris – WWII Mascot Dog in Action!


PortraitsofWar followers will know that this site focuses on photographs and vignettes of WWI and WWI soldiers whose stories have never been told. In tonight’s post, we will focus on the story of a young puppy and an equally young soldier who had their photo taken by a U.S. Signal Corps photographer in 1943 somewhere near Fort Eustis, VA. Often times the photos taken by Signal Corps photographers only circulate within very specific regional circles if at all. For example: a photograph of a Burlington, VT soldier is snapped in France while posing with a German tank; if the photo was otherwise unspectacular, prints of the photo may only be sent along to HQ and possibly to a local Vermont newspaper. Also, the photographer, after printing, had the option of requesting a copy of the photo for personal uses. A large percentage of WWII photographs were never printed due to lack of local interest, quality and context.

In this case, we have an incredible endearing photo of Private Carl Harris, a Battery Cook from New York City receiving a well deserved kiss from the unit mascot, Sergeant Hangover, a puppy that was adopted by his unit. Photos like these are what PortraitsofWar is all about!

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Private Harris and Sergeant Hangover in 1943

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1943 period information on the reverse

100 Years Later: Vermont’s Entry into the First World War


It has been called THE GREAT WAR and THE WAR TO END ALL WARS.

According to Tweets from WWI, the American intervention in the war can be summarized as:

There is only room for one: ‘s idealism vs. German ‘s imperialism (US caricature).

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Today, we know it as World War One (WWI). It began in 1914 and ended with an armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The global toll had already reached nearly 40 million casualties, including American losses of 117,465 dead and 204,002 wounded.

100 Years Ago Today

After War was officially declared (House and Senate) on April 6th, 1917 the U.S. began preparations to enter the quagmire of European trench warfare.

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Vermonter John Corcoran (r) in WWI

In June of 1917, U.S. transport ships carrying nearly 15,000 U.S. troops (many from New England) in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) approached the shores of France, these soldiers would join the Allied fight against the Central Powers.  They disembarked at the port of Saint Nazaire; the landing site had been kept secret because of the menace of German submarines, but by the time the Americans had lined up to take their first salute on French soil, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered to welcome them. However, the “Doughboys,” as the British referred to the green American troops, were said to be untrained and ill-equipped, untested for the rigors of fighting along the Western Front.

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PortraitsofWar’s WWI Smithsonian Cover

As U.S. troops landed in France, Americans were mindful of a 125+ year old debt owed that nation. France had been the colonists’ most important ally during the Revolutionary War, having supplied money, material and military brains. The Marquis de Lafayette had fought beside Patriot soldiers, equipping some of them at his own expense. He won the affection of George Washington and became a hero to the young nation. Urged on by Lafayette, France had sent ships, troops, and arms that played a key role in the Patriots’ victory. In early July 1917, the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force troops marched under the Arc de Triomphe, cheered by the people of Paris. In a ceremony at Lafayette’s tomb, where the Frenchman lies buried under dirt from Bunker Hill, an American officer lay down a wreath of pink and white roses. Another officer stepped forward, snapped a salute, and declared: “Lafayette, we are here!”

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Earl F. Lavallee of Winooski, VT in Germany, 1918.

As followers of PortraitsofWar will know, we take a great pride in providing interesting and never-before-seen imagery and narration of wartime photography ranging from the American Civil War to the Korean War. In most cases, I take an authentic photograph from my personal collection and work towards uncovering various details that hopefully elucidate some aspect of the photo.

101st Ammunition Train

In this case, I worked the other way around. My familiarity with the First World War history of the State of Vermont is well known to followers of this blog as well as within my home state. One of my favorite Vermont units to serve in the war was the 101st Ammunition Train of the 26th “Yankee Division”.

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Jeannine Russell (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeology Officer), Myself (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeologist) and David Schütz (Vermont State Curator) inspecting WWI flags

Only a week ago I was lucky enough to be invited into the bowels of the Vermont Historical Society storage area to inspect a series of American Civil War flags with a few colleagues of mine from work. While in the holding area I mentioned that a series of WWI groups had donated regimental flags and/or guidons to the State of Vermont in the years following the war.

Although I can be a bit fuzzy in my recollections, I apparently had my facts straight and we moved a series of shelves to uncover the aforementioned flags. As I fingered through the labels I instantly recognized the attribution: 101st flags. Please see below for a bit of insight into my recollection…

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101st Ammunition Train Guidon Donation Alert, Burlington Free Press, February, 1919

Ok – So my first attempt at searching on the Library of Congress Newspaper website turned up only one reference to the flags, I kept searching (tried COLORS) and came up with this…

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Flags presented

The above snippit from a 1919 Burlington Free Press article reads:

Colors Presented

War Flags and Shields Presented to State

Montpelier, Oct. 23 – The presentation of the colors and shields of the organizations from Vermont participating in the the world war occurred this evening in the State House with some 200 veterans attending and over 400 spectators in the seats of the representative hall and balcony.

The services were fitting and were attended by many of the men who have been prominent in the connection with the war. Col. F.B. Thomas presided over the exercise and the program carried out consisted of the “History of the 57th Pioneer Infantry” Capt. Ernest W. Gibson – Brattleboro

Presentation of colors – First Vermont and 57th Pioneer Infantry, Col. F. B. Thomas… History and presentation of colors of 302nd Field Artillery , Color Sergeant Albert J. Seguin of Newport.

History and presentation of 101st Ammunition Train Col. William J. Keville of Boston Mass.

Presentation of guidon, Company E. 101st Ammunition Train, Capt. Harold M. Howe of Northfield, VT.

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Ca. 1919 Co. E101st Ammunition Train guidon photo (from Brennan C. Gauthier Collection)

Presentation of guidon, Company F 101st Ammunition Train, Captain McMath

Presentation of guidon, Company G, 101st Ammunition Train, Chester Mooney of Newport.

As I stated earlier, I remembered the fact that the 101st and the 302nd had presented the State of Vermont with standards and guidons from prominent units representing Vermont involvement in the war. The following photos show the results of my inquiries:

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Left to Right: Jeannine Russell (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeology Officer), Myself (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeologist) an David Schütz (Vermont State Curator)

In the above photo we have just unrolled the 101st Ammunition Train guidons from their muslin cocoons. Present are representative samples of Co. C, G, F and E of the 101st. Each of these matches with the above 1919 article. How amazing is it to read a 98 year old article about a presentation and see the EXACT pieces in living color?

I’m particular excited about the Co. E guidon. I own a ratty panoramic photo taken of the unit when they returned in 1919. Click here to see ever single facial feature of the men in that group.

Ok – so here’s a photo of the guidon taken right before donation in 1919:

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And here’s the guidon today (my big head is at the left edge of the frame):

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WWI guidons of the 101st Ammunition Train

Also, I requested that the regimental flag of the 302nd Field Artillery be brought out for photographing. Special thanks to Jonathan Croft for being the photographer!

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302nd Field Artillery

Has it really been 100 years?

A Vermont Relic of Pickett’s Charge: Lt. John T. Sinnott’s Gettysburg Hardee Hat


 

“Boys, lie down or you’ll surely be hit!”

– John T. Sinnott, July 3rd, 1863

“John Sinnott, a schoolteacher from Rutland — raised up to caution the men to stay low and was himself mortally wounded, struck in the head by a shell fragment.”

Lt. John Sinnott’s Hardee Hat

Today’s post is centered around the highlight of an upcoming (March 25th, 2017) militaria and sporting goods auction from the collection of Vermont Civil War collector Marius Peladeau. I was able to check out some of the fantastic items that will be highlighted at the auction and was especially blown away by one item in particular. It’s a rare occasion to be able to tie a 150+ year old item to a particular soldier – it’s an even rarer occasion to tie that item and soldier to an exact moment during a historically significant battle that changed the course of American history. In this case, that soldier was Lt. John Sinnott, and the event was the repulse of Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863.

Lt. Sinnott took a piece of Rebel shrapnel in the forehead shortly after telling his troops in his Irish brogue:

Boys, lie down or you’ll surely be hit!

This last utterance was noted by Heman W. Allen in the Pictorial History of the 13th Regiment of Vermont Volunteers, 1861-1865. This quote was spoken in the heated moments of the Confederate artillery bombardment preceding Pickett’s Charge. Close friend and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Captain John Lonergan said of the death of his close friend:

I lay by his side when wounded that terrible day…I tied his head with my kerchief and dropt a tear on his aching brow. He could not speak – he was senseless! His eyes were closed by the enemies’ guns. My eyes burned with tears for his relatives and friends… his father, mother, sisters, brothers, three thousand miles away the exile dies in a foreign land in defense of Ireland’s hope, the starry flag. For nearly a year we marched together, we fought together.

Sinnott apparently anticipated his fate and died shortly thereafter (July 6th) in a field hospital with a note in his pocket that bid farewell to his bethrothed as well as where to send his property in case he should die in battle. His shrapnel-ridden hat was sent back to Vermont along with his body. He was buried in Bridget’s Cemetery in West Rutland. His hat was kept and passed down in his family where it was later purchased by Vermont Civil War collector Marius Peladeau. Mr. Peladeau has consigned the hat along with hundreds of other items in his collection to the Duane Merrill and Company auction house in Williston, Vermont. 

The hat is estimated to sell for $8,000-$12,000 on March 25th, 2017. I will update this post with a final selling price at that time.

Want to bid on this item? Click the hat below!

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Want to know more about Vermont’s involvement at Gettysburg?

The following article was written by Liam McKone and appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 4th, 2014

In early July of 1863, as tens of thousands of men in blue and gray clashed in battle, a Burlington resident distinguished himself with conspicuous gallantry in his only fight during the Civil War.

Midway through the war, two key victories for the federal army struggling to preserve the Union marked a turning point in the conflict. The audacious invasion of the north by Gen. Robert E. Lee that posed a threat to the nation’s capital was repulsed at Gettysburg on July 3. The next day Maj.r Gen. Ulysses S. Grant forced the surrender of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, which gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.

Lee’s defeat prevented a situation that might have ended the conflict with victory for the southern states. Public reaction to the capture of Washington by the rebels or yet another stunning defeat of Union forces — this time on their home territory — could have forced President Lincoln to come to terms with the Confederacy, allowing them to secede from the Union as they desired.

The crucial task of opposing Lee at Gettysburg fell to a new commander as Lincoln replaced “Fighting Joe” Hooker with Maj. Gen. George G. Meade on June 28. Hooker had constantly demanded that more soldiers be assigned to his Army of the Potomac. Before Lincoln ran out of patience with Hooker, the president had agreed to transfer major units from the defenses of Washington to augment the field troops pursuing Lee north.

One such unit was the Second Vermont Brigade composed of five regiments from the state, the 12th through the 16th, nearly 5,000 soldiers who had enlisted for nine months service the previous fall. Their enlistments had almost expired when the brigade was assigned to the First Corps, the lead element of Meade’s forces already well to the north. Guarding a quiet sector of Virginia along the Occoquan River with only an occasional skirmish against rebel cavalry, these Vermont units had never been tested in battle.

Despite worn-out shoes and the summer heat, the brigade marched 120 miles from Virginia to Pennsylvania in six days, each day rotating the less dusty place at the head of the column among the five regiments. Arriving at the First Corps camp on July 1, the 12th and 15th Vermont were assigned guard duty and the three remaining regiments rushed to join the Battle of Gettysburg lready underway.

Capt. John Lonergan’s Company A, 13th Vermont, was leading the column early that afternoon when they reached the crest of a hill and saw the battlefield awaiting them.

Lonergan had recruited Vermont’s only ethnic unit, mostly Irishmen from Burlington and Rutland, plus a dozen Yankees from Westford. His ultimate purpose was to provide trained soldiers for the Fenian Brotherhood dedicated to liberating Ireland from British rule. In 1861, Lonergan had supplied a company for the 2nd Vermont from his Emmet Guards militia unit in Burlington, but it was disbanded by Gov. Fairbanks for failing to assemble on time. for the regimental muster (perhaps some drink had been taken on the eve of departure for war.) The teetotaler Republican governor disliked Lonergan for being an immigrant, an Irishman, a Catholic, a Democrat and a drinker.

Lonergan received authorization in 1862 from Fairbanks’ successor to raise another company. Always brash, Lonergan claimed seniority in the 13th Vermont based on his earlier captaincy and was granted the designator “A” for his new company, even though official state records do not show him being commissioned for either post.

As senior company, his soldiers held the right flank of the battle line at Gettysburg, the traditional position of honor.

Brig. Gen. George J. Stanndard’s Second Vermont Brigade, three regiments near the authorized strength of a thousand men each, were welcome reinforcements to the Union troops on Cemetery Ridge south of Gettysburg. Although “green” troops not yet tested in battle, the Vermont units were used to plug gaps in the line. On the evening of July 2, five companies of the 13th Vermont held in reserve were ordered by Second Corp commander Maj. Gen. Winfried S. Hancock to retake four Union cannon captured at nearby Emmitsburg Road.

Longergan led his “Irish Company” as they shouted the ancient Gaelic battle cry “Faugh a ballagh!” warning the enemy to “Clear the way!” and reached the cannon first. Once the heavy weapons were safely on the way back to the Union lines, the captain turned his attention to a nearby farmhouse from which rebels were firing on the Vermonters.

Clearly Lonergan “had his Irish up.” He stationed his 50 men near the house, kicked in the door, and demanded that the rebels come out and surrender. More than 80 rebel soldiers and officers meekly complied, only to discover that they outnumbered their captors. On the triumphant return to Union lines in the gathering dusk, a veteran soldier on Cemetery Ridge who had watched the nearly suicidal tactics of Lonergan asked the returning “Irish Company” who they were. “We’re the Green Mountain Boys,” an Irishman proudly answered, whereupon the veteran commented drily, “Well, I knew you were green or you would never have charged down there.”

For this gallant action, Lonergan was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

Fitfully dozing among the dead rebels killed in the assault earlier that day, the 13th and 14th Vermont spent that night in the main Union line while the 16th Vermont deployed as skirmishers along Emmetsburg Road. Lonergan’s unit, the senior company in the senior regiment on the field of battle, crouched on the right flank of the Vermont brigade behind a low stone wall. A prolonged artillery duel began at 1 p.m. on July 3; even the greenest soldier knew this was preparation for another infantry attack. Capt. James Rorty’s New York battery next to Lonergan’s company took heavy losses and needed volunteers to help keep the cannon firing. Rorty, secretary of the Fenian Brotherhood for the Army of the Potomac, called on his fellow Fenians nearby and they left their shelter to join the cannon crew. (Rorty, stripped to the waist like an Irish warrior of old, was killed at his guns before the battle ended.)

To escape the fierce pounding of the Confederate artillery, the 13th and 14th Vermont moved forward a hundred yards into the slight protection afforded by the swale of Plum Run, now down to a trickle of water in the July heat. Behind hasty fortifications of fence rails, the men hugged the ground and waited for the rebel assault that was sure to come. As the artillery firing slackened, Lonergan’s second in command — John Sinnott, a schoolteacher from Rutland — raised up to caution the men to stay low and was himself mortally wounded, struck in the head by a shell fragment. When the bombardment ceased, the soldiers could see a Confederate battle line almost a mile wide forming across the valley on Seminary Ridge. The Vermonters were facing some 15,000 well-armed and hardened fighters, now reinforced by Pickett’s fresh division. Stannard brought the 16th Vermont back from its vulnerable position as skirmishers, reuniting the three regiments of his brigade in an isolated pocket in front of the Union line.

When the rebel troops came within range, Stannard’s men opened fire with great effect and seemed to drive the attacking soldiers aside, rather than charging right over the Vermonters. In reality, Pickett’s units were marching deliberately to their left in order to achieve the shock effect of a column and punch a hole in the Union line at the copse of trees used as a landmark for the maneuver. As they passed by on the right of the Vermont line, the rebels were masked from the Vermonters’ muskets, except for a few in Lonergan’s company.

To rectify this situation, the order was given — both Hancock and Stannard later claimed credit—for the 13th and 16th Vermont to move forward by the right flank. This placed Lonergan in the lead of the two regiments as they displaced in a column to march within “half pistol shot” distance from the flank of the rebel mass now charging up Cemetery Ridge.

Lonergan placed his orderly sergeant James Scully, also from Burlington, to mark the pivot point and ordered his men to “change front forward” to form a double row of muskets leveled at Pickett’s soldiers. In turn, each company of the 13th and then the 16th Vermont performed the same action to connect up with the “Irish Company,” first moving in a column of fours and then forming a battle line extending almost to Emmitsburg Road. A ripple of volleys smashed into the mass of rebels; then each Vermonter loaded and fired as rapidly as he could, hardly necessary to take aim at such a large and essentially defenseless target.

Met with concentrated small arms fire to their front — some smoothbore muskets left by rebels on July 2 were now turned on them with deadly double loads of buckshot — and canister from cannon now acting as giant shotguns, the rebel charge stalled and hung in the balance. Then Pickett’s men on the right flank also began suffering devastating casualties as Vermonters poured .58 caliber rifle slugs into them at short range.

Some Vermonters fired a dozen and more times, particularly the first men to arrive on the new battle line. Those few Confederates on the edge of the attacking column who could bring their weapons to bear began to return fire and soldiers in the Vermont units also fell dead or wounded. Lonergan lost four men killed and six wounded as they were exposed the longest to this exchange of lead from musket and pistol, yet he was himself unharmed. Finally the rebels broke, streaming back down the hill and leaving hundreds of dead, wounded, and prisoners behind.

The Second Vermont Brigade joined in the pursuit of Lee on his retreat to Virginia. As their enlistments expired, the regiments were pulled out to return for discharge. The 13th Vermont left on July 10 and was mustered out at Brattleboro on July 20. Lonergan’s company took a train back to Burlington, dropping off the contingent from Rutland en route. The next day the remaining members were greeted as heroes in ceremonies at City Hall Park in Burlington and the “Irish Company” faded away into the mists of history.

WWI 26th Division Chaplain Photo – Bloomfield, VT Native Arthur LeVeer in France, 1918


It’s always fun to sift through assorted boxes from my collection in search of new material to post here to PortraitofWar. In tonight’s case, I stumbled across a portrait shot of a WWI Catholic chaplain from my adopted home of Vermont!  With only 16,000 soldiers, marines and sailors during WWI, Vermont is a hard state to collect.

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102nd Infantry Regiment Chaplain Arthur J. LeVeer in 1918

Chaplain Arthur Joseph LaVeer was born along the Connecticut River in the Northeast Kingdom (a regional name) town of Bloomfield, Vermont on February 3rd, 1886. Commissioned as a 1st Lt. on August 22nd, 1918, LeVeer was quickly sent overseas to serve as a chaplain with the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division.”

Identified chaplain photos are incredibly hard to find on the open market, and to find an example taken overseas showing a unit patch and chaplain insignia makes this an exciting acquisition. Father LeVeer served at St. Norbert’s Church in Hardwick for the remainder of his life; this is a spot that I’ve passed hundreds of times during my life without giving a second thought to the WWI history of the area.

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Arthur’s WWI Record

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Arthur’s WWII Draft Card

Rev. Arthur LeVeer is buried in the Mount Cavalry Cemetery in Saint Albans, Franklin County, Vermont.

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LeVeer in the 1960s

WWI Panoramic Photo – Bumpkin Island Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Navy Training Center 1917 (LARGE PHOTO – BEWARE)


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Bumpkin Island 1917

 

I love digitizing WWI panoramic photos and the photo found above is a great example of an interesting panoramic with some good New England history behind it.  The image was shot in front of Burrage Hospital on Bumpkin Island, one of the Boston Harbor islands.  The camp was used by the U.S. Navy as a training camp.

The Burrage Hospital originally comprised a main hospital building measuring 175’ x 160’, two large covered open-air play houses, a bathing pavilion and a dock. The hospital is near the center of the island, about 80’ above the low water mark and faces south. Its general plan is that of a widened letter “H,” with an extension from the middle of the building back and contained three stories and a basement.

According to David J. Russo:

On the north side of the building, the basement was above ground because of the grading of the island. The south side contained two solariums on both the first and second floors (one set each for boys and girls) and the administrative offices. The two wings of the building contained the hospital wards and measured 25’ x 105.’

Along the front of the building and partly around the sides, ran a porch ten feet wide.

On the interior was a series of ramps between floors to make it easier for those who could not climb stairs, either due to disability or because confinement to wheelchair. This is likely one of the first uses of such ramps in a hospital setting.

The first floor contained an entry vestibule, reception room, matron’s room, matron’s bedroom, nurses room, pharmacy, doctors’ office, doctors’ bedrooms, four large wards, two small wards, two lavatories, four ward bathrooms, clothes storage room, two sewing rooms, linen closet, dining room, administration room, scullery and storage room.

The second floor was divided into four principal large wards, seven small wards, library, suite of three rooms, students’ room, three lavatories, four bathrooms, six bedrooms for hospital staff, operating room, sterilizing room, surgeons’ room, bandage room, etherizing room, and recovery room.

The attic held five dormitories, six closets and bathrooms. In the basement were two mens’ rooms, four lavatories, two furnace rooms, store rooms, play rooms, coal room, laundry room, drying room, cold storage room and ice room.

The exterior was composed of yellow brick, terra cotta, Indiana limestone trim and a green slate roof. Overall, the building took on the form of a seaside cottage, complete with symmetrical gables and ample porches.

During WWI, the island was taken over for use as a U.S. Naval Training camp, with the hospital serving as the Administration Building. The camp was dismantled after the war. The hospital reopened briefly in about 1940 for polio patients but closed during WWII, and burned in 1946.

 

 

 

 

WWII Aerial Recon Photo: Burning German Convoy During Battle of the Bulge


alvaalegre059In a follow up to the popularity of my last post (see here), I’ve decided to begin scanning my collection of large format 12×12 inch aerial photos taken during the Battle of the Bulge.  In this first post, we see a German motorized transport convoy in ruins following a strafing attack by P-47’s of the XAX Tactical Air Command (TAC) on January 23rd, 1945.  I acquired a large set of these original 12×12 inch prints (complete with pencil notes on the back) on eBay a few years ago directly from the estate of a 9th Air Force photo tech who apparently saved hundreds of original flyovers like this.  He saved duplicates as well!  This is one of those duplicates.

I’ve taken the time to crop the shot for close up views below.  With some luck, followers of this page may be able to track down the exact location of this image!  Good luck guys!

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January 23rd, 1945

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