Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gallery: Faces of the Fighting Fifth (part one)

[More faces of the Fifth are here, here and here.]

It will come as no shock to regular readers of this blog that my favorite Union Civil War infantry regiment is the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers. More than a decade ago, Mark Travis and I walked in their footsteps and drove their march routes from the Virginia Peninsula to Gettysburg. Together we wrote My Brave Boys, the history of the regiment under Col. Edward E. Cross.

Mark and I chose Cross's regiment in part because we're from New Hampshire and the Fifth is our state's most celebrated regiment. But our reasoning was not entirely or even mainly parochial. Consider this quotation from Regimental Losses in the Civil War: 1861-1865, William F. Fox's 1889 study:

Col. Edward E. Cross
"The one regiment, in all the Union Armies, which sustained the greatest loss in battle, during the American Civil War, was the Fifth New Hampshire Infantry. It lost 295 men, killed or mortally wounded in action, during its four years of service, from 1861 to 1865. . . . The losses of the Fifth New Hampshire occurred entirely in aggressive, hard, stand-up fighting; none of it happened in routs or through blunders. Its loss includes eighteen officers killed, a number far in excess of the usual proportion, and indicates that the men were bravely led."

In Our War, I continued the story of the Fifth with a wealth of new material. Chapters follow Col. Cross's experiences in Arizona, at Fredericksburg, at a political convention in Concord and at Gettysburg. The book recounts the lives of Edward E. Sturtevant and Frank Butler, both officers in the Fifth, and George Bucknam and Eldad Rhodes, both enlisted men.

Over the years I've also had the good fortune to come across many images of men of the Fifth. I like looking at their faces. Many have a wariness of the camera -- not surprising in an age when photography was new. My friend David Sullivan, a photographer and artist, speculates that their usually grave expressions may not necessarily be a reflection of their state of mind. Possibly they -- or their photographers -- knew that holding a smile for the long exposure time of 1860s cameras was harder on the jaw and cheeks than looking serious. Then again, they were going to war and no doubt wanted to be seen as fearless warriors.

Here are several of the images I have gathered (more will follow in a later post):

Albert G. Cummings, an officer from Enfield,
was wounded in battle three times. 
Everett S. Fitch of Hanover served out his
three-year-term, mostly as an officer.

Lt. Robert S. Dame, a Portsmouth native
who enlisted from Concord, was wounded
and captured at Cold Harbor.
Wounded as a private at Fair Oaks,
 Albert Miner of Croydon later won
a commission in a heavy artillery regiment.
Samuel G. Langley of Manchester was
the Fifth's original lieutenant colonel
 but left the regiment in late 1862. 
Maj. Edward E. Sturtevant, the state's first
volunteer, fell at Fredericksburg.
Charles A. Hale of Lebanon was with Col. Cross at Gettysburg
and wrote an account of the experience after the war.  
O'Neil R. Twitchell, an officer from Dummer,
was wounded at Antietam. He served
with the Fifth throughout the war.
John S. Ricker of Milton, who rose to major
of the Fifth, was seriously wounded during
the regiment's last battle, at Farmville, Va.

1 comment:

  1. Great images Mike. Several which I have never seen before. How do you get such clear images? Looking forward to your next post.

    Happy St. Pats Day!

    Dave M.