Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lovers reunited? A discovery

This man is almost certainly George W. Ladd of the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers.
This blog was a retirement project, but I am no longer retired. I keep it going – in slow motion, at least – because its readers share so many new things with me, especially about New Hampshire’s Civil War experience. An email the other day from Kevin Canberg is a case in point.

Carrie Deppen
Kevin discovered the blog while researching a soldier named George W. Ladd. A private by that name was a principal character in a chapter of Our War, my 2012 book about the New Hampshire Civil War experience. In the book I told the story of his romance – at least it was a romance in his view – with a Pennsylvania girl he never met. Her name was Carrie Deppen, and she became his faithful correspondent and encouraged his affections.

I never found her letters, but sometimes his suggested what she had written him. For example, on Aug. 2, 1862, Ladd appeared to address the idea that she join the army to be with him.

“I have read a number of times about girls having enlisted in regts.,” he wrote, “and I presume there are many here in this army now. Two were found in Gen. Pope’s army a short time since, who had enlisted with their lovers, but I shouldn’t advise anyone to do that.

“Rather romantic, is it not? But then few could stand the hardships that they would have to undergo if they were disguised, although I think you would be worth a dozen of some soldiers we have in this brigade who are always playing sick.”

Richard Lord, a descendant of Carrie’s, compiled Ladd’s letters in a book called Dearest Carrie, which was my chief source. Lord was also kind enough to supply me with Carrie’s picture, which I used in the book.

But although it turned out I owned one of George’s letters to Carrie, I had no photograph of him.

That’s where Kevin Canberg comes in. The photo reproduced here is his. “Geo. W. Ladd” is etched on the back.

Canberg is a veteran collector of Civil War “hard images.” This image is a Melainotype, which he describes as a transitional photo technology used between glass ambrotypes and metal tintypes. Melainotypes were obsolete by early 1862 or ’63, but the technology was in use when George W, Ladd had his portrait made. Because of the props in the photo, including the flag, Canberg also recognizes the photographer as someone who worked only early in the war.

From the banner made for Pvt. Ladd's company
Canberg was searching the web for information about Ladd and found my blog. Specifically, he found the posts here and here. The Ladd-Deppen story in my book focuses on their romance by mail. It leaves out much of the wartime experience he describes in his letters. The two posts tell that story.

One can never be certain – George W. Ladd is a common name – but I’m also pretty sure the fellow in the picture is the man I wrote about. Ladd was mortally wounded in August 1862, so the portrait was shot between June 1861 when his regiment went to war, and then.

I checked the photo with Dave Morin, an old comrade on the New Hampshire Civil War trail. He confirmed that the uniform was right and also noted the “2” in the brass keeper on the soldier’s chinstrap. This is a regiment designation, and George was in the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers.

There’s more. The 2nd’s Company B, mostly Concord men (George was from West Concord), were chosen for their marksmanship. They were armed with Sharps Rifles and saber bayonets, as is the soldier in the photograph.

The company was known as Goodwin’s Rifles, after Ichabod Goodwin, the governor when they volunteered in April 1861. The ladies of Concord made them a silk banner to carry into battle. Their commander was Simon G. Griffin, a Concord lawyer when the war began, colonel of the 6th New Hampshire at Antietam, a brigadier general later in the war.

A while ago, incidentally, Dave Morin found more letters to Carrie Deppen in the archive at Auburn University. You can see and read them here. These letters were written by a cousin of Deppen’s and several other soldiers. They are from 1863 and later, after Lord’s death, but obviously Deppen’s letter-writing cheered many other soldiers.

Thanks to Kevin Canberg for sending me this spectacular image and allowing me to share it with you.

The etching on the back  of  Kevin Canberg's  Melainotype 

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