The Civil War Parlor

”The dead continue to live by way of the resurrection we give them in telling their stories” -Stories of Real Human Beings Make History Powerful, Photographs Make it Immediate. A Blog Remembering the Men and Women of the American Civil War, North & South, people, faces, and a unique culture we will never see again. Photos and stories about the people that lived it, including African American Photographs, pre civil war photos and the period in cultural history that began just after the civil war. The historical info, photos and documents in this blog reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. This blog does not endorse the views expressed in some posts, which may contain materials offensive to some readers, you cannot compare the beliefs and ethical values of the people of the 1800's to the standards of today. Every effort is taken to remember the men and women of the Union and Confederacy equally with dignity and respect. The events of the war, and the men of the war, are fast fading from the public attention. Its history is growing to be an “Old, Old Story.” Public interest is weakening day by day. The memory of march, and camp, and battle-field, of the long and manly endurance, of the superb and uncomplaining courage, of the mass of sacrifice that redeemed the Nation, is fast dying out. Those who rejoice in the liberty and peace secured by the soldier’s suffering and privation, accept the benefits, but deny or forget the benefactor-1877 National Tribune.

Civil War Museum’s Severed Arm From Antietam’s Battlefield~

Long after the guns grew silent at Antietam, the earth yielded up a gruesome reminder of the bloodiest day of the American Civil War: a severed limb, now the focus of intense study at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Maryland. 

A Sharpsburg-area farmer is said to have found the human forearm while plowing a field two weeks after the 1862 battle. Officials at the museum in Frederick, Md., are trying to learn more about the limb in hopes of verifying that it’s a relic of the Battle of Antietam.

The muddy-looking right forearm, with skin and hand attached, was donated anonymously to the museum earlier this year, said Executive Director George Wunderlich. It had been displayed for several decades at a private museum in Sharpsburg in a glass-topped, pine case with a placard reading, “Human arm found on the Antietam Battlefield.”

"Being able to put the story of this unknown person before this country is very important to us," Wunderlich said. "His remains will tell a story that will relate us back to his sacrifice. This was what they gave for what they believed. If done properly, it’s a very poignant story."

The unidentified farmer who found the limb put it in a barrel of brine, according to Thomas McGrath’s 1997 book, “Maryland September: True Stories from the Antietam Campaign.” The farmer reportedly gave it to a Boonsboro physician, who is said to have more permanently preserved it with embalming fluid.

The arm’s owner was probably a small man less than 20 years old, said William Gardner, a former Marshall University forensic medicine instructor who examined it in March. Since the elbow joint is undamaged, with no surgical saw marks, the arm was likely removed somewhere between the shoulder and elbow, he said. The forearm skin and tendons appear to have been violently twisted.

Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers 1865-1866- This Photograph Shows The Ravages Of Osteomyelitis. 


  • According to the medical history on the verso of this photograph, “Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers, aged twenty-seven years, was wounded at the South Side Railroad, near Petersburg, Virginia, on March 31st, 1865, by a conoidal musket ball, which struck the anterior and outer aspect of the right thigh…comminuting portions of the upper and middle thirds of the femur, and passed out posteriorly about the middle of the gluteal fold.” Ruoss was taken to the corps hospital at City Point and after one week transferred to a general hospital in Washington. Two and one half years later Ruoss was still in “generally feeble condition,” a patient at the Post Hospital.
  • Before the use of antiseptics infection was considered a normal part of the healing process. During the Civil War, however, five infections were recognized as abnormal: tetanus, hospital gangrene, pyemia, erysipelas, and osteo myelitis. While the first four had a fatality rate of over ninety percent, with death ocurring within weeks of infection, osteomyelitis, a chronic bone infection, lasted for years. Slowly eating away at the bones of the patient, the infection was responsible for the majority of amputations after the war. This photograph shows the ravages of osteomyelitis. Although his complete medical history is unavailable Private Ruoss, fortunate not to have contracted one of the four fatal hospital infections, apparently survived his extended hospital stay.

Photo Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824–1907) Former attribution to: William Bell (American (born England) Liverpool 1831–1910 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)*&deptids=19&pos=13

Stephen D. Wilbur 1865

Photo by Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824–1907) Credit line: Gift of Stanley B. Burns, M.D. and The Burns Archive, 1992

Many Civil War surgeons reminiscing long after the war, lamented their lack of preparation for the difficulties of treating large numbers of severely wounded men.

‘Many of our surgeons had never seen the inside of the abdomen in a living subject…,’ one physician wrote, adding, 'Many of the surgeons of the Civil War had never witnessed a major amputation when they joined their regiments; very few of them had treated gunshot wounds.' Despite the lack of preparation, Union surgeons treated more than 400,000 wounded men–about 245,000 of them for gunshot or artillery wounds–and performed at least 40,000 operations.

Less complete Confederate records show that fewer surgeons treated a similar number of patients. As would be expected, the numbers of surgeons grew exponentially as the war raged on. When the war began, there were 113 surgeons in the U.S. Army, of which 24 joined the Confederate army and 3 were dismissed for disloyalty. By war’s end, more than 12,000 surgeons had served in the Union army and about 3,200 in the Confederate.

Corporal Israel Spotts, Company G, 200th Pennsylvania Volunteers

Photo by Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824–1907)

Dr. Bontecou’s patient history for Corporal Spotts explains that nearing the end of his treatment, the wounded soldier deserted from the hospital. Presumably he believed he was healthy enough to head for home after three years of hard service. Spotts died four months later, on September 20, 1865.

Stanley B. Burns/The Burns Archive,

Post Civil War Lt. Henry O. Flipper’s Quest for Justice: 

"As Honorable A Record In The Army As Any Officer In It" In 1999, President Bill Clinton Issued Him A Full Pardon.

*If Ever There Was A Story That Should Be Told On Film-This Is It*

Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, on March 21, 1856, Henry Ossian Flipper was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1873. Over the next four years he overcame harassment, isolation, and insults to become West Point’s first African American graduate and the first African American commissioned officer in the regular U.S. Army. Flipper was stationed first at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, later served at Forts Elliott, Quitman, and Davis, Texas. He served as a signal officer and quartermaster, fought Apaches, installed telegraph lines, and supervised the building of roads. At Fort Sill, the young lieutenant directed the construction of a drainage system that helped prevent the spread of malaria. Still known as “Flipper’s Ditch,” the ditch is commemorated by a bronze marker at Fort Sill and the fort is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

In 1881, while serving at Fort Davis, Flipper’s commanding officer accused him of embezzling $3,791.77 from commissary funds. A court-martial found him not guilty of embezzlement but convicted him of conduct unbecoming an officer and ordered him dismissed from the Army.

After his dishonorable discharge, Flipper fought to clear his name as he pursued a career as an engineer and an expert on Spanish and Mexican land law. In 1898, a bill reinstating him into the Army and restoring his rank was introduced in Congress on his behalf. To bolster his case, he sent Congressman John A. T. Hull, chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs, the letter (see link below) along with a brief supporting the bill’s passage. Flipper’s letter to Hull is an eloquent statement asking Congress for “that justice which every American citizen has the right to ask.” The bill and several later ones were tabled, and Flipper died in 1940 without vindication, but in 1976, the Army granted him an honorable discharge, and in 1999, President Bill Clinton issued him a full pardon.

The National Archives and Records Administration is pleased to present these documents from the career of a man who served his country with honor and fought injustice tenaciously.

The Bayonet -Cold Steel

The Civil War Bayonet was nothing more than a sharpened piece of steel that infantrymen were issued. They would simply stick it on the muzzle of their rifles and off they go. It’s effectiveness was more psychological then physical.

Seeing a few thousand people running at you with large knives on the end of rifles could have a pretty frighting effect. However despite this only about 1% of Civil War casualties were actually a result of a bayonet wound.

Soldiers used the bayonet more often as an everyday tool around their camp rather than a weapon. There were a few instances where the bayonet made a prominent appearance. Such as during the Battle of Gettysburg when Union General Joshua Chamberlain ordered his men to fix bayonets and then charged down little round top completely routing the confederates there. These instances though were few and far between.

The use of “cold steel” to force the enemy to retreat was very successful in numerous small unit engagements at short range in the American Civil War, as most troops would retreat when charged while reloading (which could take up to a minute with loose powder even for trained troops). Although such charges inflicted few casualties, they often decided short engagements, and tactical possession of important defensive ground features. Additionally, bayonet drill could be used to rally men temporarily discomfited by enemy fire.

The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War

"Semper Fidelis"  The Marines In The Civil War-

Washington, D.C. Six marines with fixed bayonets at the Navy Yard

"A group of Union Marines, wearing dress uniforms and carrying Model 1842 muskets, at the Washington Navy Yard in 1864."

Civil War

  • 1861-1865 — Civil War; nearly half of Marine Corps’ officers resign their commissions to join the New Confederate States Marine Corps — Confederate Marines’ roster reads 539 — A resolution introduced to Congress was one of the first attempts to disband the Corps; idea was tabled but the thought continued
  • 18 June, 1866 — Another resolution to disband the Corps studied and dropped (21 Feb., 1867)
  • Nov. 19, 1868 — Marine Corps Emblem adopted (usually credited to CMC Jacob Zeilin; emblem nearly unchanged since that time) — The Marines’ Hymn first begins to be heard; no author credited.
  • 1883 — Marine Corps’ motto — “Semper Fidelis” or “Always Faithful” adopted, replacing other well-known motto’s of “Fortitudine” (early 1800’s) and “By Sea and By Land” (1876).
  • 1888 — John Phillip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” composed.

Officers of 37th New York Infantry

The 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment or the “Irish Rifles” was formed accepted by the State on May 25, 1861, and organized in New York City. The regiment mustered in the service of the United States on June 6 and 7, 1861 for two years of service to June 22, 1863.

During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 3 officers, 52 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 2 officers, 24 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 1 officer, 57 enlisted men; total, 6 officers, 113 enlisted men; aggregate, 119; of whom 2 enlisted men died in the hands of the enemy.


Carte de Visite of an Unknown Bride c 1861

This carte-de-visite or photograph of an unidentified woman in a wedding dress was found on the Gettysburg battlefield by Samuel Griffiths, Company H, 29th Pennsylvania Infantry. Who she was and the fate of the soldier who carried the image remain a mystery.

Paper. L 9.4, W 5.6 cm
Gettysburg National Military Park, GETT 42453:

photograph touched up and colorized @thecivilwarparlor S.Palmer

Love Letter from J. Whaley to James Cariker 

"You are the hold power of my harte. I am true to you for I cant love no other one but you."

May 9, 1862
This letter was found with letter GETT 40389. It was picked up on the Battlefield near Middletown by Jacob Bechtel.

The letter is transcribed as follows: To Mr. James Cariker Dear Sir I avail myself of the optunity of writing you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and I do hope that those few lines will find you injoying the same blessing. Jim I received your letter and it was received with a very glad welcome by mee. Jim I am very sory to hear that you did not get a letter. I written to you some time ago. Jim I oftimes think of you and think if I shal ever see you again on earth. you muse write. I like to her from you if I cant see you. Jim you said that thir was some one their that I loved better than you. You must not think that. How can that be when you are the hold power of my harte. I am true to you for I cant love no other one but you. Jim do you sufore. I wold have a man that wold not for his rits I never expect to mary till war break and you get home again. Think think of me Jim and write to me agin soon. Brother William and Malissea is well you must write I must close remember mee till deth your very respectfully from your trulove. Meiss. J. Whaley

Paper. L 16.0, W 10.3 cm
Gettysburg National Military Park, GETT 40390


“This is a casual view of Union Army camp life,” During free moments, the men would clean up and be shaved.


The hair of the men in the Civil War was a major change in tactical warfare from the previous worldwide wars. For example, the wars in Europe prior to the American Civil War were fought with long hair, and in fact long hair was a valuable trait sought after in solders primarily for two reasons:

  1. Long hair increased the physical appearance of men, giving them a raw look that would intimidate opponents. This very same fact of long hair increasing the bulk of a male was extrapolated to facial hair as facial hair was also left to grow fully to increase the male’s upper body bulk.
  2. Long hair helped guard soldiers from the cold, and in Europe winter time is remarkably cold and bitter.
  3. Long hair served to protect the skull against friction injuries or abrasive injuries.

However, during the Civil War the higher ranking officials would mandate that all soldiers be neatly trimmed as, by the time the war was starting, barbers had realized of the positive effect that good hygiene had on soldiers.

Civil War Straight-Edge Razor- Made by Wm Greaves & Sons, Sheafworks, Sheffield, Steel, horn. Dia 1.5 cm

Gettysburg National Military Park, GETT 9126

  • Razors

During the Civil War razors became safer and longer lasting which allowed for a razor to be used on more men. While cuts did still occur, barbers soon learned to adapt to the stressful environment of the battlefield and would be able to shave mean with greater efficiency.

Post war- In terms of shaving, neatly trimmed moustaches became the social norm. The usual facial hair style inherited to civilians from the war was a clean face with a moustache reaching the edges of the mouth or what is known as a classic moustache.

With regards to barbershops and barber products, the barbershop as a business skyrocketed in popularity. Barbershops after the Civil War became social places for men to gather for hours and every town no matter their size would have at least one barbershop. The barber products became more common place, with shaving razors being easily available for men to buy.


General Irvin McDowell and staff, Arlington House, 1862

He is best known for his defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run the first large-scale battle of the Civil War.

In 1879, a Board of Review commissioned by President Rutherford B. Hayes attributed much of the loss of the Second Battle of Bull Run to McDowell. In the report he was depicted as indecisive, uncommunicative, and inept, repeatedly failing to answer Porter’s requests for information, failing to forward intelligence of Longstreet’s positioning to Pope, and neglecting to take command of the left wing of the Union Army as was his duty under the Articles of War.

Civil War Militia- 

  • In album: Benjamin Brown French “Photographs,” p. 105.

Portrait of Captain Edward Camden - Volusia County, Florida 1917

  • He put on his Civil War veteran’s uniform and tried to register for the draft on the first day of World War I.
  • With Horse: Believed to have been taken in or near DeLeon Springs, Florida 1917.

Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,