Sunday, February 24, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Faces of the Civil War Navies

With Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors, author Ronald S. Coddington adds another impressive work to his growing list of "Faces of" series. Previous albums of Union, Confederate, and African American faces, now combine those three categories by looking specially at their seamen.

Faces of the Civil War Navies covers 77 identified sailors, whose cartes de visites and tintypes have survived over the last 150 years or so.

During the war, around 100,000 men served in the navies of the Union and Confederate forces. Coddington selected 12 Confederates and 65 Union sailors (2 of which are African American) to profile. Officers predominate, making up 62 of the profiles, probably due to their photographs surviving in larger numbers. The remaining 15 profiles are of enlisted men.

In covering these men, Coddington tells not only their personal and military biographies, he also helps educate those of us who have quite a knowledge gap when it comes to Civil War navies about some of the most significant naval actions of the conflict.

His selected sailors come from a variety of backgrounds. However, it seemed, perhaps not so surprisingly, that many had New England roots. Some had significant pre-war experience as mariners while others came straight off the farm or transferred from the army.

A nice bonus to the book is the author's informative preface, which gives a thorough history of the cartes de visites (CDV) process and its place in early photography. The majority of the images that Coddington utilizes in Faces of the Civil War Navies are in the form of the CDV. Some of the profiles are longer than others due to the amount of located source material, but regardless, they are all interesting and informative. I highly recommend it and look forward to his next in line: Faces of Civil War Nurses.


  1. I have always been fascinated by Civil War navies. My term paper for my college CW&R class was on the Monitor and the Merrimac (you can tell I'm a Yankee).
    But the incident that MOST fascinsted me was the attempt by a Confederate ship to "invade" Portland, Maine. The US Revenue Cutter "Caleb Cushing" was commandeered by the Confederates, and shore batteries went so far as to fire wheels of CHEESE at the Rebels!
    Check this -- at paragraph 11:

  2. Hi Mike, Thanks for sharing this. Coddington covers the Portland, Maine incident in the profile of Confederate 3rd Engineer Eugene W. Brown. Fascinating!