What’s in a title?

I suppose not in a title, but behind it that I mean. What does the title say to the reader? I know what it tells me as the writer and the creator of that title that houses the innards of a literary jaunt into fantasy (not Fantasy, I enjoy watching it and occasionally reading it but do not write it) I called Two Struck Images.

First, some background.

I had the treat one fall weekend in 1999 to host my younger brother at the 135th reenactment of the Civil War battle of Chickamauga. I had enough uniform parts and an extra rifle to fully outfit him (save for the shoes, I to this day still apologize for having to wear my old, worn out brogans that need re-soled). I was always the history buff and he went along for reasons of his own. I’d been away to college and then permanently settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico afterwards and married while he was in Atlanta, Georgia. I think he was glad for some company.

With my reenacting battalion, the Army of the Pacific, we portrayed Heg’s 15th Wisconsin as our guiding impression and for the first day’s scripted battle. The 15th Wisconsin was part of the bloody action that took place on the Viniard Farm and suffered heavily on that first day’s combat. At the event was a period photographer and he and I sat for two images to be struck. Two different poses, two different images and we each kept our favorite to take home. Some time later I was looking at my own image and penned this short story of two brothers and the images they possessed. I titled it Two Struck Images for the story told of the battle and the tie one boy finds with that past when found he finds one of the images 150 years later.

Today I have commissioned someone to edit the story and someone else to do the cover image and for the first time I was confronted with the difficulty of my title. I conceived of it and titled it and to me it ties things together. From here on out, however, I need to step away from it as the writer and approach it as a reader who knows nothing of what I know about the two images and the role they play in the story. Hard to do. I only get one shot to appeal to someone, I want to toe that line between engaging mystery and confusion.

Two Struck Images, original title but brightened

Image in Time title, brightened

Please leave other thoughts in the comments section. If you have other title suggestions leave those too. Short story to be released on Kindle in May.

Hey there, sailor.

Crew of the USS Monitor in the James River, 1862
(click image to enlarge)
Crew of the USS Monitor in the James River, 1862
(click image to enlarge)

I’m not sure I’ve seen an image that captured billowing steam like this before, but the ghosting along the image partially obscuring the men in the background is probably steam from the cook stove at left. These images were taken of the USS Monitor on station in the James River in 1862 after she was sent to respond to the CS Merrimack’s incursion into Hampton Roads to attack the Union blockading fleet on March 8 and 9, 1862. As a keen eyed reader pointed out, you can clearly see a dent in the turret in the second image. The Monitor would sail up the James after the Merrimack was scuttled on May 11th, 1862 when the Confederates abandoned Norfolk (the Merrimack’s base) and it was too deep of draft to make it up the James River so it was destroyed. These two images would have been taken some time between the loss of Norfolk and the destruction of the Merrimack and the Monitor’s participating in the bombardment of the Confederate Batteries on Drewry’s Bluff on the James River in support of General George B. McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign on May 16th, 1862.

The above image is strikingly clear and show some great detail of federal sailor uniforms. The man in the foreground is the cook in the top image and the man in the turret top of both images is the same. There is also a uniformity of dress absent from most images of infantry and cavalry units in the civil war. The navy was federal whereas the overwhelming majority of infantry, cavalry, and artillery units used in the land war were state volunteers. The navy on the other hand was all federal. One did not volunteer for a state navy (the states did not maintain a navy)but enlisted in the Navy whose adherence to dress and code was much more strict than that of the volunteer ranks. Of the regular infantry regiments that saw service one would have seen similar discipline and uniformity of dress as her officers were all West Point graduates and not appointed or elected. Same for the Navy, whose officers would all have come from Annapolis and seen service before the war.

By contrast with the other armed services, the uniform is simple and looks to be comfortable. In the iron Standard Federal Woolen Sailor's Frockclads, the new entry into naval warfare, the mode of dress needed to be light as the steam powered engines produced an internal heat that was at times unbearable. Lightweight wool frocks and trousers and light shoes being standard enlisted uniform. The standard Frock for northern climes was, as pictured above, the woolen variety.

Federal Sailor's Muslin Frock
Muslin Enlisted Frock

There were also Frock’s of Canvass and of Muslin depending on the area of duty and need for personal comfort in heat and tropical areas.

Federal enlisted canvass Frock
Canvass Enlisted Frock

By contrast with the army, the navy (with a previously established lax attitude towards questions of white and black co-service or integrated crews) had allowed blacks to serve in enlisted capacities before the war. In the below excerpt from Sec. of the Navy Wells, a more formalized process to enlist blacks more wholeheartedly was acted upon.

It is not the policy of this Government to invite or encourage this kind of desertion and yet, under the circumstances, no other course…could be adopted without violating every principle of humanity. To return them would be impolitic as well as cruel…you will do well to employ them.”

Gideon Wells, Secretary of the Navy July 22, 1861

Black seaman in fatigue dress
George Commodore

for more detail, click here: Black Sailors in the Union Navy

There are several postulates for this incongruity of racial preference between the Army and the Navy. Enlisted men’s duties on a ship could be varied and for the vast majority of sailors in the war time was spent on blockade duty, anchored off of the coastline and river outlets doing little but keeping their ship afloat and on occasion pursuing anything headed in or out. These would be moments of punctuation in a seemingly endless procession of days. Crews of a boat have their specialties and for the enlisted men one job was just as onerous as another. Manning a cannon or trimming a sail are jobs to be done and the navy did not have any qualms using black men as to white men for any duty save for that of officer rank. It should also be noted that the Marines of this time were strictly white, so a disparity of what one expected of the races (like in the Army) in the war fighting duty they performed seems to be the overall guiding principal. By war’s end, the Navy would have some 15% of its enlisted sailors being free blacks from the north and southern born free and former slaves.

There was no attempt to have segregated crews and even when the Army was still grouping black volunteers and enlistees in its ranks through World War II, Navy crews were still integrated. I believe this speaks more to the early mindset that the former and current slave populations were not cultured for organized combat nor trustworthy enough to be given weapons. The typical seaman would rarely touch a weapon but for a cutlass or a cannon and only when needed. The Marine’s, however, were always under arms and were expected to fight as infantry while on land and as defenders on the ships assigned to while at sea. The naval tradition spoke more for the ability to integrate the races even in combat situations than was previously given proper merit. Whites and blacks could work together aboard ship without issue as all ranks are equally the same.

20 pound Parrot Rifles at drill, Ringgold Ga 1864

20 pound Parrot Rifles drill in Georgia, 1864

(click image to enlarge)

I like this image; it has a great view of the crew requirements for a battery of artillery to function. Pictured here are 20 pound Parrot rifled cannon, distinctive for their rifle like design, heavy reinforced 20 pound Parrot rifled cannonwrought iron band at the breach and narrow muzzle. The image above is of a battery drill outside of Ringgold, GA by men of Sherman’s army. If you enlarge the image you will get a taste of the dress and manner of the western soldier. In many paintings and movies, artillerists are oft depicted wearing the short shell jacket trimmed with red piping. The men above are all clad in the infantry fatigue or “Sack Coat”. There could be several reasons for this. Quarter Master supply for replacement uniforms, the men were volunteers from infantry regiments, the battery was always issued the base federal infantry uniform.

Atypical for western troops are the kepi and forage caps in evidence. Western infantry regiments liked to be as individualistic as eastern ones tended to be for pomp and polish. The western soldier’s headgear was often a civilian black hat or what came to be known as a “bummer” or “slouch” hat, an army issue dress or Hardee hat without the trim (brass bugle, ostrich plume, branch of service cord, cockade that held the left brim to the side of the hat). The hats were cooler and offered better sun protection and were more akin to what was worn on the farm on a daily basis.

The gun crews, arrayed in their positions each had a specific role to play in the service of the weapon.

Gunner: the man usually directly behind the tail of each gun. His responsibility is the aiming and giving the command to fire each his piece.

Cannoneers: there are four cannoneers, numbered left to right whose posts are at each wheel edge, so 1 on the left wheel with the sponge/rammer, 2 directly opposite, 3 behind 1 and 4 behind 2. These men do the loading, firing, and cleaning of the gun.

Cannoneer 5: this is the poor chap who gets to run back and forth to fetch each new load. The leather pouch worn by each number 5 is used to hold the round. In this image the limbers are a little closer than they would be if the battery were being engaged in real fire. The images of stacks of cannon balls by a cannon make good displays but a cannon being serviced does not want live ammunition anywhere near it. While it may be the pride of its own forces, it is also the target of every artillery battery opposite and infantry near enough to fire on it. Each round is carried singly from the limber chest to the number 4 man who loads it into the barrel, and the number 1 man who rams the charge home. Between each fire the number 1 man douses the barrel with the sponge killing any live spark.

Cannoneer 6 and 7: these men are stationed at the limber cutting fuses and prepping rounds for fire.

American Civil War Artillery

We can also see on the limbers the men who are charged with driving the teams on each limber and from each caisson. Not everyone on a horse is an officer and often the two cannoneers 6 and 7 would ride the rear of the limber and two others on the rear of the caisson. (The caissons are shown behind each limber) Brass Artillery Friction PrimerThe number 4 man of each team wears a pouch on his belt with the friction primers for the touch hole of each piece. The primer contained a mercury filament that ignited when the lanyard (attached to the primer) was pulled igniting the powder that was loaded before the round, the touch hole being wide at the top and then narrow at the bottom to direct the spark. One primer, one shot.

Take out one of these men and the rest have to double duty as there is always a man with the teams to bring them up to limber up the gun to be moved. Take out a horse and the same follows, the efficiency of the whole group is diminished. You can see from this image (above) how many horses were required to move a battery about. Images like the one below from the Gettysburg battlefield shows the cost in horses during a battle, this being of the Trostle farmyard where they 9th Massachusetts Battery was posted.

Trostle Farmyard showing dead artillery horses after Gettsyburg

Send in the clowns! 114th Penn. “Zouaves” Petersburg, VA 1864

114th Pennsylvania
(click image to enlarge)

I am reminded of the scene from “Gettysburg” where General Reynolds has just been shot and has fallen from his horse. He’s surrounded by men of the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves and as he lays dead, head cradled by one of his staff, and my friend says (as Reynolds) “Ahhh, there’s clowns in heaven!”

Meet one of the Civil War’s most colorful units, the Zouave. Patterned after the French military French Zouavesthe Zouave uniforms cut such a martial appearance they were a popular uniform for militia companies. Zouave units were not limited to the North.
The South also had several regiments of zouaves the Louisiana or “Wheat’s” Tigers being the most famous.

The men pictured above had their genesis as just such a company. Formed in 1861 by Charles Collis who became Colonel of the regiment when it was sworn into federal service. What is of particular interest is that this remained a Zouave unit this late in the war. Just a cursory look at their uniforms tells you they were not easily donned nor easily maintained. The beginning of the war saw many Zouave regiments enter federal service but after a year or so of campaigning the differentiated dress disappeared as the uniforms required replacement and had to be done at the expense of the regiment itself. Finding numerous items impractical for long term campaigning the regiments would adopt a more federal dress out of necessity.

Personal or corporate purchase of certain items was not unusual for the volunteer regiments. Prior to the Tullahoma Campaign and the battle of Chickamauga, the entire brigade of Colonel John T. Wilder purchased, with private money (his own and that of every soldier in his regiments), the spencer repeating rifle. The War Department was fearful of adopting this rifle in quantity as it required a different style of ammunition (copper jacketed) and there was dispute that the soldiers themselves would be too careless with ammunition causing a waste. Wilder also mounted his infantrymen on mules or horses and turned his foot regiments into mounted infantry.
Spencer Repeating Rifle

These men here paid for the privilege of wearing the distinctive garb on their own (or from a fund established to ensure uniforms were replaced when worn out) and this probably explains why these men establish a uniformity of dress seldom seen in other federal units. I can only imagine how long it takes for these men to get into principle uniform, even just for these images to be taken. The number of items each is wearing means that the expense of keeping a Zouave unit in the field was also hefty as these items were not on the federal quartermaster’s list of supply.

Zouave units designed their own uniforms and hence we have taken to calling them by the Colonels of the various regiments as means to describe the patterns. These men were called Collis Zouaves for their colonel and this also describes the pattern of the tunic, trousers, and headgear.

a dark blue zouave jacket with sky blue cuffs and red trimmings and tombeux, a sky blue sash, madder red trousers, white gaiters, leather jamberies, and a red zouave fez with a yellow tassel that was often worn with a white turban.

The man with the kepi and sword, far left of the image is in some dispute, in my opinion, as to his rank. None of the officers are in full kit and are only holding the image of their office, that of the sword. Shoulder straps and a sword were the visible titles of rank. I’ve seen this image and the caption described this man as an officer but I can only assume it was because he is holding a sword. Yet, a company 1st Sgt or Sgt Major would have as part of his uniform a sword denoting his command. The man does not have shoulder straps in evidence on his tunic (not a given but a little odd for an eastern unit) and if he has NCO stripes they are hard to discern from the image if they are of a darker material (possibly a darker blue). His belt would be another giveaway but both upper NCO and officers belt buckles were rectangular and not oblong like the enlisted men shown here.

Civil War original Zouave uniform

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