This CDV shows Frank, Frederick, and Alice Humiston. Their father in the 154th New York Volunteer took it with him. Sergeant Humiston was found killed at Gettyburg with this portrait on him. This copy was made after the battle by Wenderoth, Taylor
& Brown, 912-914 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. The back of the photo titled the CDV "The children of the battlefield." It states that the CDVs were to be sold in Sunday Schools (called Sabbath School) and the proceeds used to find the National Homstead at Gettyburg for the orphaned children of soldiers and sailors as a nemorial of "our Pepetual Union". (The text on the backs of these CDVs varied.) The CDV was a new format which appeared in America during the early 1860s just as the Civil War was beginning. Almost immediately it became popular to include CDVs of famous people are other celeberties in these albums, in this case orphaned children.
Gettysburg is the largest and most important battle of the Civil War. It is the most intensely studied battle in American history. Lee and Davis in mid-1863 agreed that some action was needed to save the Confederacy. Vicksburg was seen as the key to the Confederacy, but Lee did not dare to weaken his army to send units west. The decission was taken to strike north. It was a fateful decession.
Sergeant Humiston was just one of more than 3,000 Union soldiers who died in the monumental 3-day conflict at Gettysburg. Humiston was killed on the first day of the battle as the Confederates pushed the Union soldiers back through the streets of Gettyburg. It was the fight outside of Gettyburg and in the city that gave the Union the time to develop its defenses on Culp's Hill beyond the town. This was in fact the decisive action of the battle. Historians believe that after he was wonded, Humiston somehow managed to drag himself to a secluded secluded spot at York and Stratton streets. There he pulled out an ambrotype -- an early kind of photograph -- and on it were the serious, round faces of his three adored children: 8-year-old Frank, 6-year-old Alice and 4-year-old Freddie. He was probably looking at his children's faces when he died. The Ambrotype was found clutched in the hands.
Sergeant Humiston's body was found later that week after the battle. Humiston might have faded into obscurity and buried as an unkown Unionnsoldier. There was nothing on his body to identify him and the few soldiers from his unit who survived the battle had moved on before he was found. Somehow, though, the image of his children ended up in the possession of Dr. John Francis Bourns, a 49-year-old Philadelphia physician who helped care for the wounded at Gettysburg. Months after wrapping up his volunteer work there, he decided to try to find out the identity of the children's father. His efforts produced a wave of publicity that swept the North and became the People magazine cover story of its day. The press attention made it possible to identify him as a soldier in the 154th New York.
Sergeant Humiston's portrait of his children was an ambrotype, but this like daguerreotypes was a format that was going out of style. The old formats were being replaced by the albumen-based CDV format. The CDV rapidly became the dominant photographic format. Not only were CDV's less expensive, but as they used a negative process. Thus unlike the earlier processes, copies could be made ro send to family and friends. Actually copies could be made in large numbers if so desired.
Another ad vantge of CDVs was that they could easily be kept in albums which could be brouht out for family nd friends when they visted. And people liked to add celbreties to their albums. This gave rise to cleberity CDVs. People purchased CDVs of leaders and other celeberties to put in their albums. The Battlefield Children became a popular celeberity CDV. Celeberty photographs were also done in the larger cabinent crd format.
Copies of the ambrotype were made after the battle by various photographic studios. The writing on the back varied somewhat. The CDV here was made by Wenderoth, Taylor
& Brown, 912-914 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. The back of the photo titled the CDV "The children of the battlefield." It states that the CDVs were to be sold in Sunday Schools (called Sabbath School) and the proceeds used to find the National Homstead at Gettyburg for the orphaned children of soldiers and sailors as a nemorial of "our Pepetual Union". (The text on the backs of these CDVs varied.) The CDV was a new format which appeared in America during the early 1860s just as the Civil War was beginning. Almost immediately it became popular to include CDVs of famous people are other celeberties in these albums, in this case orphaned children. Another CDV ws made by E and H.T. Anthony, a Broadway photograoher in New York. They title the CDV, "The Spldier's Children." The back read, "The Soldier's Children": This is a copy of the Ambrotype found in the hands of Sergeant (sic) Humiston of the 154th N.Y. Volunteers as he lay dead on the Battle field of Gettysburg. The proceeds of the sale of the copies are appropriated to the support and education of the Orphan Children"
What we do not know is what hppned to the children. Losing their father was a disaster for 19th century children. The father was the principal bread wiinner. Very few jobs were available for women. Unless there was an extended family avle to aid the children or they had an enterprising mother, they would be left destitute.
Nor do we know how the funfs from the sale of these CDVs was used or if indeed to what extent the various studios turned over the proceeds for charitable purposes. The whole question of the care of children orphaned in the Civil War is an important question one that HBC has not yet been able to address.
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