September 21, 2012

"A Civil War Soldier's Kit" --Advice from a Veteran Soldier

In early 1861, many men enlisted in both the Union and Confederate armies. Most had grown up hearing their grandfather's tales of the Mexican American war and couldn't wait to get their piece of action in what they thought would be a short war. Most new recruits had a lot in common, most had no clear idea of army life or any idea what was realistic to bring with them.

Many soldiers brought along things that they thought would be helpful. many soon realized that the things they thought would be indispensable turned out to be worthless extra baggage. As seen in many period photos, many soldiers brought a big hunting knife, or pistol. Many extra weapons were sent home or discarded soon after enlistment. Bulletproof vests made of heavy steel, were popular purchases at the beginning of the war, but were soon seen as extra weight.  Soldiers all over were asking "What should I bring?"

 Early in the war, newspapers printed advice to help answer the question. The article below was printed in a newspaper based in Atlanta, Georgia but it was also printed in the Milwaukee Sentinel in April of 1861.
A Soldier's Kit

            At this time, when so many are preparing for the wars, a memorandum of the things necessary to take along as baggage will not be unacceptable.  The desired catalogue is contributed, by an old soldier, as follows: 
 Two flannel shirts, red preferable; 2 stout hickory shirts; 2 fine shirts, if you can take them along; four pair of woolen socks; 2 pair drawers, white cotton or wool, indispensable; black silk neckerchief, very useful; pocket handkerchief, indispensable; 1 pair stout and easy boots, if you can, take a second pair; 2 towels, indispensable; 1 piece of soap; 1 fine and 1 coarse comb; 1 tooth brush; 1 butcher knife, (a good place for it is in the boot;) 1 quart tin cup; 1 button stick; 1 vial of sweet oil; 1 piece of rotten-stone; 1 button brush, (nail brush will do;) 1 flannel housewife, for and full of needles--throw in a few pins while you are about it; 1 pair small scissors; strong white and black threads in tidy skeins; 1 blacking brush, if you can take it; 1 box of blacking.  Learn to pack your knapsack tidily, closely and conveniently for use.  
To the above you may add all the grub you can stow away inside and out, and replenish when you can, without waiting for the stock on hand to be exhausted.  

SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY [ATLANTA, GA], June 1, 1861, p. 2, c. 3
 True advice, the veteran emphasizes extra clothes and cleaning supplies rather than extra weapons and bedding. Most of all, he advised as much "grub" as possible. The following suggestions were particularly good and possibly confusing to the new recruit who might not be familiar with real army duties:

Button Stick: A piece of metal that slid behind buttons and protected fabric during polishing. I bet many new recruits didn't consider the amount of time they would be polishing buttons. See one in action here: A Button Stick.
One Quart Tin Cup: The veteran knew something that new recruits probably didn't think about: they'd be using their cups to cook.  
Polish, brush, Housewife, Oil and Rotten-Stone: The veteran soldier knew how much the new guys would have to put into their uniform and appearance. "Rotten-stone" was another name for pumice and a "housewife" was a small sewing kit.   

Similarly to new recruits during the war, many new reenactors buy a ton of things that they think they will need before they can tell what will actually come in useful. My advice to new recruits is to only buy the basic necessities and forgo the trinkets and things that *might* come in useful. A good rule of thumb is that if an item is not absolutely necessary, make sure it has at least 4 uses in the field.  For example, many people eat out of the small skillet they cook in, instead of carrying a skillet and a plate. They also might use the skillet as a hammer and small shovel--really, some people do. :)
If you'd like to learn how to pack a knapsack, there is a great PDF article at 26 NC.ORG. 

 Source of article clipping: "A Soldier's Kit." Southern Confederacy, June 1, 1861. Newspaper Research, 1861-1865.  (accessed September 15, 2012.)

September 17, 2012

150th Anniversary of Antietam

Today is the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest single day in US history. It was the first major battle of the Civil War to take place in Northern territory. It is the day to remember the 23,000 casualties, many of them new recruits, never having seen action before.

The battle should have been a full Union victory as they had found a lost copy of Lee's battle plans wrapped around some cigars. Unfortunately for both sides, it was nothing but bloodshed. The rocky and hilly terrain made it almost impossible to see what was coming and the area was so small, it was impossible to move without encountering the enemy.  It was the first time many men lost loved ones.

Below is a letter written shortly after the battle: 

"My dear afflicted Sister

It gives me intensest pain to tell you of death of my dear brother, your devoted husband, Andrew. Oh: how desolate is my sad heart at the loss of that brother twice indeared by the hardships and perils we have passed togather. But if my heart is so sad, what must yours be my sister, deprived of a husband and a friend...Our dear one suffered no pain in death for he was shot through the temples. He was killed on yesterday morning at the fight at Sharpsburg. Of the conflict being undesided, his body has not yet been recovered, but Maj. George has promised to attend to his internment. I am too badly wounded to return to look after him...Your sorrowing brother, A. M. Erskine" 

--Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb. Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, 1943.  

Take a moment and remember all of the families affected by that day and how much the war really meant to our country. I've included some lesser known photos of the battlefield. 

Here's a link to another soldier's letter from Antietam. 

September 10, 2012

Copyrights in the Historical Arena

Abiding by copyright laws is as important as ever, especially in the age of the internet where I copyright violation is as easy as two clicks.  Much of what is posted on facebook and pinterest is actually a violation of copyright. (Read more on Pinterest and Facebook here at Why I Tearfully Deleted my Pinterest Inspiration Boards. While it is unlikely that posting on social media sites, the laws regarding copyrights are lagging behind the technology. Search engines using thumbnails has been ruled legal, but not sites.)

 I have noticed that the subject of copyrights is confusing to many, especially those in the history field.  Is it illegal to post scans out of a book, recreate a dress you saw in a museum quote from a diary or letter or post a photograph online? These questions are common and sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

Copyrights exist to protect the current and future revenue of the copyright holder.  Once something is out of copyright, it typically enters the public domain, which means that anyone can use it. 

The magic date in US copyrights is 1923, originally copyrights were only supposed to last for a certain amount of years after the death of the holder; however in the late 90s, copyrights were put on hold and now, nothing new since 1923 will enter the public domain until 2018. 

Books: Published books have some of the simplest copyright laws. If the book was published before 1923, and you own a copy of it, you can reproduce and distribute copies or use it for derivative works. If a private collection gives you access and does not limit reproduction rights, you can use it. 

Diaries and Letters: The person who wrote them, owns the copyright. If the person is dead, their heirs own the copyright. Things written after January 1, 1978, automatically grant copyright to the author (and later heirs) for the duration of the author’s life + 70 years. Anything written before that is now subject to the same law, although that pretty much means it is in the public domain and you have permission to use it as long as you own the physical copy or have permission from those that do. 

If you find a letter, digitized by a private owner, you’ll need their permission to put it up on your own site, unless what you use falls under “fair use,” and you give the proper credit to the original source. Remember, fair use is dictated by percentage used. If you copy a poem in its entirety and post it on your website, you just copied 100% of the content. If you use one letter from a collection of letters, the percentage is much smaller. Fair use applies directly to scholars, which is why historians can quote in their own published works as long as they properly cite the passages.  

Artifacts in a Museum:

It is illegal to make a reproduction of an artifact found in a museum unless you have permission from the artifact owner. Museums make their money by having people come to see their unique items. Making a reproduction may affect their ability to make money. Always ask permission first and read each museum's policy. Some museums do not give you permission to publish photographs of items in their exhibits, even if they allow photos to be taken. The rules are different if the museum is a public museum and not private so do your research. 

If you own an artifact, it is yours to copy and distribute as you like, provided its copyright has ended. Clothing is typically exempt from holding a copyright because art is secondary to function unless the clothing contains a copyrightable logo or fabric pattern or isn't a functional garment. 
There are four rights that belong to the original photographer:

- The right to make copies of the photo.
- The right to make a derivative work of the photo. This includes altering a photo and using it in some way or creating a scan of an image.
- The right to distribute or share copies of the photo, which includes posting it online.
- The right to publicly display the work.

The photographer can sell the rights to one or all of the following rights to another person. This can make it complicated to track down the owners of certain photos.

- If you own an image published before 1923, you don’t need to get permission from anyone to use it. After 1923, you need to contact the rights holders for permission. Chances are, if it is a family photo, your family will give you permission.

- If you get access to an image created or published before 1923 in a private collection (museum) then it is up to the owners of the private collection themselves to dictate whether or not you have the right to allow patrons to use their property.

If you own a CDV and scan it and post it online, it is perfectly legal. If you copy a CDV that you find online, it is private property, unless the private owner notes if it is legal to use. If you need to show an image to a friend on a social media site, send a link and not a copy of the image. Remember there are other laws which dictate the legal use of modern photos. Some photos taken at certain reenactments are not legal to post online.

For more information on photo rights click here: COPYRIGHTS AND OTHER RIGHTS IN PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES.  

This post was just some general guidelines for historians. It is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Be sure you check the individual laws pertaining to individual items before you use them. Remember, just because it’s old, doesn’t make it okay to use. Just because you don’t plan on making any money from the use, doesn’t make it okay to use. Adding a disclaimer, also does not make it okay to use. Make sure what you are using is legal and that you give proper credit each time. Remember, someday someone might want to use your work.

Further Reading:

-US Copyright Office
-American Dutchess: Historical Costuming
-Elizabeth Stewart Clark: Ethical Dressmaking 
-Between the Seams, A Fertile Commons:An Overview of the Relationship Between Fashion and Intellectual Property

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