Proud Soldiers

civil war soliers reunion
Photos: CrazyasaCoolFox
Originally posted April 17, 2010: Updated.

This photo shows Isaac Shields in his American Civil War regalia presumably with his fellow comrades for a reunion. In previous posts I have written about his daughter, Elzena Rachel, and his grand-daughter, Villa. Mae (muskrat coat) Isaac is second from the left holding the battle flag.

I did a little research on Isaac and it turns out he was in the 1st Regiment, Maine Cavalry. His unit saw action in that famous battle at Gettysburg where 51,000 soldiers lost their lives. He was also present at Appomattox Court House the site of the final battle and the signing of the Confederate Army of Virginia's surrender.

This photo must be a reunion commemoration as the men are formally dressed and adorned with their well earned medals. There were two notable reunions of both Union and Confederate forces at Gettysburg for the 50th and 75th anniversary of the battle. There were 1800 veterans that attended the 75th anniversary. Still I'm not sure if this photo is from either of those two reunions. I'm inclined to think this reunion was held in Maine as the trees in the background look much more "Maine like," than I think one would see in Pennsylvania.

It would be amazing to think that this photo was taken on the battlefield. Perhaps it is right on Little Round Top where the 20th Maine provided the force needed to turn this pivotal battle in American history. If they hadn't been there General Lee would have been able to separate Washington from the rest of the nation as he was headed in that direction.

The 1st Maine Cavalry was also witness to the act of surrender at Appomattox Court House. I like to imagine their regiment were among the Union soldiers who respectfully saluted the Confederate General Lee as he rode away from the signing ceremony on his trusted steed "Traveller."

father and son at gettysburg monumentDuring the summer of 1963, the 100th anniversary of the battle, my parents took me on a trip to Pennsylvania. This photo pictures me with my father next to one of the 900 monuments at Gettysburg. I am still trying to find out which monument this is. As an 8 year old I was only interested in cannons, guns, and pictures of "dead guys" on the battlefield. Little did I know of the significance of the battle, little did I know the pain of war, and little did I know that I had a great great grandfather that fought for freedom not far from were I stood.

Update: I have always been curious as to what monument it is where my dad and I standing. Well I found it and it is documented in this post called "Battlefield Boys." The monument itself has a fascinating story, check it out!

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Comments

Poetry24 said…
Not many of us realise the significance of historical monuments when we're young, or even when we're older for that matter. But you have a family connection to an historical episode, and that's something very special.
Barry said…
What a terrific photograph to have. That is a terrific connection to such an historical event. I feel privileged to see it.
Tess Kincaid said…
Gosh, I love those old Civil War reunion photos. Several years ago, I found one of my ggg uncles in an Iowa regiment reunion pic, online. What a treasure.
Unknown said…
Such a great photo and you have the history to go with it! Amazing. Although I grew up in western PA I've never been to Gettysburg and I was and am a history fanatic. One of these days with out trips back there, we have got to see and tour G,.
Kat Mortensen said…
How fortunate you are to have such a remarkable photograph! I'm really curious about that statue. I was at Gettysburg in 1968, when I was seven; I didn't have quite the fascination you did as young lad though; it was all my dad's idea!

Kat
What a treasure that photo is ! A real piece of history to connect you to your great great grandfather. I visited Gettysburg several years ago.
A very moving place !
Christine H. said…
Wow, this is just an amazing photo. It's extremely touching. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Vicki Lane said…
A wonderful picture -- and too true about all we miss in our youth!
Alan Burnett said…
Looking from outside (the United States) this is a fascinating photograph and story. I was trying to think of a British equivalent of the Civil War (from the point of view of time rather than political significance), a campaign that would have led to reunion photographs taken at about the same time. I guess it would have been something like the Crimean War, but that was on a much smaller scale and, consequently, with less opportunity for reunions.
The Silver Fox said…
It always amazes me to read about the high body counts in wartime battles...
DougVernX said…
I know, it's unimaginable. The other thing is that these men knew there was a good chance they would not come back alive and yet they still marched on. Pickett's charge was basically suicide and those brave men dutifully followed their orders.
DougVernX said…
Alan I agree, the Crimean War was brutal in it's own right. Those men where so loyal. Just going through that horror have to bond them just as closely as the soldiers of the Civil War.
Postcardy said…
There were national encampments of the G.A.R. Civil War Veterans for many years until the veterans were too few and/or too old. I imagine there were state and local reunions also.
Peter said…
Your great great grandfather was a tall man! You know what I like about posts such as this? If you ask someone here in Holland about what Gettysburg means, hardly anyone knows. We are so much focused on our own history that we don't have time for the great events taking place elsewhere. In my days history lessons at school were called 'national history' with a few sidesteps into Europe. And generally that's where the world ended... That's why I liked reading this post. Thank you!
Wendy said…
My family fought for the South, but I like seeing the photo of your Union ancestor just the same. I toured Appomattox this summer and heard about the surrender from a Union Provost Guard (living history reenactor). He said there were 60,000 soldiers camped there. And your 2G grandfather was one of them. How cool is that!
Kat Mortensen said…
There's such an unspoken emotion in this top photo. See the man in the back row (second from right) who is looking off into the distance. What is he thinking/remembering? And the gentleman at the back left who is giving a salute - what a great image!

Each of these survivors has the war written on his face. Your Great-great grandfather, not least of them. Wow.

Kat
Unknown said…
Mr. Crazy Fox, my heart skipped a beat when I read the original comments on this post, when I saw Barry's photo and comment. Brings back memories of him. I got an e-mail from his wife not long ago. Great post.
QMM
Every time I see the death toll at Gettysburg, I just want to cry. The amount of suffering and horror is beyond imagination. This photo of survivors is wonderful. You probably know what actions the medals and honors were for. They seem to be on very long ribbons, the longest I've ever seen. Did your father know that his great grandfather had fought in the war?
Bob Scotney said…
I'm learning a lot this week but the Civil War is something I knew little about. To have a photo of survivors is tremendous. When I was in the USA earlier this year I bought Time magazine's classic issue of An Illustrated History of America; before that I could only say I knew vaguely of the Gettysburg Address.
Kathy said…
This photo certainly is a treasure and I enjoyed reading the research behind it. Looking at it does make you wonder where their thoughts wandered as this image was taken.
21 Wits said…
Oh my goodness, thanks for sharing such a treasure with us! Also for sharing the info too!
Mike Brubaker said…
A super photo and wonderful family treasure. It's interesting how beards were such a distinctive mark of veterans. As Postcardy has noted the G.A.R. held annual encampments for Union army veterans, and the medals are G.A.R. awards for attendance, as I don't think there were many service medals for the War between the States.

I've recently being doing research on the Grand Army of the Republic association for some post-war photos of veterans and they were the first veterans organization to lobby for soldiers pensions and the early veteran hospitals. There were also national old soldiers homes, and there was one in Togus, Maine. That might be where Isaac and his comrades went for their reunion.
Unknown said…
Fantastic that you have a photograph of the reunion. I've found a few newspaper clippings of reunions and was ecstatic just to see mention of one of my ancestors. With all the online newspaper collections, you might be able to find mention of the reunion. I agree that the trees look more like Maine. Great post!
Oh darn it, I just tried to leave a comment and when I clicked on 'publish' it took me to the Blogger page where you start a new blog, how strange, and my comment isn't there! Oh well, I did enjoy learning a bit more about the American Civil War, living 'down under' and only having an American 'step grandfather' in my ancestors I've never done any research on it.
Little Nell said…
What a wonderful, yet poignant, photo to have.

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