The Civil War was the first war to have its important and everyday moments captured on film. Having real pictures of the people and places involved gives the war an immediacy for modern readers. Some of the photos weren't very good, of course. They tend to be small, and they are all in black and white. Many were meant to be viewed in a stereopticon, which attempted to give them a three-dimensional quality. But for the first time, we can meet the real people that our history books talk about. Here are just a few of them.
Lottie Forten was a light-skinned free woman of mixed African and European descent. She came to South Carolina as a teacher but found it difficult to fit in with either the Boston missionaries or the black ex-slaves. She eventually taught at the Penn School and helped with the training of black soldiers in Union regiments.
Austa French was a former opera singer married to an evangelical preacher. She and her husband led the band of Gideonites who came to South Carolina--but were not without their own problems. Austa became known for her somewhat pornographic book about slave women and their relations with their white masters. And her husband ended up on trial for embezzlement because he was hopeless at arithmetic.
Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson was the idealistic white commander of a Union regiment recruited from the black ex-slaves living on the Sea Islands. His steadfast belief that blacks could be turned into competent soldiers was vindicated late in the war when a black regiment soundly defeated a Confederate unit. He was also responsible for bringing Lottie Forten in to help educate his black soldiers.
Then, of course, there was Robert Smalls, who parlayed his political activism into a seat in the U.S. Congress, and Harriet Tubman, who was chosen to be the first woman on our $20.00 bill.
And for those of you who have asked, yes, the picture on the book cover is really the road to Frogmore. It's little more than a dirt path, leading out to the plantation house that Laura Town purchased after the war. The house is now privately owned and "posted" to keep tourists away. We drove down the road just far enough to get the picture. Thenin the distance a man appeared carrying something that might have been a hoe--or maybe a shotgun. We didn't wait around to find out. We backed up!
For a few more pictures of the people included in this book, go to: https://www.pinterest.com/roundheadlady/left-by-the-side-of-the-road-civil-war-short-stori/
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