Reflecting on the Lives and Deaths of Young Civil War Soldiers

The following is a guest post by Ben Zuercher, Liljenquist Family Fellow through the Stanford in Government program, Prints & Photographs Division, Summer 2018.  Ben helped to describe recently received items in the Liljenquist Family Collection.

Working with the Liljenquist collection carries the constant feeling of wonder and intrigue, as every picture tells a story of the war that nearly sundered the United States. The nation’s heritage is reflected in the broad scope of the collection, which offers a view of both Confederate and Union soldiers, as well as soldiers from various ethnic and racial backgrounds. In addition to the soldiers, photographs of veterans, families, nurses, and other non-fighting figures paints an inclusive picture of the war

For me, looking into the eyes of eighteen-, nineteen-, and twenty-year-olds fighting for their country and their families and their beliefs leads me to think about the fear they may have, as well as compare their circumstances to mine at the same point in life.  Then, the dark history of the Civil War becomes even clearer after research. These pictures do not capture bloody battles, only the people who experienced them. The stories behind these elegantly staged pictures lead to poignant reflection on what these soldiers fought for, and what the war cost them.

Corporal James G. Furnald, who sports a youthful face and a coat that seems to be a few sizes too big, was a portrait I came across early in my work. The photo is labeled as “Joseph,” but research indicated that only James served in the Army.

Corporal James G. Furnald of Co. A, 3rd New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in uniform. Photograph by David O. Furnald, between 1861 and 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.55967

Corporal James G. Furnald of Co. A, 3rd New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in uniform. Photograph by David O. Furnald, between 1861 and 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.55967

I was most amazed by how Furnald, just eighteen at the time of his enlistment, displayed bravery and resolve throughout the war. In the summer of 1863, as a private, Furnald was wounded twice in South Carolina while with the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry. Then, a year later, he was promoted to Corporal as his regiment moved to Virginia. His promotion did not keep him out of harm’s way though, as he was severely wounded May 13th at Drewry’s Bluff. Furnald brushed that off and was back on the battlefield on June 2nd, where he was again wounded, and then followed up that injury by sustaining his final reported wound at Petersburg on August 31st of 1864.

Scene of the explosion Saturday July 30th. Drawing by Alfred R. Waud, 1864, showing an incident from the Petersburg Campaign. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.20996

Scene of the explosion Saturday July 30th. Drawing by Alfred R. Waud, 1864, showing an incident from the Petersburg Campaign. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.20996

On June 8th of 1865, at the age of 23, Furnald was discharged from the military. But the four wounds and harsh wartime conditions may have taken their toll. James Furnald died of consumption in 1868, just 26 years old. Although he saw the end of the bloodiest American conflict, he never truly saw its resolution or lived in the new country he fought for. I found Corporal Furnald’s story emblematic of the hardships faced by young soldiers, who at my age sustained multiple wounds and finished a war. His story especially caught my attention because, combined with the unnamed soldiers and veterans, there could be hundreds more of these stories of bravery and perseverance that have gone untold within the collection, and thousands more amongst those Americans who fought in the Civil War.

Next, nearer to the divide between Union and Confederacy, Elias Teeple enrolled as a private in the 11th Indiana Cavalry Regiment in April of 1864, three years after the war began.

Elias Teeple in Union uniform with saber and Smith and Wesson revolver. Photo, between 1864 and 1865 January. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.36869

Elias Teeple in Union uniform with saber and Smith and Wesson revolver. Photo, between 1864 and 1865 January. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.36869

Teeple’s lengthy saber and tucked in revolver signify an ambitious young man who, despite a glare of anticipation, cannot hide his youthful appearance. Teeple’s regiment quickly saw action in the South. After a brief stop in Alabama, the 11th Indiana Cavalry was engaged in the Battle of Nashville and various clashes in November and December of 1864.

Battle of Nashville. Print by Kurz & Allison, copyrighted 1891. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.01886

Battle of Nashville. Print by Kurz & Allison, copyrighted 1891. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.01886

Teeple was wounded in one of these battles in late 1864. After just nine months in the Civil War, Elias Teeple succumbed to his wounds on January 6th of 1865.

The cruelness of the war is especially evident in the story of Elias Teeple.  Teeple accounted for just one of the fourteen men to die from wounds in his regiment (160 more died of disease), while over one thousand other members made it to the end of the war. Teeple’s death also came just four months before the surrender at Appomattox. In contrast to Corporal Furnald, who had to survive the entire length of the war, Teeple needed only to survive thirteen months, and yet still became another death in the bloodiest conflict in American history

Ben Zuercher measuring carte de viste portrait of Corporal James G. Furnald. Photo by P&P staff, 2018 Aug.

Ben Zuercher measuring carte de viste portrait. Photo by P&P staff, 2018 Aug.

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