John Surratt, Conspirator

John Harrison Surratt, Jr

John Harrison Surratt, Jr. was certainly involved in the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in 1864, but there was sufficient doubt in his involvement in Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 that, when extradited from Egypt, after something of a world tour of escaping, in early 1867, he was released on $25,000 bail and the case against him for murder was declared a mistrial. All the other charges relating to the kidnap plot had passed the statute of limitations.

This photo was taken in 1867, while Surratt was on, or awaiting, his trial. He is still wearing the uniform of the Papal Zouaves (Pope’s infantry), with whom he had briefly served while on the run, using the alias John Watson.


John Harrison Surratt, Jr. in Papal Zouave uniform, c. 1867

Original B&W photo from the Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.

Nimrod Burke

Nimrod Burke2
Nimrod Burke was born a free man in Prince William county, Virginia in 1836. His family moved to Washington County, Ohio, in 1854. Nimrod found employment as a handyman in Marietta, a little over 10 miles from the family home in Newport, and was only able to visit at weekends.

His employer was a prominent lawyer, and abolitionist, by the name of Melvin C. Clarke who, at the start of the American Civil War in 1861, was appointed a Major in the Union Army. Nimrod would have joined the army too, but blacks were not eligible to serve as soldiers, Instead, knowing that Nimrod had been raised in Virginia, hired him as a teamster-scout for the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who then went to Tidewater Virginia to fight the Confederates.

Then, in 1863, War Department issued General Order Number 143 which allowed the recruitment of African-American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. Nimrod remained a scout until 1864, when he joined Company F of the 23rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, where he was assigned the rank of sergeant.

In an ironic twist of fate, Nimrod, and his regiment, were in attendance at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Forces. The neither man would have been aware of it, Nimrod’s family were freed by an ancestor of Lee’s, Robert  Carter III, around 1793.


Original B&W photo.

John Sherman


Senator John Sherman, pictured between 1861 and 1865. Sherman mainly concerned himself with financial matters throughout his political career, but two finance Acts were particularly significant in the Civil War. The Confiscation Act of 1861 allowed the government to confiscate any property, including slaves, that were being used to support the Confederate war effort. The Second Confiscation Act of 1862 clarified that slaves “confiscated” under the 1861 Act were freed.
He also supported the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery, in 1864.



Original daguerreotype from the Brady studio.

Robert G. Ingersoll – “The Great Agnostic”


Robert Green Ingersoll, pictured here sometime between 1865 and 1880.
His father, John Ingersoll, was a Congregationalist minister who was often at odds with his congregation, who would make trivial complaints against him. A church trial which took place while the elder Ingersoll was pastor of the Congregational Church at Madison, Ohio, when Robert was 9, resulted in him being forbidden to preach, though this was later reversed. The unjust treatment of his father is thought to have soured Robert’s opinion of Christianity.



Original daguerreotype from the Brady studio.

Clara Louise Kellogg

Clara Louise Kellogg
Clara Louise Kellogg was an American opera singer, the first U.S.-born prima donna and the first American singer to achieve success in Europe.
This photo is from the Mathew Brady collection, and dates from sometime during the American Civil War. Kellogg wasn’t directly involved in the war, but gave an account from the point of view of a civilian in New York, in her Memoirs of an American Prima Donna, in 1913.

Original B&W photo.

George W. Melville

Rear Admiral George Wallace Melville, US Navy, probably in 1904 or shortly before. (See painting below), entered the U.S. Navy in 1861 and became an officer of the Engineer Corps, and took part in the capture of CSS Florida in 1864.

As well as being an engineer, Arctic exploration and author, Melville reformed the Navy, making it more efficient and more professional.

Original B&W photo.

The 1904 painting by Thomas Eakins from which I took the colours.

Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass, around 1874. Born a slave, he first escaped to the north then, while on a lecture tour of Britain and Ireland, he was able to buy his freedom in America, using donations from British supporters. He was also given money for several abolitionist publications back in America. In one, he published a scathing letter to his former owner, Thomas Auld. A few years after this photo was taken, in 1877, Douglass visited Thomas Auld on his deathbed, and the two men were reconciled.

As important as he was in the story of the abolition of slavery, he was also a staunch campaigner for women’s rights.

Copy of the original daguerreotype.

Ambrose Burnside

Ambrose Burnside, seen here around 1880, was, by his own frequent admission, an indifferent military commander, at best, and his successes in the American Civil War were matched by his defeats.
His main legacy is the name given to the spectacular whiskers he sported, burnsides, at first, then sideburns. The syllables were transposed, it is sometimes claimed, as a reference to his tactical ineptitude, as he supposedly didn’t know which way he was supposed to send his troops, but it is more likely that his name had been largely forgotten, and the word just evolved to make some kind of sense, as the “side” part clearly referred to the position of the whiskers on the head, especially when fashions changed and the moustache was dispensed with. The word evolved further, becoming sideboard, with “board” simply meaning “border” or “edge”.

Original B&W photo.