The Common Ground Virginia History Book Club focuses on approachable books focused on Virginia-centered nonfiction. Most of these books are historical narratives and biographies such as Code Girls by Liza Mundy and A Brave and Cunning Prince by James Horn, but there is not one right way to approach history and our first pick for 2023 approaches history differently. Team Photograph by Lauren Haldeman combines graphic novel, poetry, memoir and Civil War history into one slim but compelling volume.
Poetry and illustrations might not be the very first things that come to mind in regards to the Civil War but neither is uncommon to find in the archival record. In our James I Robertson Jr Civil War Sesquicentennial Legacy Collection, a crowd-sourced scanning project completed in 2015, there are several examples of sketches and drawings from soldiers. Although Matthew Brady’s Civil War photography is well-known, the overwhelming majority of men did not have access to photography other than to sit for a portrait. They recorded what they saw by drawing, sketching, and describing it in words. The Sketchbook of Vance and Maxwell, undated, includes sketches by unknown soldiers of various camps and scenes in Virginia and West Virginia. The sketchbook of William Wallace Byrd Sr., ca. 1861, even contains a sketch of General Elzey’s Headquarters at Fairfax Station, the location of Haldeman’s childhood home referenced in Team Photograph.
General Elzey’s Headquarters at Fairfax Station
William Wallace Byrd Sr. sketchbook, ca. 1861, Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War and the Fauquier County Sesquicentennial Committee, James I Robertson Jr Civil War Sesquicentennial Legacy Collection. Permission to publish or reproduce is required.
Poetry, meant for reading, reciting, or singing (as song lyrics) was a common way to express feelings and ideas then, as now. Newspapers for both public and military audiences printed poetry from readers. Soldier’s Journal, a paper printed in Alexandria to provide Union military news, includes poetry in almost every issue, some reprinted from other sources like Harper’s Weekly. One, titled “April 20, 1864” by Private Miles O’Reilly, is written by a soldier who remembers, as he sits with 10 others from his company, that there were originally 37 of them. While there are pieces from veterans, much of poetry doubles as propaganda. Songs and poems, during and after the war, were published extolling racist ideologies.
And of course the war produced many works of memory, not only published memoirs, the most famous being that of Ulysses S. Grant, but also the day-to-day record created in letters detailing experiences for those back at home. In Team Photograph, Haldeman reckons with the legacy of the battlefields near her childhood home in Fairfax Station and recalls her brothers finding a human femur in the woods. In April 1862, about 160 years earlier, A. L. Shadron, a Union soldier, wrote home to his sister from the same location after the First Battle at Bull Run (also called 1st and 2nd Manassas) with a similar experience, writing,
…yesterday I walk[ed] over the battle ground at Bulls run and it is a very nice place and we saw a good deal there some of the boys found a bone out of a man[‘s] leg.
In between Shadron and Haldeman’s brothers discovery the very same location saw another bloody battle that furthered the location’s association with the Civil War, a legacy that lingers till into Haldeman’s childhood soccer games and remains today.
- The Battles of Manassas (American Battlefield Trust)
- Bull Run (American Battlefield Trust)
- The Civil War in Prince William County (Prince William County Historical Commission)
- Civil War Trails
- Fairfax County Civil War Sites Inventory
- Graffiti Soldiers (Stephen Robertson, George Mason University)
- Manassas National Battlefield Park
- Manassas: The Missing Robinson House (Kevin M. Levin)
- Second Manassas (American Battlefield Trust)
- Address of Generals Johnston and Beauregard, after the Battle of Manassas, to the Soldiers (Library of Virginia)
- Five Months in Rebeldom, or, Notes from the Diary of a Bull Run Prisoner, at Richmond (Internet Archive)
- The Great Battle, Fought at Manassas, Between the Federal Forces, under the General McDowell, and the Rebels, under Gen. Beauregard, Sunday, July 21, 1861 (HathiTrust)
- Russell on Bull Run, 1861 (Library of Congress)
- A Narrative of the Battles of Bull Run and Manassas Junction, July 18th and 21st, 1861. Accounts of the Advance of Both Armies, the Battles, and the Defeat and Rout of the Enemy (Internet Archive)
- The Second Battle of Manassas: With Sketches of the Recent Campaign in Northern Virginia and on the Upper Potomac (Internet Archive)
- Southern History of the War: Official Reports of Battles, 1863 (Library of Congress)
- Virginia Chronicle (Library of Virginia)
- Fight at Bull Run: Slaughter of the Enemy: Loudoun Guard Uninjured (Library of Virginia)
- Civil War Map Project
- The Field of Bull Run: Showing the Positions of the Armies at 4:30 p.m. on August 29, 1862
- First Manassas Animated Map (American Battlefield Trust)
- Map of Battle-Grounds of August 28th, 29th, & 30th, 1862, in the Vicinity of Groveton, Prince William Co., Va.
- Map of Battles on Bull Run near Manassas, 21st of July 1861
- Map of the Seat of War Showing the Battles of July 18th, 21st & Oct. 21st 1861
- Seat of War, Manassas and its Vicinity
- Sketch of the Country Occupied by the Federal & Confederate Armies on the 18th & 21st July 1861
- Adelman, Garry E. Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run. Gahanna, OH: Center for Civil War Photography, 2011.
- McDonald, JoAnna M. The Faces of Manassas: Rare Photographs of Soldiers Who Fought at Bull Run. Redondo Beach, CA: Rank and File Publications, 1998.
- A Band that had Seen Service, Near Fairfax, 1863 (Fairfax County Public Library Photograph Collection)
- Federal Repair Crew Restoring Communications After a Confederate Raid During the Campaign of Second Manassas (1939 World’s Fair Photograph Collection)
- View of Fairfax Station, Va. from the South (Fairfax County Public Library Photograph Collection)
- A War-time Photograph of the Ruins of the Henry House (1939 World’s Fair Photograph Collection)
- A Pontoon Bridge Built across Bull Run by Civil War Soldiers (1939 World’s Fair Photograph Collection)
- Soldiers’ Graves, Bull Run Battlefield, Va. (Stereoscope Collection)
- Union Army Camp, Centreville, Va., Winter 1862 (Fairfax County Public Library Photograph Collection)