This cruel war

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

New Mexico played a small but cru­cial role dur­ing the Civil War, when Union sol­diers de­feated Con­fed­er­ate troops at Glo­ri­eta Pass. The New Mexico History Mu­seum com­mem­o­rates the state’s part in the war in the ex­hi­bi­tion Fad­ing Mem­o­ries: Echoes of the Civil War, which tells its story through old pho­to­graphs, mu­sic, and mem­o­ra­bilia. The ex­hi­bi­tion is held in con­junc­tion with Santa Fe Opera’s pre­miere of Jen­nifer Hig­don and Gene Scheer’s Cold Moun­tain, based on Charles Fra­zier’s novel of the same name. The opera, about a Con­fed­er­ate army de­serter seek­ing to re­unite with the woman he loves, opens on Satur­day, Aug. 1. On the cover is a Civil War-era hand-col­ored tin­type from Fad­ing Mem­o­ries of an uniden­ti­fied girl in mourn­ing dress, circa 1861-1870; cour­tesy Li­brary of Congress LC-DIG-ppm­sca-36863.

Dur­ing the pe­riod that co­in­cided with the Amer­i­can Civil War, the New Mexico Ter­ri­tory was a re­gion of shift­ing borders; at dif­fer­ent points be­tween 1850 and 1912, the bound­aries in­cluded not only what would be­come the na­tion’s 47th state but also parts of Colorado and most of Ari­zona. Res­i­dents in the south­ern part of the ter­ri­tory mostly sided with the Con­fed­er­ate states. It was only af­ter a key de­feat at the Bat­tle of Glo­ri­eta Pass, in­for­mally re­ferred to as the “Get­tys­burg of the West,” that Santa Fe, eastern New Mexico, and the Río Grande val­ley came un­der the com­mand of Union forces. But for a brief pe­riod of nearly two weeks in 1862, the Palace of the Gover­nors — which was, at that time, New Mexico’s first ter­ri­to­rial capi­tol — was un­der the con­trol of the Con­fed­er­acy.

Two pre-20th cen­tury con­flicts dom­i­nate the Amer­i­can con­scious­ness: the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War and the Civil War, but it’s the lat­ter that brought war home to fam­i­lies in a way that the war for in­de­pen­dence never could: through the medium of pho­tog­ra­phy. For the first time, sol­diers could carry small pho­to­graphic im­ages of their loved ones into bat­tle. The im­ages — da­guer­rotypes, am­brotypes, and tin­types — were set in hinged leather cases, or­na­mented in­side with em­bossed foil, and each one could fit in a pocket. They form part of the ex­hibit Fad­ing Mem­o­ries: Echoes

of the Civil War on dis­play at the New Mexico History Mu­seum. “It’s some of the ear­li­est pho­tog­ra­phy, pe­riod,” Palace of the Gover­nors’ photo cu­ra­tor Daniel Kosharek told Pasatiempo. “The da­guerreo­type was in­vented in 1839, so in the 1840s, ’50s, and ’60s they were re­ally pop­u­lar. They’re on pol­ished cop­per plates with a sil­ver coat­ing de­vel­oped with mer­cury va­pors, which is very toxic. That’s why da­guerreo­types weren’t done for very long. The am­brotype is emul­sion on a glass neg­a­tive. It’s put over a black back­ground that re­sults in a pos­i­tive im­age. A tin­type is just emul­sion on tin, sim­i­lar to what a printed pho­to­graph would be.”

The im­ages some­times al­lowed for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of such things as an of­fi­cer’s rank, and his uni­form in­di­cated whether or not he was a Con­fed­er­ate or Union soldier. One poignant im­age in the ex­hibit de­picts a young girl in mourn­ing clothes clutch­ing a cased pho­to­graph of an of­fi­cer, pre­sum­ably her fa­ther. Some are por­traits of wives and chil­dren and other fam­ily mem­bers, most of whom re­main uniden­ti­fied. “There’s no place to write on them like with a printed pho­to­graph, so most of them end up be­ing uniden­ti­fied,” Kosharek said. “The whole idea of the ex­hibit is about mem­ory. Peo­ple car­ried pho­to­graphs to re­mind them­selves of their fam­ily.” Housed in the mu­seum’s small­est gallery, Fad­ing

Mem­o­ries crams in some in­trigu­ing history lessons. The ex­hibit was co-cu­rated by Kosharek, Thomas Leech, di­rec­tor of the Palace Press, and Mered­ith David­son, cu­ra­tor of the mu­seum’s 19th- and 20th­cen­tury South­west col­lec­tions. “We re­al­ized early on that it was a dif­fi­cult topic to tackle be­cause there’s no ma­te­rial cul­ture left,” Kosharek said. “We had to work with ideas more than any­thing else.”

The cased pho­to­graphs are for­mal por­traits, shot in a stu­dio. The du­ra­tion of time needed for an ex­po­sure

de­manded the sub­ject be still, some­thing that was not pos­si­ble in the heat of bat­tle. But artists were em­ployed to sketch the ac­tion. Jour­nals such as Frank

Les­lie’s Il­lus­trated News­pa­per and Harper’s Weekly, the most widely read wartime news source, were pro­fusely il­lus­trated with their im­ages. Un­like pho­tog­ra­phy at mid­cen­tury, wood­cuts, lith­o­graphs, etch­ings, and other prints could be mass-pro­duced. “Lithog­ra­phers were re­ly­ing on pho­tog­ra­phy, but they still had to rein­ter­pret what they were see­ing,” Leech said. In­cluded in Fad­ing Mem­o­ries is one such im­age of Abra­ham Lin­coln, an il­lus­tra­tion based on a pho­to­graph by Mathew Brady for Harper’s

Weekly. Pop­u­lar print­ing firms such as Cur­rier and Ives and Kurz and Al­li­son also pro­duced wartime im­ages, but pho­to­jour­nal­ism was still a long way off. “It was a good 30 or 40 years af­ter the Civil War be­fore pho­to­graphs could be mass-pro­duced,” Leech said. “Firms like Kurz and Al­li­son had pretty much gone by the way­side. The photo-print­ing in­dus­try caught up to them and pretty much put that kind of hand lithog­ra­phy, as a jour­nal­is­tic medium, out of busi­ness, but it didn’t hap­pen overnight.”

Dur­ing the war, the North em­ployed artists but the South, for the most part, did not. “The South was hin­dered by short­ages of ma­te­ri­als,” Leech said. “The North had the sup­plies and the news­pa­pers had artists on staff who were on the field, draw­ing and sketch­ing, and that ma­te­rial would then be turned over to a wood­cut artist or, in some cases, lithog­ra­phers.”

Twen­ti­eth-cen­tury de­pic­tions of Civil War con­flicts are also on ex­hibit, in­clud­ing Isa Bar­nett’s Bat­tle of

Shiloh from 1961, a ca­sein on pa­per com­mis­sioned by Life mag­a­zine for a Civil War com­mem­o­ra­tive is­sue pro­duced in 1961. Bar­nett lived in Santa Fe and his son, Ivan, is the co-owner of Patina Gallery. The paint­ing de­picts one of the blood­i­est con­flicts on Amer­i­can soil, which took place in Ten­nessee in April, 1962. Dead sol­diers lay bat­tered and bro­ken on the land­scape, strewn in­con­gru­ously amongst blos­som­ing cherry trees. Another work de­picts the Bat­tle of Fort Pil­low of 1864 by Louis Kurz. The print shows Con­fed­er­ate forces at­tack­ing a Union-held gar­ri­son on the Mis­sis­sippi River. Kurz and Al­li­son pro­duced the litho­graph nearly 30 years af­ter the event it de­picts: the slaugh­ter of black Union sol­diers and their fam­i­lies by forces un­der the com­mand of Nathan Bed­ford For­rest, who would go on to be­come the first Grand Wiz­ard of the Ku Klux Klan. “It’s a con­dem­na­tion of this mas­sacre of black sol­diers,” Leech said. “In­stead of be­ing taken as pris­on­ers, they were just mur­dered.” Leech chose the im­age as a con­trast to heroic bat­tle scenes, also pro­duced by Kurz and Al­li­son in the years af­ter the war that re­flected a na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween North and South. “Kurz was one of the few artists who de­picted black sol­diers. Also, we have in our col­lec­tion a Fred­er­ick Dou­glass me­mo­rial por­trait he did.”

African-Amer­i­can slav­ery was not as preva­lent in New Mexico as it was in the other re­gions, although other forms of in­den­tured servi­tude, par­tic­u­larly of Na­tive peo­ples, ex­isted, es­pe­cially dur­ing the Span­ish Colo­nial era. As a text panel ex­plains, “The re­gion’s African slaves rarely num­bered more than a dozen.” Still, New Mexico did have a slave code that was not abol­ished un­til two years af­ter the 13th amend­ment of 1865 out­lawed the prac­tice na­tion­wide.

An in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ment of the show al­lows visi­tors to lis­ten to Civil War-era mu­sic through head­phones. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the dis­play are broad­sheets with mu­sic for such songs as Henry Tucker and Charles Car­roll Sawyer’s “When This Cruel War Is Over” and Henry C. Work’s “Song of a Thou­sand Years.” Some pa­tri­otic Union songs proved so pop­u­lar that the writ­ers pro­duced Con­fed­er­ate ver­sions with slightly al­tered lyrics.

Among the ephemera in Fad­ing Mem­o­ries isa tat­tered, hand-sewn, 34-star Union flag borne by mem­bers of the 1st Colorado In­fantry, Com­pany D dur­ing the Bat­tle of Glo­ri­eta Pass, the his­toric fray in which more than 350 sol­diers on both sides lost their lives. The New Mexico Ter­ri­tory was in a strate­gic po­si­tion as part of a west­ward route to Cal­i­for­nia. Con­fed­er­ate forces from Texas hoped to gain pas­sage through the ter­ri­tory en route to the West Coast, part of a plot to seize Cal­i­for­nia’s sea­ports and western gold­fields. The plan was foiled when Con­fed­er­ate sup­ply trains were sab­o­taged but not be­fore skir­mishes erupted in Me­silla and Valverde. Af­ter the vi­o­lence in Valverde, Maj. Charles Py­ron, lead­ing a force of Texas Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers, pushed north to Santa Fe, gain­ing en­try to an un­guarded Palace of the Gover­nors. On March 13, he hoisted the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag over the Palace. “They just marched up and no­body gave them any re­sis­tance,” Kosharek said. “A photo of the Con­fed­er­ate flag fly­ing over the Palace would be the Holy Grail, but it doesn’t ex­ist.”

The Bat­tle of Glo­ri­eta Pass took place less than two weeks af­ter the troops en­tered Santa Fe. On March 26, Capt. Sa­muel Cook led Cav­alry Com­pany F from Colorado and en­gaged with Con­fed­er­ate forces near Pe­cos. The bloody con­flict con­cluded on March 29, when Con­fed­er­ate troops were de­feated at Glo­ri­eta Pass. “In Washington, all of the de­bates in­volved New Mexico,” Leech said. “We weren’t out there in the sticks. The whole thing about the Bat­tle of Glo­ri­eta be­ing called the ‘Get­tys­burg of the West,’ ob­vi­ously it wasn’t in terms of masses of armies and ca­su­al­ties, but it did rep­re­sent the high water­mark of Con­fed­er­ate ad­vance through the South­west. So the bat­tle was crit­i­cal.”

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