Last week, I spent time browsing the Liljenquist Collection on the Library of Congress website. It’s a jaw-dropping set of gorgeous Civil War photographs. You can view them online or in person at an exhibit at the Library of Congress.
This portrait depicts Charles H. Bickford of Massachusetts as a young boy. As a genealogist, it’s difficult for me to see a name on a photograph and not dig a little deeper into a life story.
The LOC cataloging record provides a few details, while some library research fills in the blanks.
- It’s an ambrotype. The date created field suggests a time frame of 1850-1855, but ambrotypes were patented in 1854.
- The cataloging record also includes information from a handwritten label in the cased image. It supplies a date of birth (March 1844) and his death date (May 3, 1863).
- Bickford served with B Company of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. A quick search in a series, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War compiled by the Adjutant General and published in 1931 (volume 1, page 80), yields even more data. Bickford was a resident of Lowell, Mass., and a machinist when he enlisted at age 20 on May 25, 1861. He died on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va. May 3 is considered the bloodiest day of the Battle of Chancellorsville and resulted in the loss of 14,000 Confederate soldiers. General Stonewall Jackson was fatally wounded that day, as well.
- Searching for vital records for Bickford suggests he was born in New Hampshire. There is a Charles H. Bickford, age 17, living in Strafford County in the 1860 federal census.
Telling a soldier’s story involves looking at vital records, census records, Civil War material and of course studying the evidence in a family photo.
In this picture, Bickford is a young boy dressed in a typical suit—buttoned jacket with the collar peeking out, and a large bow at the neck. Born in 1844, it’s possible he’s about 10-12 years old in this photo. If he were older than that, he’d be wearing a different style of attire. This data suggests the photo was taken between 1854 and 1856.
Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor: