Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Youth at War: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 7.

This is the last in my seven-part series of posts about the 93rd New York. In the previous six posts, I scoured the collection of Timothy O’Sullivan images and then tried to find the best stories from the Overland Campaign.

However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the most ubiquitous image from this collection, the one that depicts the 93rd New York’s twelve-person drum corps. Over the years, this photograph has appeared in multiple venues. If you are a Civil War buff, you have probably seen it before. It appeared in Ken Burns’s documentary series, The Civil War. (If any of you out there in internet-land possess the illustrated book that accompanies that documentary—written by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns—the image appears on p. 122.) The drum corps photograph also appears in various photographic histories of the war and books about Civil War uniforms. It took me about three minutes to find two books on my bookshelf that contained it. I found it on page 17 of William C. Davis’s Fighting Men of the Civil War and on page 98 of Davis’s mammoth book, Touched by Fire. I also found it in several recently-published books: it appears on page 32 of Stephen M. Forman’s Echoes of the Civil War, it appears as a two-page spread (pages 88 and 89) in Theodore Savas’s Brady’s Civil War Journal, and it appears on page 7 of Tom Crask’s book for beginner musicians, Should I Play the Drums? Finally, it appears in several books about children in the Civil War, including Duane Damon’s Growing Up in the Civil War (where it appears on page 44) and Chaim Rosenberg’s Child Labor in America (where is appears on page 155).

Here is the oft-seen image of the 93rd New York's drum corps.

I’m not sure why this image is so popular, but if I had to guess, I’d say the allure comes from the proud youth standing in front, the 93rd New York’s principal musician. Undoubtedly, he steals the show. But who is he?

It took only a little bit of sleuthing to figure it out. Luckily, I possess a copy of Frederick Phisterer’s New York in the War of the Rebellion, which lists all of the 93rd New York’s regimental staff. According to Phisterer’s data, the young musician in the front is Patrick Ford, who would have been twenty-years-old at the time this photograph was taken.

I don’t have much information on Ford, and what I have is a little spotty, but he was probably born in Ireland sometime in the spring of 1843. I’m not sure when he came to the United States, but Ford enlisted in the 93rd New York on October 13, 1861, at Glen Falls and mustered into Company F as a private on November 14. On July 1, 1863, the colonel—presumably John Crocker—appointed him to the rank of principal musician, and that was the rank he held when Timothy O’Sullivan photographed him. On December 18, 1863, Ford re-enlisted as a veteran volunteer. In January 1865, he received a second lieutenant’s commission, but for some unknown reason, he never mustered-in as an officer. Ford served with his regiment until its last days, mustering out with the survivors on June 29, 1865. He must have been one of the elite few in his regiment who had served with it throughout the whole of its existence.

Beyond that, there is not much that I know about Patrick Ford’s life with the Army of the Potomac. The regimental historian mentioned him only once. On April 5, 1865, as the Army of the Potomac pursued the Army of Northern Virginia during the war’s final days, Ford led an expedition of six men from Company I to forage at a nearby Virginia farm. Ford and his fellow soldiers killed six sheep and brought them back to camp. That night, the soldiers ate mutton.

Of course, much, much more might be learned by searching Ford’s military records and pension file at the National Archives (presuming he or his immediate family filed the appropriate paperwork), but right now, this is all I’ve got.

Yet, my limited information on Ford is all I need to make my point. Ford was a young man caught in the fires of war. He enlisted in 1861, and when the war paused long enough for him to take up his baton and get his image struck, he did so proudly. Since then, he has become one of the most recognized faces of the Civil War, and yet few people know who he really was. I wonder if Ford ever imagined that his face would become the iconic image of American youth in the Civil War.
Here is a close-up of Principal Musician Patrick Ford, cropped from the famous photograph of the 93rd New York's drum corps.
Here is another image of Patrick Ford. This one is cropped from a photograph of the regimental staff.

Patrick Ford also appears in the group photograph of the 93rd New York's company officers. He appears in the back, sticking his head above the shoulders of two officers.


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