Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens #Documentary Kickstarter – #history

For those of you who may not know, for the last year, I’ve been slowly working on a Civil War documentary. It wasn’t quite how I planned to spend my year (creatively I had planned on focusing on a novel) but something about the story fired my imagination and over the past few months, I’ve built a great crew who is really committed; folks from Discovery Communications, from the National Museum of American History, and from Docs in Progress as well as accessing some amazing resources from the Library of Congress and National Archives. And now we’re crowdfunding to raise money to cover research, licensing and then produce a short film.

This it! We’re down to the last few hours of the Kickstarter for the “Invalid Corps and the Battle of Fort Stevens.” If you haven’t, please take a moment to go donate. If you have, thank you for helping us bring this amazing story to the screen.

Please help us spread the word about the documentary during these last few hours – Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…even just word-of-mouth.GettysburgLightICPoster

The story: The Invalid Corps was a corps of men with disabilities who fought in the Civil War. Men who were injured in battle or who acquired chronic illnesses – men missing limbs, and eyes, with rheumatism, epilepsy, bullet injuries, those with what we would now call PTSD, and many others. Rather than be discharged, they continued to serve the Union cause.

In July 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launched a surprise raid that takes him to the very gates of Washington DC. Almost every able-bodied soldier from the Union had already been sent south with General Grant for the siege of Petersburg, more than 100 miles away. The only defenders remaining were clerks, government officials, and the InvalidCorps. And with Lincoln himself on the ramparts, they couldn’t afford to fail. 
You can see the project details here:  
Invalid Corps Light Poster

Basically, this is a piece of disability and veteran’s history that just hasn’t been seen or heard before. We want to capture it and make sure that the service and sacrifice by these men isn’t lost forever.

Take a look and donate and share, before time runs out!


The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train

This weekend was filming for the Invalid Corps documentary. We went down to Spencer, North Carolina to see the Lincoln Funeral Train. It was amazing and we had a great time. You can read about what we learned at the Invalid Corps website but I did want to add a few pictures here. 🙂

First, let me say Gamma was a trouper throughout the long weekend and considering we were pulling 12 hour days, that wasn’t easy. But I definitely think she enjoyed the train ride.

Gamma and our tickets

Gamma and our tickets

And a quick collage of the Lincoln Funeral Parade to give you an idea of the full awesomeness of the weekend.

NC Transportation Collage

Civil War Union soldiers with reversed weapons. The Leviathan steam locomotive. A drummer. An older soldier with the American flag behind him. In the center, the seal from the Lincoln funeral car, the United States – an eagle with wings outstretched.


#Reading at the #Smithsonian Archives of American Art – A Day in the Life: Artists’ #Diaries

Gave a reading at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art today at 4:00pm (and yes, NR Brown participated too). Best. Event. Ever. From their website:

A Day in the Life: Artists’ Diaries from the Archives of American Art

Reading an artist’s diary is the next best thing to being there. Direct and private, diaries provide firsthand accounts of appointments made and met, places seen, and work in progress—all laced with personal ruminations, name-dropping, and the occasional sketch or doodle. Whether recording historic events or simple day-to-day moments, these diary entries evoke the humanity of these artists and their moment in time.

On January 1, painter Jervis McEntee was broody, sculptor John Storrs was reflective, printmaker Blanche Lazzell was optimistic, and painter Karl Zerbe was hungover. Learn how these and other artists rang in the New Year.

Jervis McEnteeIt is a super cool exhibit with some amazing stories from artists’ lives. I got to read from the diary of painter Jervis McEntee. They have 5 volumes of his diaries that span the years from 1872 to 1890 and are rich in details of the art world in America at the time. He’d often been accused of painting melancholy and sad pieces.  He defended himself by saying he was painting what was there. He was part of the Hudson River School, which was the core an American art movement that was mostly of landscapes (and landscape painters) whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. Which, as it seems was similar to romantic poetry, I am not surprised by that description of McEntee’s work. He was a member of the National Academy of Design’s old guard and fiercely opposed the influences of modern and avant-garde painting in Europe.

McEntee, sadly, seems to have gotten more attention for his diaries of the time period than for his art.  In his writing, he often ruminates on the art market, patrons and collectors, the weather, and his works in progress. His entries often seem just as pensive and melancholic as his art.

Transcription, January 1, 1874

Thursday, January 1, 1874- It’s a strange and a somewhat sad sensation to write the New Year the first time. It seems to me that the year which has just passed has been too full of cares and worries to have been as profitable as it might have been for me and I enter upon this new one with no well-defined plans and not much hope that my material interests will greatly improve. I hope however I am learning something towards adapting myself to my condition and accepting the lot which it seems so difficult to change. It might be much worse but I can see how it might be much better. I have begun the New Year as I ended the old with work for in that alone I find real peace and enjoyment.

I have to admit, sad as his entry was, it was also inspiring. So very glad I got the opportunity to participate in this event with some other fantastic folks.  What was also especially moving was to have the great-niece of one of the artists get to read her great-aunt’s work.  Special shout out to Curator of Manuscripts, Mary Savig.  What a great way to bring this history to life!William Christopher Diary

As an example of some of the other AMAZING pieces available:

Reubens Peale writes about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and waiting in line to see the body

William Christopher’s account of the march from Selma to Montgomery

Cecilia Beaux talks about the sinking of the Titanic

*As a note to anyone reading this, make sure you check out what may be going on in your local library or museum.  You may be missing out.

Smithsonian Photo of Readers at Diary Exhibit

Documentary Research (Invalid Corps) – #CivilWar Soldier CDVs

I’m working on a documentary short about people with ‪#‎disabilities‬ in the ‪#‎CivilWar‬. What caught my attention was coming across a couple of images from auction sites.

The first is titled: Civil War Soldier CDV Dwarf Rare Photo Rifle Armed Pic

CW Dwarf

The note on the auction website says: “Very unusual oversized cabinet CDV of a dwarf with a long beard, dressed in uniform with kepi and holding a gun. The picture was taken by Griffin & Watkins, which operated in Princeton, Kentucky during the latter part of the 19th century. Back of the card reads ”Portraits in Oil, Pastille & Crayon Old Pictures Copied and Enlarged.” Image very sharp. Card in superb condition. Measures 4” x 6”. Very interesting image.”

The second is titled:  Civil war unidentified midget dwarf union soldier officer cdv photograph

CW Dwarf 2

I wonder if anyone has any additional information on either of these individuals?