Hey folks, I’m excited to share a new comics project I’m working on:
- WORKING TITLE: The Civil War Adventures of Freeman Colby, VOLUME 2
- View latest updates @ Patreon.com >>
- DESCRIPTION: This historical graphic novel details the continuing adventures of a young school teacher from NH who enlists in the Union Army during the Civil War. The events of the story are all based on actual letters Freeman Colby wrote home about his experiences, plus several other period primary sources documenting the experiences of the 39th Massachusetts Volunteers.
- PRE-ORDERS: To pre-order a copy, please support the Patreon page at the “graphic novel” level. Other pre-order options will appear on this site as the book nears completion.
Primary Sources & More:
Freeman Colby Vol. 2 combines several period source texts to reconstruct a sense of Freeman Colby’s Civil War adventures. Colby’s original diary fragment ends in April 1863 (see Volume 1), so I’m basing this account on his wartime letters and various documented firsthand accounts of his comrades in the 39th Massachusetts Volunteers, the people they met, and people who were in similar situations. That means I can include everything Colby felt was important to record in writing at the time, PLUS I can go beyond all that to portray additional topics and issues surrounding Union forces in the South at the height of the Civil War.
Here are some of the source texts I’m using for this project:
- MAIN SOURCE: The Civil War letters of Freeman Eri Colby & family ~ Archived by Henniker Historical Society, and in some cases provided by the family. (There are even a couple texts by Jonas Bacon and Newton Colby in the collection, and one rare valuable letter from the home front, written by Colby’s Mom!)
- The 39th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers (Roe, 1914) ~ This official regimental history features hundreds of pages of stories collected by a memorial committee, including several sections of diaries, journals, and other primary source texts.
- Other resources for the 39th MA Volunteers:
~ Resource page for Co. K @ YeOldeWoburn.net
- Hospital Sketches (Alcott, 1863) ~ Louisa May Alcott’s fictionalized stories based on her letters home from hospital duty at Georgetown, DC (1862-3). [wikipedia >>]
- Memoranda During the War (Whitman, 1875-6) ~ Poet Walt Whitman’s accounts of serving in Washington hospitals in 1863, at the same time as soldiers from the 39th Mass.
- Hardtack and Coffee (Billings, 1887) ~ An invaluable source of information and memories by a veteran campaigner.
- The Civil War letters of Wilbur Fisk ~ Like Colby, Fisk was a rural New England schoolteacher who volunteered in a local regiment — the 2nd Vermont, in Fisk’s case. Throughout the war, he wrote eloquently & in great detail in his reports to the Green Mountain Freeman, sharing valuable ground-level details & reflections on the evolving conflict. I use Fisk’s letters in several places to fill in gaps in the accounts of Colby & Bacon. The letters are collected by Emil & Rosenblatt in Hard Marching Every Day (University Press of Kansas).
- Rifle and light infantry tactics; for the exercise and manoeuvres of troops when acting as light infantry or riflemen (Hardee, 1861) ~
“System of tactics … approved by the President… adopted for the instruction of the troops…” — JEFFERSON DAVIS, Secretary of War. (March 29, 1855)
- Revised United States Army Regulations of 1861 (1863) ~
“Nothing contrary to the tenor of these Regulations will be enjoined in any part of the forces of the United States by any commander whatsoever.” — SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War. (Washington, August 10, 1861.)
- Baxter’s “VOLUNTEER’S MANUAL: containing full instructions for the recruit, in the schools of the soldier and squad, with one hundred illustrations of the different positions in the facings and manual of arms and the loadings and firings, arranged according to Scott’s system of infantry tactics” &c. &c. … “The instructions here given are of the greatest importance to the Recruit, and therefore should be thoroughly understood, being indispensable to the instruction of the Company…”
- Three years in the Sixth corps. A concise narrative of events in the Army of the Potomac, from 1861 to the close of the rebellion, April 1865 (George T. Stevens, 1866). Stevens’ account contains invaluable details about African Americans escaping from Southern slavery with the help of Union forces; see “Refugees” (p.273-275)
- Sarah Low Letters ~ Sarah Low (of Dover, NH) wrote numerous letters describing her experiences working as a nurse at Washington, DC hospitals. Her papers, ephemera, notebooks, & photographic collection are all archived by the NH Historical Society. Some letters have also been transcribed & posted by Dover Public Library.
- Battleground adventures, the stories of dwellers on the scenes of conflict in some of the most notable battles of the civil war (Clifton Johnson, 1915) ~ Detailed observations & accounts from enslaved people & freedmen along the Rappahannock. Andrew Ward has tracked down the names of some of Johnson’s storytellers in his book, The Slaves’ War.
See especially the narratives of:
- Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison (Bell Boyd, 1865) ~ A young woman’s autobiographical account of spying for the Confederacy, including stints in Washington, DC prisons in 1862 [p.195+] and again in summer 1863 [p.263+], at a time when soldiers from Colby’s regiment were posted as prison guards…
- Pension application depositions of Hester Tuckson & al. (Fall Hill, Spotsylvania County, VA) [full text] These documents give us the voice of one African American soldier’s widow, and, perhaps surprisingly, corroborating testimony from a former slaveholder.
The CAMBRIDGE CHRONICLE online archives >>
(An astoundingly complete collection of newspapers, 1846-2015! The Civil War era papers contain lots of letters, reports, & news of the 39th Mass, both at the front and at home in New England.)
- (more primary sources >>)
And of course throughout the project, I make extensive use of primary visual sources (drawings, prints, paintings, photographs, &c.) available at the US Library of Congress & elsewhere:
- COLLECTION: Civil War
- COLLECTION: Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints
- Documentary drawings of the Civil War
- Life Studies of the Great Army (by “special artist” Edwin Forbes) [Forbes @ wikipedia]
- “Drawing the War: Edwin Forbes”
- Thirty Years After : an artist’s story of the great war : told, and illustrated with nearly 300 relief-etchings after sketches in the field… VOLUME 1 | VOLUME 2 (Edwin Forbes) Essays on various subjects, accompanied by wartime drawings and later artwork based on Forbes’ experiences alongside the Union Army.
- (Alfred Waud) [“Drawing the War: Alfred Waud”]
- “Civil War Sketch Artists: Pencils on the Front Lines” (from LOC.gov)
“When is the pencil mightier than the camera? When it is recording the action on a Civil War battlefield.”
- HARPER’S WEEKLY Vol. 7 (1863) ~ Week-by-week accounts in words & pictures from all fronts of the war, plus news from around the world! [1863 Article text digitized @: SonOfTheSouth.net >>]
For complete sample pages and notes: visit my PATREON page >>
The previous volume in this series, The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby (Comics Workshop, 2016), was selected as a 2017 “Great Graphic Novel for Teens” by the YALSA. MORE INFO >>