Freeman Colby: From Primary Sources to Comics

Here’s a gallery of some Civil War primary sources & resulting comics pages from the Freeman Colby series:

Vol. 1: The Diary

Freeman Colby Vol. 1 started out as a (more or less) direct visual interpretation of Colby’s written “diary” (click the image to view @ full size):

READ MORE: “When the war broke out…” (Freeman Colby Vol. 1) ➤

Adding Visual Reference

Where Colby provides no description of historical sites, I found it useful to refer to historical primary source images:

READ MORE: “Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon” (Freeman Colby Vol. 1) ➤

(Note how those comics panels help us explore the lithograph’s details sequentially.)

Vol. 2: Supplemental Texts & Visuals

Basing Vol. 2 around Colby’s 1863 letters, I found it necessary to fill gaps in the record with texts & images from other sources. Below, some text from the 39th Mass. regimental history illustrates a gap of several months in Colby’s letters:

READ MORE: “The Fallen (June 1863)” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

Bringing in Other Narrators:

To fill these narrative gaps, I find it useful to focus for entire sections on the people around Colby, who provide many details to complement Colby’s story & flesh out our overall sense of the time period.

Below: Walt Whitman’s pocket notebooks, drawn from Colby’s perspective:

READ MORE: “News from Gettysburg (July 1863)” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

… & then the Other Narrators Take Over the Story!

I quickly find the story wants to linger on & follow these additional narrators. This empathic curiosity is a common effect of drawing out somebody else’s story!
Below = While Colby lies sick in hospital, unable to write letters, I find myself drawing from the letters of Nurse Sarah Low. This gives us an entirely different perspective on Union military hospitals & healthcare:

READ MORE: “Sarah Low: Civil War Nurse” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

Learning to See (& Fill) those Gaps

Of course, if we’re really paying attention, we can see that Colby’s letters home don’t tell the full story of his situation:

READ MORE: “Dear Parents” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

Drawing out a long march from Colby’s perspective, we must consider what (or who) is in those blank spaces all around our characters:

READ MORE: “Let Him March” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

We learn to mix in additional sources, with different perspectives on topics Colby doesn’t even mention:

READ MORE: “Refugees” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

From there, we can bring even more voices into our source-based conversation:

READ MORE: “Fannie Dawson” (Freeman Colby Vol. 2) ➤

These additional voices help us enrich Colby’s original storyline & explore the perspectives of several other eyewitnesses to history!

For recent Freeman Colby posts:
visit the project’s PATREON...

Published by Marek

Cartoonist, musician, teacher.

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