Never Asked Questions 

As you probably have noticed, many Web sites have FAQ pages, where the proprietors answer "Frequently Asked Questions". Well, this being a new site, how am I supposed to know what questions are going to be "frequently asked"? But I figured I should take my best guess. Here goes....

Why?

Some years ago, I was indulging my on-again-off-again interest in the Civil War and noticed how, when I'd start reading a book, I'd usually look first to see if it had any pictures of the significant historical characters. I liked being able to put a face with the name of a person I was reading about. Some books had lots of photos, others none. Having become a hopeless Internet junky by that time, I started searching the Web, looking for pictures of the key figures in the war. I found lots of pictures, scattered all to here-and-gone. I decided to try to do something to make things a bit easier on the Web wanderers, and put together a site called General Officers of the Civil War. It featured a few hundred small pictures -- purloined from all over -- of Union and Confederate general officers. It was a lot of fun and I was astonished by how much favorable reaction it got -- incuding a lot of "thank you" e-mails and even a couple of enthusiastic mentions in print publications. After a couple of years, a change in ISPs and some changes in my personal life caused the site to tumble into the Internet graveyard. I have to confess, too, that buying Generals in Blue, Generals in Gray, More Generals in Gray, Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue, and Civil War Generals made me realize how ridiculous my original goal -- having pictures of every Civil War general officer -- was. Recently, with my Civil War interest in its "on again" mode, I thought maybe I'd try something similar -- although on a somewhat different topic and a much more limited scale. After thinking about it a while, I decided to try putting together the same sort of site on the subject of Civil War naval officers. So here it is.

What's included in each section?

The site has four main sections:
 
     Individual Pictures.  Pictures of individual officers for whom I've been able to make a reasonably reliable determination of name and Civil War rank.
 
     Montages.  Images composed of small pictures of several officers. The identifying data is what was provided at the source.
 
     Group Pictures.  Pictures of groups (2 or more) of officers. The identifying data is what was provided at the source. In a couple of cases, I've added a little from my own study of the picture.
 
     Mystery Galleries.  These individual pictures came from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and the National Archives, and I have been unable to find further information on the subjects. Some of the people in the pictures may not have seen Civil War service at all. In other cases, names and/or ranks are questionable or completely unknown. In still other cases, the identifications are totally wrong. With each picture, I've provided the identification as shown at the source. I hope to be able to make some more useful identifications as time goes along.

Where did the pictures come from?

All of the pictures currently on this site were adapted from pictures found in four US Government Web collections: the picture collection at the Naval Historical Center, the American Memory collection of the Library of Congress, the general on-line collection of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress and the on-line holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration. I limited my collecting to those sources since their pictures are not under copyright and are free of reproduction restrictions.
  
In case you'd like to explore these Web sites for yourself, links to them are provided on each gallery page. The link blurb also explains how to tell which pictures came from which sources. Here's a quick run-down on what you can expect to find in each place:
 
     The Naval Historical Center: In the "People - United States" subsection of the Photographic Section, you'll find a large collection of images, alphabetically arranged. They are all carefully identified and include brief biographical sketches and other info. This place is a gem!
 
     The National Archives Web site has a large number of images available on-line, accessible through their Archival Research Catalog. The images are generally smaller than those found at the other sources. Also, there are quite a few errors in identification.
 
     The American Memory site at the Library of Congress contains 1,118 photos in its "Selected Civil War Photographs" collection. The pictures are fully identified and there's usually a little bit of additional information provided.
 
     The Library of Congress also provides on-line access to many photos through its Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Two of the accessible collections -- the "Civil War Photographs" and "Brady-Handy" Collections -- contain a total of almost 12,000 pictures, many of Civil War vintage. The problem with this source is that the identifications of the subjects were taken primarily from the paper sleeves holding the negatives. Many of the identifications are fragmentary and some are incorrect. (I noted three misidentified Civil War generals as I searched the holdings.) An unfortunate number of these pictures ended up in the Mystery Gallery.

How were the pictures selected?

Good question! I did not try to include every picture of every individual found on the source sites. Here are the criteria I used:
  
     (1) The subject was a naval officer of the sea services of the Union or Confederacy during the Civil War. For the Union, that includes the Navy, Marine Corps and Revenue Marine; for the Confederacy, the Navy and Marine Corps. (The Revenue Marine was a predecessor organization of the US Coast Guard.) Now, just what you mean by "officer" can get tricky. Do you include "acting" officers? Just commissioned officers, or also warrants? Line (executive) only, or also staff (civil) officers? The whole thing got so confusing I gave up and just included everyone who seemed like an officer to me. (If that disturbs you, wander on elsewhere.) For a really good run-down on the history of officer ranks in the US Navy, see the excellent History of United States Naval Uniforms and Insignia site created by Justin T. Broderick. You'll soon see why I was confused. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find similar information for the Confederate States Navy. (It sure would be nice if somebody would put together a site like that!)
  
     (2) The picture had to show the subject during or around the time of the war, if possible. I also included a few pre- and post-war pictures.
  
     (3) Pictures showing the person in uniform were preferred.
  
     (4) In the case of more than one photo/drawing/engraving/painting of an individual, I chose those which showed him in different poses or which provided different impressions. In the cases of multiple versions of the same picture, I chose the best quality item.

What did you do to the pictures after you downloaded them?

Not much. Almost all of the pictures have been cropped to reduce file size (and download time), remove extraneous material and, in many cases, lop off some of the damaged areas of the items. With many I've done a little more image processing -- mainly adjusting brightness and contrast, doing a little sharpening, and maybe brushing out a blemish or two. (Blemishes on the photo, not the subject. Grin.) The greyscale pictures were then saved out as JPGs with a 70% quality, which I think gives a nice quality at minimal file size. The few color pictures were saved at 90%.

How did you decide what rank to show for each officer?

The rank shown for each officer is the highest rank that I could reliably determine he actually held during the war. Of course, many of these men went on to later service and higher ranks in the US Navy and, in the case of the Confederate officers, in foreign naval services.

Aren't some of these people in the wrong uniforms?

Some of the pictures show the subjects with rank insignia which don't match the ranks given. That's because the picture dates from before they attained those ranks or from after the war, when they'd been promoted. In a few cases, the only pictures I found of a Confederate officer showed him in a US Navy uniform from before the war. For an excellent, nicely illustrated guide to US Navy uniforms during the war, see Justin Broderick's History of United States Naval Uniforms and Insignia site.

Why didn't you date the pictures?

I started out trying to put a date with each picture, but quickly found out that this was an exercise in futility. Very few of them have meaningful dates associated with them at the sources. So I gave up. In the case of the men in uniform, you can often determine the earliest possible date the picture could have been taken by comparing the date the person attained the rank shown and the date the style of rank insignia in the picture was authorized, but that doesn't mean much. You can try that yourself, if you like.

Why do you call this conflict the "Civil War"?

Because (1) that's what I grew up calling it, (2) that's what most people (even here in Richmond, Virginia) call it, and (3) it takes much less typing than "The War for Southern Independence" or "The War of Northern Aggression" or whatever. If you prefer a different term, that's certainly your privilege. If you're one of those "professional Southerners" who likes to make a big deal about this, go away! Only people who have proper respect for those who served on both sides of this tragic war and can comprehend the fact that it's been over for nearly 150 years are welcome here.

Will there be additions/updates to this site?

I sure hope so. I'll be working on obtaining identifications for the photos in the Mystery Gallery. Also, if I spot or am informed of errors, I'll certainly correct them. And I've found a few more pictures to include. The problem is that some of them are still under copyright and others may be. I just didn't want to tackle the issue of permissions at this point. Maybe later. And, of course, I'll be looking for even more pictures as I waddle around the Web.

Can I put a link to this site on my site?

Sure. That would be fine. (For visitors from Japan: this site is link free.) I would appreciate it if you'd drop me some e-mail (usncsn@excite.com) and let me know, so I could go pay a visit to your site. If you like banner links, here's a banner to use:

Would you like to exchange links?

Well, not really. I'm not all that keen on link exchanging. If you have a site which you think would be of particular interest to my visitors, drop me some e-mail (usncsn@excite.com). If I agree, I'll be happy to add it to my links list. No exchange necessary.

Can I use graphics from this site on my site?

It's fine with me. All of the pictures in the galleries were adapted from pictures in the public domain, and I don't claim copyright on anything on the site. Feel free to use whatever you want. A credit to this site would be nice, but isn't necessary. And some e-mail (usncsn@excite.com) telling me you found the stuff worth using would be nice, too.

Would you like people to contribute photos?

Certainly -- especially if someone has a photo of an ancestor they'd like to share. One restriction: to contribute a picture to this site, you must own the reproduction rights or be certain the picture is in the public domain. I don't much care to end up getting sued or getting crabby letters from lawyers. If you're unsure about the rights to an item, please get in touch (usncsn@excite.com). I'll be happy to discuss it with you.

Would you like people to contribute money?

Certainly! One restriction here, too: I will only accept contributions in amounts of US $500 or more. And if anyone sends me $500 or more, I'll need the money to pay for my funeral, 'cause I'll die of shock! Seriously, this site was created purely as a hobby, and I don't expect to make a dime out of it. Of course, if you have $500 you're planning on throwing away....

Will you accept advertising?

As of now, I'm undecided about advertising. I guess I'll wait and see if anyone wants to advertise before I decide. One type of advertising I'll definitely accept is ads for books -- Civil War subjects only. Payment would be one review copy of the book in return for a permanent ad with a link to purchase point or author's Web site. (I'm a sucker for books!)

I have another question!

Please e-mail me at usncsn@excite.com.