|Carte de visite of Charles Moore,|
taken at Gates’ Studio, Plattsburgh
These small photos, each about 2.5” x 4”, were known as cartes de visite because they were the same size as calling or visiting cards, and they were wildly popular in the 1860s among both soldiers and civilians. Originally, the photographs would have been stored in an album designed especially for the display of cartes de visite, like the one seen here from the Alice’s collection. In these albums, American collectors during the Civil War mingled photos of relatives and politicians, friends and generals. These albums were not just books of personal memories; they were documents that allowed people to construct their own narratives of the war and, in the north especially, they became vehicles for the expression of national identity.
|Carte de visite album. Andrew Johnson on the left,|
Tom Thumb’s wedding on the right.
|Lt. Col. Frank Palmer|
Moore came from a family with strong ties to the north country and its military history. His father, Amasa Corbin Moore, was the son of Pliny Moore, one of the founders of Champlain, and his mother, Charlotte Mooers, was the daughter of General Benjamin Mooers, commander of the New York Militia at the Battle of Plattsburgh. He proudly wrote to his mother to tell her how he had been introduced to the colonel of his regiment: “Mr. Charles F. Moore of Troy, son of Col. A. C. Moore of Plattsburgh and grandson of General Benjamin Mooers who commanded the Battle of Plattsburgh. Very good, don’t you think so?”
|Reverse of carte de visite|
|W. H. Walling, 16th NY Volunteers.|
Moore recorded that Walling “captured
the Rebel flag from the parapet of
Ft. Fisher,” a Confederate stronghold
in North Carolina.
After the war, Charles Moore returned to Troy, where he was a clerk in an insurance office. Eventually he went into partnership as an insurance broker with A. G. Peck; later he went into the real estate brokerage business and engaged in some very successful land speculation. But in November 1877, the shocking news that Moore had committed suicide reached his hometown. The newspaper report in the Troy Whig, reprinted in the Plattsburgh Sentinel, attributed Moore’s suicide to a “miasmatic fever” which, “together with overwork, doubtless caused temporary mental derangement.” It’s impossible to say now whether Moore had any kind of long-term mental health issues as a result of his combat experience, but recent research has shown that some Civil War veterans did exhibit symptoms that we would now identify as signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. At the time, however, these problems were labeled as “melancholia” or “mania”–or not acknowledged at all.
Charles Moore’s photograph collection gives a human face to the sometimes abstract image of war. And his life reminds us that even when soldiers return home, their stories don’t always have a happy ending.
Andrea L. Volpe, “The Cartes de Visite Craze,” New York Times (August 6, 2013).
Christa Holm Vogelius, “Family Albums of War: Carte de Visite Collections in the Civil War Era,” Common-place Vol. 16 no. 1 (Fall 2015).
“A Brief History of the Carte de Visite,” American Museum of Photography. Part of the online exhibit Small Worlds: The Art of the Carte de Visite.
Tony Horwitz, “Did Civil War Soldiers Have PTSD?” Smithsonian Magazine (January 2015).