Freeman Colby Vol. 2: "Who's Who"

SEE ALSO: [ Freeman Colby Vol.2 TABLE OF CONTENTS ]
READ EARLY 1863 EPISODES: [ January, 1863 >> | Simulated Insanity (Winter 1863) >> | Breaking Camp (April 1863) >> ]

Here's an update on the Freeman Colby Vol. 2 project:

When I posted my first "Who's Who" introduction to this graphic novel (waaaay back in February 2018), the basic cast included Freeman Colby, his NH hometown pal Jonas Bacon, and a couple officers from the 39th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.  That's because I was working from Colby's (and a few of Jonas's) letters, plus Roe's 1914 regimental history.  

Since then, my research has led me to one new source after another, expanding this small initial cast & incorporating many more diverse voices & perspectives on the events of 1863.  So now it's high time to RE-introduce this project & its more extensive cast!  

Characters we meet in Vol.2 include:

Freeman Colby & Jonas Bacon 

Freeman Colby (above, R) is still a strong-willed young New England schoolteacher determined to survive his three-year enlistment in a Massachusetts regiment.  Jonas Bacon (above, L) is his erstwhile companion.  I have only a couple letters by Jonas, so even though he probably stars in more pages than Colby over the course of Volume 2, he takes a much more muted role, and serves chiefly as our eyes & ears for events Colby does not witness or describe.  

I occasionally supplement Colby's and Bacon's letters with excerpts from the letters of Wilbur Fisk, another young New England schoolteacher who was at this same time marching in (& writing home from) a nearby Vermont regiment.  

Sarah Low

Sarah Low grew up in Dover, NH.  During the Civil War, she volunteered as a nurse in several Washington D.C. military hospitals.  While Colby is recovering from illness & unable to write letters in fall-winter 1863, Nurse Low takes over the narrative & describes her experiences at Armory Square Hospital.  I'm drawing details from her letters throughout the first years of the war, but primarily from December 1863.  (I don't know if Colby & Low actually met, but their experiences in D.C. hospitals share enough details that I find it helpful and accurate to weave their narratives together in these comics.)

I'm drawing Sarah Low's story from her original letters (November-December 1863, archived by NH Historical Society), plus some transcripts provided by the Dover Public Library.

Walt Whitman

Yes, that guy!  The famous free-verse poet spent the war years living in Washington D.C. and making daily visits to military hospitals to support & cheer & assist wounded soldiers & hospital staff.  Around the 4th of July, 1863, I have Colby accompany Whitman on his rounds to various hospital wards, meeting the patients, and learning about the effects of the war on many levels.  (As with Low, I don't know if Colby & Whitman ever actually crossed paths, but their respective stories support each other & help us reach a deeper understanding of what each witnessed.)

For my Whitman source texts, I'm drawing from his 1876 collection, Memoranda During the War, as well as some lines from later editions of Leaves of Grass (especially the Drum Taps section).

Fannie Dawson

Fannie Dawson was a young woman from near Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Before the war, she was enslaved by the Gordon family; her duties included caring for, nursing, & raising all the children of her master's family.  During the war, she hosted numerous Confederate soldiers in camp around her own cabin, and protected the Gordon's plantation from unwanted incursions by the hungry soldiers, Southern and Northern.  

Dawson's fascinating account of enslavement & wartime survival first appears in Clifton Johnson's 1915 Battleground Adventures.  While I have no reason to believe Dawson ACTUALLY met Bacon or Colby, I'm using her story to depict some of the issues faced by the many, many refugees from slavery who DID cross paths with Yankee soldiers.  

Col. Davis & Capt. Richardson

Davis (above, L) is the fair-minded commander of the 39th Mass.; Company K commander Richardson (above, R) comes across as malignantly unfair & utterly vinidictive -- at least in Colby's telling!  

Lt. Col. Peirson

Peirson is the well-respected 2nd-in-command of the 39th Mass.  In November 1863, he leads his men bravely and (for the most part) safely through combat in the Mine Run campaign.  For some reason, I forgot to include his "soul-patch" goatee in the above portrait.  Argh, historical inaccuracy be darned!

Abraham Tuckson

Everything I know about Abraham Tuckson comes from the pension application of his widow, Hester Tuckson (National Archives & Records Administration).  When forced to haul supplies for the Confederate Army, Abraham escapes from to the North, then slips back into Virginia to visit Hester & their children.  He later joins the 23rd US Colored Troops and participates in several battles in 1864.  

I'm drawing this particular narrative from Abraham's point of view (instead of from Hester's, as the documents present it) because it will give us a view into the experiences of African American men who volunteered for duty in the Union Armies in the final two years of the war.  I don't know what he did for work during his time at Washington, but in order to streamline my comics, I have depicted him working as a hospital steward alongside Sarah Low.

That's it for now... You can read more sample pages under the tag "freeman colby"!