Bluejacket Image Focus: The Faces of Wartime U.S. Sailors at Baton Rouge
Among the many excellent naval images held by the Library of Congress is a Stereograph view (here) that depicts Union bluejackets in the act of resupplying their vessels at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It originally appeared in Volume 1 of the Photographic History of the Civil War, along with another image of a Baton Rouge coaling yard being utilised by the fleet. Thanks to the incredible resolution at which the Library of Congress makes these images available, it is possible for us to virtually “dive in” to explore elements of picture like this in greater detail. Doing so reveals some fantastic portraits of individual bluejackets, captured as they paused from carrying out one of their most arduous duties.
Despite this image’s previous publication, it is not one of the better known depictions of the wartime U.S. Navy. Yet it is one of a relatively few photographs that shows bluejackets in the act of resupplying their vessels- something that was an ever present necessity, consideration (and often gigantic headache!) for those in the naval service. For most ordinary bluejackets, the consistent and regular need to engage in the backbreaking work of recoaling and resupply was a mainstay of their wartime experience. Here we get a rare detailed look at some of them in the midst of such work.
Exploring images such as this in greater detail can offer some interesting insights into Union bluejackets “on the job,” revealing features that at first sight aren’t always apparent. They are also a great opportunity to closely examine the appearance of individual wartime sailors, and consider how that could differ from man to man. Ultimately, photographs like this help us to put faces to the thousands of names our citizen Scientists are exploring as part of the Civil War Bluejackets Zooniverse Project.
Be sure and keep an eye out for another Bluejacket Image Focus post in the near future!