Groton, MA c. 1888: The Caroline Estelle Mudge Lawrence Photo Album

Somewhere around 1887 or so, possibly earlier, Caroline Estelle Mudge Lawrence familiarized herself with the then-still-arcane process of photography and, to my reckoning, did something which for the time was quite unusual: she took pictures. Of her land. Her neighbors’ land. Animals she and others owned. Her husband, her children, her friends. Domestic life, well before the turn of the last century. It was, in a phrase, a thoroughly modern thing to do, and it was way, way ahead of its time.

Here, for the sake of preservation, and for the fun of seeing the daily reality of a family approximately 130 years ago, is the album…

(A brief editorial note: these are going up un-captioned. I’ll try to get names, places, etc. attached ASAP.–LSL)

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The Lost Sargents: ‘Recovering’ the Destroyed Portraits of Mr. And Mrs. James Lawrence

In 1881, the American artist John Singer Sargent painted dual portraits of husband and wife, James and Caroline Estelle Mudge Lawrence.

Much to many people’s everlasting grief, however, in 1939, both paintings were destroyed in a fire in Aunt Libby’s [Elizabeth Prescott Lawrence Emmons’] apartment.

For most of my life, it was my understanding that any substantive idea of what those paintings might have looked like had been lost, along with the originals, in the flames.

Over the last year, though, I have found two photographic reproductions of Estelle’s portrait, and one of James’  portrait. After some truly sparing and minimalist work in Photoshop, I offer them both below.

The best image of Estelle’s portrait came from a .pdf of an old Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog which had featured the painting: Memorial Exhibition of the Work of John Singer Sargent (January 4 through February 14, 1926). You can see a copy of it here; scroll to Plate 6.

The background, by the way, was described by contemporary viewers as being a brilliant red. Looking at the monotone image below, I can almost see the cadmium in my mind’s eye.

 

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John Singer Sargent
Mrs James Lawrence
1881
61 x 45.7 cm
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated upper right: John S. Sargent 1881
Destroyed by fire at Hingham, Massachusetts, c. 1939

 

The image of James’ portrait came from a photograph taken by Estelle herself. It was easily discernible on the far wall in an interior shot of the Lawrence Homestead at Groton.

 

james-lawrence-by-john-singer-sargent-destroyed-in-aunt-lizzies-apt-fire-1-9-in-w

John Singer Sargent
Mr James Lawrence
Exact dimensions unknown
c. 1881
Oil on canvas
Destroyed by fire at Hingham, Massachusetts, c. 1939

 

 

A Street Map to Mudge’s Burial Site at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Lynn, MA

In the waning years of his life, Charley Mudge’s father, Enoch Redington Mudge, devoted himself to the construction of an Episcopal church in Lynn: St. Stephen’s.

The church has its own website, including a section on its history, here; there is a very good Wikipedia entry, here; and a recent newspaper article on the thought process that went into giving the building, interspersed with a short bio on Enoch Mudge, here.

Going there is profoundly different than reading about it. I urge you. Make the trip.

Contact Info:

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The gravesite is in the center courtyard of the building, called “The Garth.” It’s best to call ahead, as there is no access during off hours.

A Visit to Gettysburg

Provoked by the foregoing research, I went to Gettysburg to look for the place, the actual place, where Colonel Mudge was killed: Spangler’s Spring, located near the foot of Culp’s Hill, at the tip of the Union “fish hook. ”

Google Map (GPS coordinates: 39.813324° N, 77.215871° W):

 

If you are reading this at Gettysburg, and currently searching a paper map, it is stop number 13 on the auto tour.]

 

Coming out of the woods on to a straight part of the road, with a large meadow on the right and a smaller one farther down on the left, your eye moves up across a long hill to a wall of woods. Just off to the left, and easy to miss, is a smallish rectangular stone monument fitted with a bronze plaque. It rests on a large slab of granite that was probably dumped as glacial till.

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This is the memorial to the 2nd Mass. Volunteers, and, dedicated in 1879 by the survivors, it was the first such memorial to be placed on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The two faces of the plaque appear as follows:

2ma-tablet-4c_7778f

“From the hill behind this monument on the morning of July Third 1863 the Second Massachusetts Infantry made an assault upon the Confederate troops in the works at the base of Culp’s Hill opposite. The regiment carried to the charge 22 officers and 294 enlisted men. It lost 4 officers and 41 enlisted  men killed and mortally wounded and 6  officers and 84 enlisted men wounded. To perpetuate the honored memories of  that hour the survivors of the Regiment  have raised this stone. 1879.”

2ma-tablet-rear-cu-4c_7775

“Lieut. Col. Charles R. Mudge                    Captain Thomas B. Robeson
Captain Thomas B. Fox                         Lieut. Henry V.D. Stone
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Color bearers – Leavitt C. Durgin, Rupert J. Sadler, Stephen Cody
First Sergeant Alonzo J. Babcock, Sergeant William H. Blunt.
–Corporals–
Charles Burdett, Theodore S. Butters, Jeremiah S. Hall, Patrick Heoy, Ruel Whittier, Gordon S. Wilson.
–Privates–
Samuel T. Alton  James T. Edmunds  Charles Kiernan
George M. Baily  William H. Ela  William Marshall
Henry C. Ball  John E. Farrington  Frederick Maynard
Wallace Bascom  Silas P. Foster  Andrew Nelson
John Briggs, Jr.  Willard Foster  Rufus A. Parker
David B. Brown  Joseph Furber  Philo H. Peck
William T. Bullard  Fritz Goetz  Sidney S. Prouty
James A. Chase  Daniel A. Hatch  Richard Seavers
Peter Conlan  John J. Jewett  Charles Trayner
John Derr  John Joy  David L. Wade”

Above: the front and back of the monument to the 2nd. Mass Volunteers, and their respective inscriptions.

Just in front of the stone, you see a gray, withered tree stump, maybe a foot-and-a-half across and coated in dust from the road. It stands up from the base of the huge boulder, almost pointing towards the hill. Its brush with the saw occurred long ago, but somehow it has held on.
Continue reading

Consoling Words From One of Mudge’s Comrades

As the Civil War raged, in the aftermath of Mudge’s death, Adjutant John Fox subordinated his own grief over the death of his brother to ease that of the Mudge family. To the colonel’s father he wrote,

 

I esteemed it a great privilege to be the first friend to receive his remains, and, with Colonel Morse, to perform those last offices which none but a friendly hand should undertake. Of his gallantry I need not speak,–it will be a house-hold word of every survivor of the regiment. My brother and Charley were classmates, and I hold it the sacred duty of my life to fight for the flag they died for, and to see that the cause for which they suffered is in the end triumphant over all its enemies. I hope that God may comfort and bless you and yours , even as I pray He may comfort my poor father and mother, and all who were friends of the loved and lost.

 

–The 2nd Massachusetts Infantry
at Gettysburg (1-3 July, 1863):
Vignettes of the Battle

http://www.geocities.com/pentagon/2126/gettyvig.html

 

Charles Redington Mudge’s Death and the Fog of War

In his excellent study, Gettysburg, Day Three, 2001, pp. 70-74, military historian Jeffrey D. Wert details the command decisions on the day Mudge was killed, and the probable miscommunication and/or misunderstanding that led to the order to “take the hill”…an order Mudge followed though he knew it almost certainly meant his death.

It is gripping reading, which I strongly recommend, and a wrenching anecdote of what has come to be called the fog of war.

Sadly, copyright restrictions prevent me from reproducing it here, or I would share it in full.

I tried to look for a short passage or two to quote under allowances for fair use, but you really have to follow the whole argument from beginning to end to appreciate the futility and the tragedy of what transpired.

You can buy the book here.