Monday, March 26, 2012

Galveston Research Summary #15 - A Surgeon's Sketches

In my last post (here), I discussed the Civil War journal of Henry O. Gusley, a United States Marine, originally published in 1863 by the Galveston press and then published as a recent edited version by Edward T. Cotham, Jr.

I also mentioned that Cotham's book - The Southern Journey of a Civil War Marine: The Illustrated Note-Book of Henry O. Gusley - had more than 100 illustrations and that a good number of the period sketches were by Dr. Daniel D. T. Nestell, a surgeon on the US Clifton.

As Mr. Cotham points out, Nestell served in the same flotilla as Gusley and so his sketches - previously unpublished until Cotham's excellent book - depict many of the locales and incidents that Gusley described.

Fortunately, the Nimitz Library of the United States Naval Academy has digitized the Nestell Collection and many of the sketches as well as his personal papers are available online via the Daniel D. Nestell Papers - Nimitz Library Digital Collections.

Per the library:

About this Collection

The Daniel D. T. Nestell Papers, spanning from 1852 to 1911, focus primarily on service and experiences of Nestell as an Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy during the Civil War. The papers describe naval career of Daniel Nestell, from his initial appointment through his retirement and subsequent pension claims, including descriptions of his time as a Confederate prisoner of war.

Much of the collection is composed of hand-drawn sketches by Nestell, which depict numerous naval engagements, including the First Battle of Galveston, the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, and the Siege of Vicksburg, as well several portraits and caricatures.

Biographical Sketch

Daniel D. T. Nestell was a U.S. Navy surgeon during the American Civil War. He was born in New York between 1815 and 1819, and graduated with honors from the University of the City of New York, University Medical College. On January 25, 1862, Dr. Nestell was appointed Acting Assistant Surgeon, to serve on the U.S.S. Clifton. While serving aboard the Clifton, Nestell was witness to the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, the Siege of Vicksburg, and the First Battle of Galveston, before being captured by Confederate forces at Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863. Nestell was subsequently held as a prisoner of war until January 1864. After his release from Confederate captivity, Nestell was assigned to U.S.S. Alabama, which was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and took part in the Union attacks on Fort Fisher in December 1864. During the battle, Nestell suffered irreversible hearing damage, resulting in his appointment being revoked in June 1865. Nestell was subsequently honorably discharged from the Union Navy in August 1865.

Cotham provides some excellent interpretation of Nestell's career and pension papers, especially - as noted above - his hearing loss due to the impressive bombardments performed by the mortar flotilla.

The best part of the collection, though, are the dozens of contemporary sketches that Nestell made.

My favories include his drawings related to the capture of Galveston in October 1862 and the Battle of Galveston January 1, 1863, such as this and the one above:

Other favorites include his sketches of the Bayou Teche and other areas of Louisiana, which I visited in November 2010 (see previous post here), and was strick by some of the things that Nestell drew, including might moss-covered oaks and seeing alligators in the wild!

Many thanks are due to the staff of the USNA Nimitz Library for their digitization efforts. Make sure you see all of their digital collections - including other Civil War collections - here.


Mark said...

Very rad! Thanks for the invite too:) On another note, I found a civil war letter on eBay I really like, but it's $375, yikes! How do you typically go about haggling over items of history you like?

Jim Schmidt said...

Thanks, Mark!

Congrats on finding that letter...I haven't ever haggled much on EBay except for those fe wtimes when they used "Make an Offer" and there was som eback and forth.

You might have better success with haggling with dealers outside of EBay. I don't have a comprehensive list but there are some dealers in correspondence as well as traditional auction houses that have some items for sale.

Some of them seem to be just autograph dealers and only deal in paper from "famous" folks...I tend to enjoy the "common folk" correspondence myself.

One example is the "Historical Shop" in New Orleans which has a long list of Union letters/documents on its website:

You never know hat you might find...a friend of mine found a letter written by a g-g-grandfather on EBay a few weeks back!

Good luck!