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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Historical Tidbit: "In His Hands Tightly Clasped..."

Have you heard...of the Humiston photo?

After the Battle of Gettysburg, a dead soldier was found clutching this picture of what were presumed to be his three children. 

The photo made its way into the hands of John Francis Bournes, who took it on himself to try and identify the deceased soldier using the photo. He published a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer which read, in part, “After the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the battlefield, where,  wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands tightly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of three small children…and as he silently gazed upon them his soul passed away.  It is earnestly desired that all papers in the country will draw attention [so] the family…may come into possession of it". 

In New York, Philinda Humiston read a description of the photo and, because she hadn't heard from her husband since the battle, responded. A copy of the photo was sent to her, confirming that the deceased soldier was her husband, Amos.

This is a tragic story with a closed ending, but wouldn't it be a fantastic premise for a story? A man dies on the battlefield clutching a photo. (It doesn't necessarily have to be of children.) Who is in the photo, and why are he/she/they the last thing "he silently gazed upon...[as] his soul passed away"?

Have you heard this story before? Would you read a book with this premise?