Historic photos to be on display at Hubbard House

Ron Coddington, an author who has written numerous books on the Civil War, displays photographs he unearthed detailing the African American soldier’s role in the war.

ASHTABULA — A rarely told portion of the history of the Civil War will be on display at the Hubbard House for the next year.

A series of photographs collected by author Ronald Coddington highlight the history of African American soldiers who fought for the cause during the Civil War. 

Coddington was in town on Saturday and Sunday to open the show and discussed the process that led to African American Faces of the Civil War, An Album.

He said he did a book on Civil War Soldiers in 2003 and during a book signing in Baltimore a woman went through the book page by page and said ‘You know there were Civil War soldiers of color.’

Coddington, a former journalist at the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Jose Mercury News, said he decided at that moment to do a book on African American Civil War soldiers.

The photo research started in 2008 and a book was completed in 2012.

Coddington said he has written four books on the Civil War and they all begin with photographs.

“It is a photo-driven book. I find the photos first because I there is a unique power to seeing a person’s face and then hear their story,” he said.

He said one third of the 77 photos in the book come from public institutions and two thirds are from private collections throughout the United States. Coddington said it was a challenge to find them but it changed his view of the war.

“We are at the very beginning of telling the story of the African American soldier. He said it took “heavy duty” research to fill out the stories of the men.

He said the key element of the research was United States government pensions to the soldiers. 

Coddington said William Henry Scott was an eight-year-old slave when he realized he wanted to escape and be a free man.

He got his chance five years later when he escaped to a Union regiment near his Virginia plantation.

Coddington said Scott spent the rest of the war as an aid to a regiment leader because he was too young to actually fight but ended up at the battles of Fredricksburg, Gettysburg and other major conflicts.

The photographs will be available to review when the museum is open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer.

Hubbard House board member Lisa Burroughs said she saw a presentation of Coddington’s work in a magazine and called for reprints and happened to get the author on the phone.

She asked if they ever thought of doing a “traveling show” and it became a reality.

Burroughs said the photographs will be excellent for the increased traffic of high school students at the museum. 

“We have made a concerted effort to bring high school students into the Hubbard House,” she said.

Burroughs hopes discussions with students and adults will help people understand the Hubbard’s House historical place as a last stop on the Underground Railroad.

“This was the last stop before getting on a ship and taking legal freedom in Canada,” she said.