The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog offers access to a large number of Civil War related images. Among them is this hand-coloured ambrotype of a Civil War soldier. It is identified as Private William Haberlin, a native of Ireland who was killed at the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee on 16th December 1864. He served in Independent Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery, which was recruited from Franklin and Erie Counties. Haberlin mustered into service on October 11th 1861. He survived many of the major battles of the Western Theater from Shiloh to Franklin, only to fall during the unit’s final significant engagement of the war.
There are very few details available on Haberlin’s life and service. However, the image is accompanied by a hand-written note, which gives us a glimpse at the personality and motivations of the man in the portrait. It reads as follows:
Now to the field again I’ll go,
for the union to defend,
Untill Jeff Davis is made to know,
His Kingdom is about to end.
And now if I would not live,
To hear freemen shout for joy,
This miniature to you I give,
In memory of a soldier boy.
William P. Haberlin.
Aside from the Irishman’s efforts at poetry, the note also tells us something of his motivation for continuing in service. Along with many of his comrades he had reenlisted as a Veteran Volunteer when his initial two year term expired. Haberlin was fighting to preserve the Union and to end slavery. It is tempting to speculate that he may have written the note while on veteran furlough in the winter of 1863-64, before passing on the ambrotype to a loved one. (1)
(1) Bates 1871: 859, 862
Bates, Samuel P. 1871. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5. Volume 5.