Georgia’s Military Veteran Photographers

Portrait of David Martin Peden, carte-de-visite, ca. 1875; digital image courtesy of Frenette Cooper Brown

This seems a good time for me to share some interesting news accounts I’ve come across in the recent past related to veterans of the Civil War. Those articles brought to mind other information I’ve gathered on Georgia’s photographers.

News articles that pertained to photographers as Confederate veterans, particularly to those photographers disabled in the Civil War, were the first of these I had ever come across. I know there is more research do to in state records regarding this bill, or bills, passed in Georgia at the turn of the century. It is confusing from the news reports if one bill, or many, was passed. 

Although there are references to local tax exemptions as early as 1878, the first article I found regarding soldiers who were disabled Confederate veterans and photographers is in September 1891, and the last in December 1899. Under the title “Friday, Sept. 4 — The House,” found in the Macon Weekly Telegraph (Sept. 9, 1891, pg. 6, col. 1), it was reported that a bill was introduced by (representative) Rembert of Murray (County) “to allow D. M. Peden, a disabled Confederate Soldier, to take photographs, etc., without paying a specific tax.”

In the Tuesday December 20, 1892 issue of the Gwinnett Herald (pg.2, col. 2), under the title “The Legislature,” is that “the following general bills were passed Saturday.” Noted is that one of those bills passed was “to allow disabled Confederate soldiers to run photograph galleries free of license.” So this was the bill originally introduced in 1891, although it appears several representatives presented this bill. 

Five years later, in a December Macon Telegraph in 1897, under the heading “Atlanta, Dec. 13” in a paragraph headed “Favorable to Veteran Soldiers,” applicable to all veterans who were photographers, was this thought, which I like to believe remains true today.

The favorable vote upon Mr. Craig’s bill exempting Confederate Soldiers from license tax when they engage in the business of photography reminds me that the general assembly throughout the present session has uniformly passed similar laws and that no war-worn ex-soldier has ever knocked at the door of the Georgia legislature in vain.

Macon Telegraph, December 14, 1897, pg. 5, col. 2

The last of these article I’ve seen is from the Savannah Morning News on December 22, 1899 (pg. 2, col. 4) and the Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprise on December 23, 1899 (pg. 1, col. 3). They were reporting on “Atlanta, Dec. 21 – other bills approved,” including one “To relieve Confederate soldiers of the tax on photographers.” The same Thomasville newspaper, on Dec. 30, 1899 (pg. 1, col. 4), listed the above under “Bills Approved.” 

But what of D. M. Peden and the other photographer veterans? Who were they? Here is some brief biographical information on some of these war veteran photographers, in alphabetical order.

Jackson Herald June 24, 1898, pg. 4, col. 3 (this advertisement for T. J Allen appeared in the Jackson Herald from February through December 1898); Presented online by the Digital Library of Georgia

T. J. [Thomas Jefferson] Allen (1845-1928) referred to himself in an 1898 advertisement as “an old soldier, exempt from taxation.” He worked in Commerce, Georgia (then known as Harmony Grove), until a move to Sparta in 1920. Two sons, and his wife Elizabeth, assisted him in the studio, and one son, George J. Allen (1872-1959), became a prominent Georgia photographer.

Allen enlisted in the military at age seventeen, and he was only twenty when he surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. After his wife’s death in 1922, he moved into the Confederate Soldiers Home in Atlanta, where he died in December 1928. The Home was used from 1901 until 1941, and it was demolished in 1967.

A. J. [Andrew Jackson] Bearden (ca. 1832-1897), a Rome, Georgia, photographer from about 1860 – 1866, was apparently an itinerant for awhile. He appears on the 1860 Alabama census, although he was advertising in Rome as early as 1859. He also served as the Rome agent for Augusta, Georgia, photographers Tucker & Perkins, by January 1860. 

As of May 18, 1861, Bearden served with the 8th Infantry regiment, Co. A., known as the “Rome Light Guards,” and he was soon promoted to Sergeant 3rd class. A few months later, on July 21, he was wounded at first Manassas (First Battle of Bull Run), Virginia, taken prisoner, escaped in August, and given a disability discharge in October 1861. He joined a local cavalry company as a 2nd lieutenant in April 1862, and by mid-March 1866, he was able to reopen his Rome studio, which had been run by another photographer in his absence. 

From May to October 1866, Bearden had an advertisement placed in the Rome Tri-Weekly, with the headline “Cause & Cure of Secession.” He was selling carte de visite photographs of well-known Georgians such as the humorist Bill Arp (Major C. H. Smith), and other persons, for patrons’ photo albums. This was possibly Allen’s attempt to “move on,” and away from the war.

Bearden was in California by 1867, and by 1870, he was working as a photographer in San Jose. By 1880, he was a photographer in Grass Valley. He next moved his family to Fresno, and by the 1890s he was prospecting (for silver or gold?). He died of pneumonia in June 1897, on one of his prospecting trips.

T. J. [Thomas J.] Bowers (1839 -1894) worked as a photographer in Georgia from about 1868-1888. According to his 1890 pension application, he became a captain in company C, 1st Georgia regiment, Frank’s Brigade. While serving on sentry duty in Augusta, Georgia, in February 1865, he “was taken suddenly with cerebral spinal meningitis,” and lost consciousness, which resulted in his total deafness. He is included in the Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895, now in the collection of Gallaudet University. 

Bowers was a photographer in several Georgia cities, including Athens, Rome, Hartwell, and Atlanta. In the Atlanta Constitution of October 22, 1878 (pg 4, col. 2), a petition was presented at the October 21 city council meeting to allow T. J. Bowers “to conduct a photograph gallery free of license.”  It was referred to the committee on tax. He remained in Atlanta, where his wife assisted him, as did his daughter Fannie for a few years before her marriage. In Febrary 1890, his application for a pension was accepted and he was awarded $30 for that year ending October 24, 1890.

Bowers and his wife joined their married daughter in Alabama by 1891. Thomas J. Bowers died in March 1894, from injuries received when he was struck by an “East Lake dummy engine” (of the Birmingham Railway & Electric Company), as he was crossing the track. He was described in an article in The Birmingham News (March 16, 1894, pg. 6) reporting his death, as “the deaf and dumb man,” although he was able to speak and ran a photography business for many years. Then, as today, the reporting was inaccurate.

Y. B. [Young Bolton] Clifton (1846-1888) was a photographer in Athens, Georgia, from early 1884, until his death in late 1888. Born in North Carolina, in March 1862, at the age of sixteen he enlisted in North Carolina’s 1st infantry. He was wounded more than once, including at the Battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia, in July 1862. A year later, he was wounded on July 1, 1863, and taken prisoner at Gettysburg. The following day, July 2, 1863, his severely wounded left leg was amputated below the knee at Gettysburg Hospital. He was transfered to the hospital at Chester, Pennsylvania a few days later.

Clifton was eligible for exchange in August, and that exchage took place in mid-September at City Point, Virginia. From there he went into the 2nd North Carolina Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia. As of early November 1864, he was noted as “retired” from duty. In February 1865, he was at the General Hospital, Charlottesville, Virginia, which is probably when he applied for an artificial limb I believe he received, and he was in a Richmond hosptial by the end of March, possibly to be fitted.

By 1880 Clifton was working as a photographer in Louisburg, North Carolina, and was in Georgia by 1884. In February 1888, Clifton applied for and recevieved a pension of $25.00. He did not receive that pension very long, because he died of pneumonia on December 18, 1888. His widow applied for and received his pension after his death. Of their five children, one son A.V. [Arthur V.] Clifton (1878-1956) followed his father’s profession and became a prominent Athens and Atlanta photographer, from about 1890 to 1916.

A “Mr. Montmollien — and his wife, who is an artist herself” was called by the Bainbridge Democrat on August 18, 1898 (pg. 3, col. 3) “a crippled Confederate soldier.” The two were soon to open a “first-class photograph gallery and studio on the third floor of The Democrat Building.” They were said to do work in crayon, water color, and pastel. They were not mentioned by name, but the newspaper once more wrote of the pair when they encouraged citizens to have their photographs made or enlarged at the “new gallery up stairs over The Democrat office” (Bainbridge Democrat, Sept. 8, 1898 (pg. 3, col.3). I found no advertisements for this couple.

The surname of Montmollien may be misspelled and is probably Montmollen. There are several Confederate soldiers in Georgia and South Carolina listed with that surname, but without a first name for either the photographer or his artist wife, it is difficult to pinpoint which one of those soldiers happened to also be this photographer.

C. W. Motes, Athens, carte-de-visite back mark, ca. 1870; collection of the author

Another Georgian who would have benefited from the tax exempton, at least for a time, is C. W. [Columbus Washington] Motes (1837-1919). He was a young artist-photographer in Athens, Georgia when he joined the Troup Artillery, on April 24, 1861. He was made a lieutenant a year later, on April 29, 1862. Wounded at Sharpsburg (aka Battle of Antietam, near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek) in his left hip and right shoulder on September 17, 1862, Motes was hospitalized the next day in General Hospital no. 12, in Richmond, Virginia, where he stayed through October. He was furloughed until December, and eventually reimbursed $200 for his horse, killed when he was wounded.

In 1890, a humorous story was printed in the Atlanta Consitution (May 11, 1890, pg. 12), under the Editorial Gossip column, quoting “Congressman Carlton,” regarding the by then prominent Atlanta photographer C. W. Motes, who was a part of Calton’s company within the Troup Artillery. Among other stories he told about the photographer, he said that

At the Battle of Sharpsburg, however, he came to me, his arm dangling by his side, and covered with blood and said: “Captain Carlton, what do you think? The yankees have shot me!” I ordered him to the rear, but he returned to his post, and in a few moments I heard: “Captain Carlton, the yankees have shot me again!” This time he was badly wounded in the hip, and was borne to the rear on a caisson.

Motes worked in Athens from at least 1860, until he went to war, and was there from his homecoming until he moved to Atlanta in 1871. Shortly before that move, the October 1870 The Philadelphia Photographer (v. 7, pg. 353) reported on his devleopment of a “Circular Background.” He finally sold his Athens studio in 1874, and after an active career in Atlanta, he returned to Athens to work there from 1901 to 1904. He returned to Atlanta in 1905, whiere he remained until his death in 1919.

I want to tell you much more about C. W. Motes, his partnerships, awards, organizational memberships, and his employees, including the African American studio assistants he trained (one of whom became a successful photographer), but all that is for another day, another post.

D. M. [David Martin] Peden (1841 – 1916) was a photographer originally trained by his father, Thomas Alexander Peden, then working for the artist-photographer Charles Lanneau in Greenville, South Carolina. Lanneau began working as a photographer in 1855, and T.A. Peden was associated with him soon after that, and brought his son David there to apprentice.

D. M. Peden, his father and his brothers all enlisted and served with the 1st South Carolina Calvary Company B Ferguson Rangers. One brother was lost, and his father served only a short time, but David served throughout the entire war, from 1861 to 1865. When he returned home, he began working with his father, who had established Peden Traveling Photographers in Greenville, South Carolina.

D. M. Peden Traveling Photographer, Cohutta Springs, cabinet card back mark stamp, ca. 1890; digtal image courtesy of Frenette Cooper Brown

David M. Peden moved to Georgia in 1869, and opened another Peden Traveling Photographers, working primarily out of the Cohutta Springs area, but traveling as an itinerant photographer through South and North Carolina, Tennessee, and Albama. While he traveled, his sons Robert and John ran the Cohutta Springs studio, and in 1890, J. R. [James Robert, 1868-1947] Peden opened another studio in Maryville, Tennessee. It is possible David accompanied his son in 1898, as part of J.R. Peden, & Co., photographers, of Maryville, Tennessee, to photograph gold prospectors.

In addition to Cohutta Springs in Murray County, David M. Peden also farmed and had a studio in nearby Whitfield County, Georgia — it may be in either place that he had a farm accident and lost an arm, thus making him a “disabled Confederate veteran photographer” exempt from the Murray County photographers tax. Due to illness, he had been hospitalized for about a month in Jackson General Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, in 1864, so he was not injured in battle, but was a veteran who later became disabled. He died at age seventy-five, on July 18, 1916, and is buried in Cohutta.

I want to eventually post on this family of artist-photographers as part of my Readers and Research series. The Peden family had working photographers in their family from the mid-19th into the 21st centuries, and much of their work was in Georgia. My thanks to the Peden family for sharing their information and their images with me.

D. M. Peden’s studio tent shown to right of the family home in either Whitfleld or Murray County, Georgia, ca. 1890; digital image courtesy of Frenette Cooper Brown

N. C. [Nathan Carrel] White (1828-1913) is a photographer about whom I have previously written. He was born in Virginia, but living in Mississippi when he and other men went to Purdy, Tennessee, in May 1862, to enlist and serve with Co. E, 8th Regiment (Wade’s), Mississippi and Alabama Cavalry. He was “elected from the ranks,” at the end of August, and became a First Lieutenant. At the Battle of Shelbyville, Tennessee, on June 27, 1863, he was captured and became a prisoner of war. He was first moved to Nashville, then on to a Louisville, Kentucky military prison, and was finally taken to Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, Ohio, to serve his sentence. He was eventually paroled and transferred to City Point, Virginia, for exchange on February 24, 1865.

After the war, White went first to Alabama, where he worked as a merchant, married, and where their first child was born in 1869. By 1870, he had brought his family to Tennessee, to the Dyersville area. In late 1873, he was elected a Dyer County Alderman, serving as the board’s Recorder and Treasurer for 1874. By 1880, he had become a photographer there, and was the father of three more children.

By 1884, N. C. White moved to Georgia, where he worked as a photographer in Gainesville. He remained in that city, building his business into a well-known one. He had taken his son, named after him (Nathan Carrel White, 1870-1965), into the business about 1888, as N.C. White and Son. After his father’s death in 1913, Nathan C. White, junior, carried on the photography business, known as White’s, until his full retirement in the late 1950s.

N. C. White, Gainesville, tintype of an unidentified woman in marked carte-de-visite size paper sleeve, ca. 1885; collection of the author

I hope you gleaned something useful from these brief biographies. There are many other stories about our Georgia photographer veterans of various wars. I’ve shared some of those with you previously, and I’ll share more in the future. If any of you know something about Mr. Montollen, or his wife, I would appreciate hearing from you. If you have comments or questions, make them on this post, or contact me directly. Good luck to all my readers for a productive summer of Hunting and Gathering of the information you need, especially now that you can again conduct some of that research in person!

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including her photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author, is prohibited. With permission, excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 comments

  1. Frances Osborn Robb · · Reply

    Lee Fascinating stuff for sure. I have only read it quickly, once, and am absolutely in awe of the information you have pieced together. More, more. more, please. I don’t know if Al had this sort of law(s) in place but I will try to find out; One of my son Andrew’s staff at the Library of Congress is doing a study of Civil war photography in the field (I think). I wil let him know about this interesting material an the expectation that she may be able to link it to some of her work, or her photographers, or something. Meantime, much to mull over. Congratulations. Frances

    1. Thanks for reading. I’ve had to make a few tweaks since it was first posted, likely not evident to most readers, but I’m pretty pleased overall. It was a long time coming but those were such interesting article finds,I had to share them.

  2. Lamar Williams · · Reply

    Thank you for this! Incredible article and research! As a Georgian who enjoys both Civil War history and images, it was a pleasure to read (and re-read) this. I had no idea that these disabled veterans were tax-exempt. Fascinating.

    1. Thanks so much for reading it! I had no idea about this either, but once I ran into it when researching something else, I found much more information. Thank you for the complement.

  3. Superb post; as always, your research turns up a plethora of interesting details.

    1. Thanks so much, John, I appreciate you continuing to read them!

  4. For so long we read that there were no Confederate photographers. You are giving us a wonderful contribution. Thank you.

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