On the Edge of Discovery: Treasures in a Pocket

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Originally Posted March 16, 2012

 You always find the most remarkable things when you are not looking for them. While checking through the carte-de-visite collection for some good examples of portraiture during the Civil War period, I came across an image of a little boy that was faded and water stained.  I was amazed by what I saw written on the back. It read: “This Photo was carried through the War by Lindley E. Way From 1862 to 1865.”  Wow! This photo was in Way’s pocket – I wonder what kind of action it had seen?


I rushed to the newspaper clipping file in the library to find Lindley Way’s obituary published in the Daily Local News, March 7, 1879.  He had served with Co. H. 42nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers which was a company raised out of Kennett Square, PA known as the “Bucktails.”  According to the article, he had seen action in the major battles of the Civil War: Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Hope Church, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Bethesda Church, two in Petersburg and at Weldon Railroad he was captured and sent to Andersonville Prison where he spent the rest of the war. While there he became sick with consumption (tuberculosis) which finally caused his death on February 25, 1879.

 Looking at the stained photo again, I thought how often Lindley Way had taken the photo from his pocket and longed for his family at home. The picture of the little boy has his youngest half- brother, Pennington Way. A genealogy titled: Descendants of Robert and Hannah Hickman Way of Chester County, PA, volume I by D. Herbert Way supplied me with an overview of the family history. Way’s father had married a second time after his first wife Eliza Hoopes Way died after giving birth to Lindley. The family lived in Chatham in London Grove Township.

 Checking the backs of other Way family CDVs, I discovered seven more with the same inscription! They depicted his father, John Way, his sister Elmira Way Snyder and his half-sister Eliza E. Way, two unidentified young girls, an unidentified woman and a published CDV of Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas! It is possible the young girls were two of his six sisters, the woman could be his step-mother who as 15 years younger than his father. Curious why he carried the published picture of the Washington D.C. socialite Adele Cutts Douglas!

 It is interesting to note that four of the photographs were taken at Woodward’s Studio in West Chester and bear sequential numbers – which indicates that they were taken on the same day. They could have been taken to give Lindley before he left to go to war or to be sent as a gift in a letter.

 Several mysteries, yet to be solved, emerged from the research. According to the Way genealogy, John Way and his first wife were members of New Garden Friends Meeting, their family graves are in the Meeting cemetery. After the war, Lindley married Caroline Bell Darlington at the West Grove Presbyterian Church in 1873. The couple had one daughter named Beatrice in 1877. Does this mean that Lindley was disowned for participating in the war or for marrying out of meeting?

 Also conflicting details emerged about Lindley Way’s imprisonment. According to the March 7, 1879 obituary, Deputy Sheriff Baker who served with Way stated that Way had been in Andersonville Prison throughout the war. According to the Way genealogy, Way had also been in Libby and Belle Isle Prisons also.

 Bates “History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers” clarified his service record. Way mustered into service in Co. H 42nd PA August 7, 1862 and transferred to Co. H. 190th May 31, 1864. He was taken prisoner August 14, 1864 until March 2, 1865. He was discharged from service May 15, 1865.

 Deputy Sheriff Baker told some interesting stories about Way’s bravery during the war in the March 7, 1879 article: “At Spottsylvania he was one of a party of fifteen who dug holes in the sand with their dinner plates, in advance of the lines and for three hours silenced a rebel battery that had been dealing death and destruction in the Union ranks, but were finally driven from their positions by a strong force of rebel infantry.”  He also noted that Way used the Spencer rifle – that was well known as a highly accurate weapon – Way fired it so fast that it became too hot to hold.


Caption: Lindley E. Way

Looking at the stained photographs, had these images of his family sustained his spirits while he was imprisoned?  Had they given him the hope and comfort he needed until his release? Certainly this is why it was so important to document each one so carefully, so that those in the future would know just how significant they were.

 Pamela Powell, Photo Archivist