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Preserving an Orleans County connection to the Civil War

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 July 2013 at 12:00 am

Courtesy of Tom Taber/Library of Congress

LEADERS OF THE BATTERY: Tom Taber restored and colorized this photograph from May 3, 1863 of the leaders of the 17th New York Light Artillery. The photograph was taken at Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. The group includes, from left: an unidentified Camp Barry officer who wasn’t in the 17th NY; 1st Lieut. Irving Meade Thompson of Albion; 2nd Lieut. Edwin Joel Barber of Lyndonville; Capt. George Tobey Anthony of Medina; 1st Lieut. Hiram Edwards Sickels of Albion; and 2nd Lieut. Hiram D. Smith of Medina.

ALBION – As nation reflects on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and continues to celebrate the July Fourth holiday, I thought it was a good time to highlight the efforts of Tom Taber, an Albion man who worked dutifully for 15 years to track down stories about Orleans County men who fought in the war.

Taber’s book, The “Orleans Battery” – A History of the 17th New York Light Artillery in the War of Rebellion, details the service of 240 men from Orleans County who served in the war. The book came out last year and is available in local bookstores.

The Orleans Battery includes biographical sketches on nearly every soldier in the 17th. Taber also found 60 photographs of the soldiers that he included in the 320-page book.

He found a black-and-white image of the officers in the 17th through the Library of Congress. Taber restored the image, filling in cracks in the old negative. He used Photoshop to meticulously restore the image.

“There are problems all over with these old negatives,” Taber said. “There is stuff stuck on them and cracks.”

He uses the Photoshop computer program to fill in the cracks and recreate a scene. It takes numerous hours of research and painstaking detail.

Although the book came out a year ago, Taber has kept working to highlight the service of the local group of soldiers. After initially restoring the image of the officers in black-and-white, Taber has added color to the historic photograph taken at Camp Barry, Washington, D.C.

“My goal is to make it look like you’re sitting next to the photographer when he took the picture 150 years ago,” Taber said.

He added skin tones, dark blue coats and hats, lighter-colored pants and numerous other details.

“I want people to look like they did,” he said.

Taber, who retired in 2005 as a training coordinator at the county’s Job Development Agency, feels like he has adopted the soldiers from the 17th. Many returned from the war and led distinguished lives.

The leader of the local group of soldiers, Capt. George Anthony of Medina, would later move to Kansas and become governor of that state.

While hunting down images of soldiers from the 17th, Taber came across a scene from Appomattox Court House. A group of people includes soldiers and civilians by the famed red building where the Confederate Army surrendered.

Taber has been working on the restoration and “colorization” of the photograph. He studies the contrast from the sun and works to shade in intensity of color in trees and on the ground.

The Library for Congress image that doesn’t give the precise date of when it was taken. Taber said it could be the day of the surrender on April 9, 1865 or it may be a few days before or after.

The surrender at Appomattox ended a war with 620,000 deaths, including about 500 soldiers from Orleans County.

Tom Taber has restored and added color to this photo in April 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.