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Thursday, May 3, 2018

2nd Fredericksburg - Captain Russell's Photo. Not taken immediately after the action...

Today is the 155th anniversary of the action known as Second Fredericksburg, fought along the Stone Wall. It is also the same day this image of the Confederate dead behind the wall was taken by Captain A. J. Russell, official photographer for the United States Military Railroad.

It is certainly an intriguing documentary image, and the only one known to have been taken of dead soldiers during the Chancellorsville Campaign. It would not be until three years later that skeletonized human remains were photographed on the former battlefields west of Fredericksburg, by the photographic entourage of Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou.

The question has remained though, "How soon after the action was Russell able to take this image?"

Popular belief has stated that it was taken within 20 minutes of Sedgwick's men sweeping the surviving Mississippians from the ground, and pressing them toward the eventual engagement at Salem Church. 

A hand written note, signed "H. H.", most certainly Herman Haupt, Russell's boss, per se, does indicate the ground behind the wall was held in Union hands for a couple hours. There is no doubt of that, but there are still no details of the timing for this and other images taken that day.

It is said that a telegraph message was sent to General Hooker at 10:50 AM, advising him of Sedgwick's success. If we go with the "20 minute" suggestion as to when Russell was in place exposing the glass negative, we can begin to examine 11:10 AM. For this, we need to adjust, in simplest form, our clock by an hour to account for the hour gained by Daylight Saving Time, thus, without other smaller adjustments that can be taken into account, we will use the addition of an hour. In the three days leading up to this anniversary, I began the process to determine the timing of Russell's iconic photo. This advance examination was done to bar the possibility of rain, or overcast skies preventing the following of the sun's path. This effects the timing by only minutes. My investigative photographs taken just this past April 30th, at 12:14 PM, an hour and four minute adjustment, reveals that the shadows present along the wall at that time make the 20 minute suggestion impossible. As you can see, the entire west face of the wall is in shadow.

On May 1st, I produced the following photo at 1:16 PM, which again, for simplistic adjustment, would serve close enough to the appearance at 12:16, on May 1, 1863. I added pieces of dimensional lumber, cut to the exact length of an Enfield Rifled Musket, the predominant weapon seen strewn about in the original image, as markers to indicate scale and how shadows would be cast against the stones of the wall. The ground is brightly illuminated, and there is a lack of shadows on either side of the road.
I waited till 1:36 PM to see how the shifting sun might change the shadow issue, as seen below. The shadows were not sufficient on the west, or right, side of the road, nor were the trees on the hill strongly illuminated on their west face. Additionally, the structures on the far end of the image, similar in position to the Hall house at left of center in the Russell view, remained in strong shadow. So, 12:36, in 1863 time, is still incorrect. This is now an hour and twenty minutes after the suggested exposure by Russell.
Returning yesterday, May 2, now one day ahead of the anniversary, I took the following image at 3:02 PM, yes, 2:02 1863 time, and found that the shadows were finally looking closer to the time required to replicate the original, making it 2:02 PM, Civil War time, three hours beyond popular belief.
Shadows were beginning to build on the west side of the image with still sufficient strong light against the wall, and the ground in front of it. The east face of the trees on the hill are darkening, and if the height of the trees just out of view on the right margin were not as great as they are presently, the left foreground where the bodies are seen, would not have the dappled shadow, although some are present in the original as well. The shadow cast by my leaning "rifled musket", produces as near identical a shadow line as needed to place the Russell exposure around 2:00 PM on May 3, 1863, still about an hour and a half before Sedgwick's advance would come upon dismounted Confederate Cavalry near Salem Church. The day was far from over.

Make note: The current wall, built by the NPS contractors in 2004 is one course of stone taller then the one which stood here in 1863. This was done partly for stability, but chiefly as a "cover course" from the effects of weather directly to the top of the wall. 

Within reason we can say we are near the correct time for this image. It may still be a little early, but I will be revisiting the site today so as to monitor the shadows as the sun sinks lower in the west. The shadow cast across the face of the stones by the rifled musket and its modern representation are well within acceptable proximity. 


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Photo reveals Fredericksburg Landscape in 1866

It's always exciting to find new images to study. A batch of previously unseen stereoviews from the April 1866 Bontecou expedition has been revealed, and they fill a few holes in the 121 image series. Until now, there were only about 65% of the series known to exist in any printed form. Unfortunately, all the glass negatives have long vanished, including the number that had been apparently purloined from the Surgeon General's collection by assistant George Oscar Brown, and later published under his name while setting up his post-military career in Baltimore, Maryland. Previous posts on this blog have gone into further detail on my research into the series, and can be found by following this link by clicking here.

One of the new views, from The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, is labeled as being taken from the Shakespeare Hotel, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The immediate problem with that captioning is that the Shakespeare Hotel, located in the 800 block of Caroline Street, had been completely destroyed by fire in November 1865, as detailed by NPS historian Noel Harrison, in his 1995 book, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, April 1861-November 1862, published by H. E. Howard, Inc., Lynchburg, Virginia.

What the photo does reveal, as we can see in its middle distance, is that it is actually looking southwest, and was taken from the top floor of the Planter's Hotel, on the intersection of William and Charles Street's northwest corner, at 401 William Street. 

Just above the wide chimney dominating the foreground, we can see the Old City Burial Ground, now the site of Hurkamp Park. On the other side of that cemetery's western wall, is the now also moved, Cemetery of Masonic Lodge #63. Beyond that, we have a nice view of structures on Liberty Street. And, along the horizon, Hanover Street, running up the heights at left, with Brompton faintly visible among the trees. Also note the covered wagons parked on William Street at lower left. They would be sitting in front of what is today, Paymon Fine Rug Imports at 501 William Street.
Here is the still standing western wall of the Old City Burial Grounds, running along the eastern wall of 520 William Street, which occupies the site of the Cemetery of Masonic Lodge #63.

At the left of the foreground, we can see three buildings along the south side of William Street, of which only two remain standing today, which comprise Ristoranti Renato, at 422 William Street.

At upper right, beyond both cemeteries, and standing on the corner of William and Liberty Streets, is 600 William, the current home of Primavera, Pizzeria and Grill.

Here is a view of the Planters Hotel building, looking west, seen in an early 20th century photograph long after it had ceased operations as a hotel, and had become the offices of  "R. T. Knox and Brother", producers of sumac extract and bone meal. The Bontecou photograph was taken from one of the top floor windows that looked to the west, on the other side of the building. The false front and wide chimney of a neighboring business can be seen at the extreme left. That structure no longer stands, but is the source of the large chimney in the middle foreground of the Bontecou stereoview image.

Below, we can see the top floor dormer window from which the Bontecou photo was taken.
It is the window at center.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Harvest of Death vs Garry Adelman

Since Garry Adelman has chosen to go after the work I have done on the "Harvest of Death" images, yet again, five years after his initial efforts, and state that he "looks forward" to my rebuttal, what I'll do here is take a point by point approach to Garry's recent video installment on Gettysburg Daily. Garry talks real fast, as usual, in his video, and makes use of smoke and mirrors (unless he really believes these things), in a frantic display of sleight of hand and magician's banter.

At 1:41 he asserts that I "misunderstood" him when he pointed to a tree (which he described as "distinctive" in the original video), when I placed a tree symbol to the left of the photo's center line, as a place-marker on the Google Earth map.

Here he is in the original video, filmed February 5, 2012, pointing to the tree he wants me to correlate with the Gutekunst photo. Bear in mind, this video was made in an incorrect site, not the location I have presented for years now, along Reynolds Avenue. Thus, other points he makes in the 2012 video have no basis in relation to my work as it has stood for years since. Note also, he is using the photo with the grave diggers, which skews the centering further to the left, but now, in the new video, he asserts it is the "right side" of the image, when my marker is "on the left" as he enthusiastically points out. And note, my map says "Vicinity of Garry's tree". Go and look at it.
Here then, circled in red, would this be the "Garry tree?" on the wider view, which would of course, shift the center line. If this isn't Garry's tree, the spot he's pointing to, then which one is it? But that's really irrelevant, as this is a ridiculous challenge, presented with an air of authority. I placed a marker right where he pointed, just for the heck of it, and then he proceeds to say its elsewhere. And no, Garry, I will not make any effort to satisfy your demand that I locate this one tree, tucked into a bend in the tree line, from the Gutekunst view. Who can not see that that demand is really quite absurd?

At 1:57, Garry then goes to a place marker for the Dustman property on my map and begins to go into hysterics as he claims I have put the Dustman house itself too close to the road. If he would be honest, he'd see that I had outlined the Thompson House in red, but made no effort to do so on the Dustman House, choosing only to tag the property line which divides the two, with a black line. It was never an effort to define the Dustman House itself. See for yourself, below. It's a place-marker. He knows I know where the Dustman house was, he and I discussed it briefly when I questioned him about finding its foundation when the restaurant was torn down. I might, if I was to be a real jerk, ask him why it was placed downhill on a CWT fundraising map, back when the restoration project was getting under way. But I won't. After all, he was in charge of the project.
Here, below, is a version I did in 2015, with both Thompson and Dustman outlined in red, just for information sake. I was always under the impression that a portion of the original Dustman foundation was integrated into the east entrance of the restaurant, but Garry said the archaeologists found nothing. Interesting. But I digress...
But here he is below, anyway, taking delight at claiming I'm incorrect, at 2:01. He continues to make up things that he wants you to believe I would say to "excuse" this, but if, again, he was honest, and had actually read all my material instead of selective interpretation on his part, he would know that I in fact have made it quite clear that the Dustman House IS ALSO IN THE PICTURE!!! But, he's too busy trying to claim I am an ignorant fool. Here is the link to my posting of October 1, 2015 that provides overlay images in a video, where I toggle back and forth, mentioning the location of Dustman on top of the restaurant. Watch it. Apparently Garry did not, or perhaps, forgot. Still he goes on to claim these assertions of his, are a "hallmark" of what I do. He's claiming I find excuses for things he asserts are problematic with my material. Far from it.
Now, at 2:39, Garry claims he has something that I have "chosen not to address", and he goes on to talk about the location of trees, and their leaves, "crawling all over" the Thompson House. He states they are "clearly on the north side" of the road. He goes on to claim that these branches, "touching the Thompson House", must be visible in all other views. Here is the problem though with what he asserts. The branch he points to, "touching" the house, is an orchard tree on the south side of the road. Let's look.
Here's the crop. Is the tree on the north side "crawling all over the house? It looks to me that the tree in the orchard, on the south side of the road, is the one that appears to touch the house, or "crawling", as Garry described it. Click on any of these images for larger viewing.

 Now, below, is an additional image, taken the same day as the above image, looking from a more eastward camera position, about 33 yards or so, east of the previous, without the branches touching. But that's not all. Garry also claims those trees are on the south side of the road after claiming they are on the north side, as he says, they are "below" the ridge. Fact is, the Gardner image shows trees on both sides of the road, orchard trees on the south, and much larger trees on the north side, layered over each other, giving an impression of one massive tree. But, that doesn't play well with his attack on me.  
But Garry goes on from there to say that in my camera position, roughly 430 some yards to the southwest, mostly west, across from the Reynolds monument, my camera angle (according to Garry) is so divergent from the Brady camera angle, that the branches (again!) would be "even more" touching and over hanging the Thompson House. Plus, he asserts my (Gardner's) camera position would show the Thompson House at an increased angle, thus throwing off my use of image comparison with Brady's. Below, I provide a map to illustrate that the two photographer's camera angles are virtually the same. I turned the orientation of the map to replicate the Gardner field of view as if seen straight on. The map compass is there, so don't freak out, you can still see where north is. I marked Brady's position with a "B", across from Thompson, outlined in bright red, and Gardner with a "G", toward the bottom of the view, Note Gardner's right angle of view, in yellow, follows all the way up to the Brady position. Does not look too divergent to me. One point I'm not even going to dignify is his assertion regarding the north chimney on the Thompson house. It is there, blending into the roof line, but I'll let him figure that out. One has to remember, Garry insists that individual fence posts should be visible, despite the effects of aerial perspective. He has demanded elements of clarity should exist while ignoring the reality that this image suffers from pronounced atmospheric issues on the horizon line. Repeatedly I have explained all the elements he questions in those regards and he ignores them. And yes, broad areas of light and dark do present correlation of these shapes, thus a white picket fence can appear as a distinct area of white, without having to show individual pickets. 
Be sure to click on these images for larger viewing.
From there, Garry goes on the claim I ignore trees that were standing in the Gardner view, yet those mid ground trees are a prominent feature in my work, as they stand along a fence line that cuts across the Gardner images at a slight diagonal, and are discussed repeatedly throughout my numerous presentations. Once more, for ease sake, here is the link I shared earlier, and in it the discussion of those trees, and fence, are a main point of discussion.
But, and here is the clincher, on November 4, 2015, I posted stereoscopic comparisons, with the period image and a modern views, demonstrating how the terrain is identical. But Garry makes no mention of that, at least as of this writing. Here is the link.

Finally (hardly!), Garry begins to throw in things to characterize, he says, my explaining away or making excuses for things, even throwing in a wild remark about the Thompson House moving, as though I've ever suggested that. He is trying to paint me as crazy. And just when one would think he is running out of gas, he begins to attack my other assertions, that the other view, the actual "Harvest of Death" images, have been modified, in both the full plate and stereo, when I have, in other postings, made it quite clear they were, in Gardner's effort to make a poignant best seller. I have even gone to the source, the Library of Congress, and provided evidence of masking on the actual stereo glass negative. The full plate image, especially the Chrysler Collection print, provides clear evidence of modification. That modification has been pointed out in a series of progressive alterations which ultimately ended with the iconic "Harvest of Death" view, which captured the hearts of viewers for a century and a half. With manipulated features! Here are the links to both stereo and plate examinations. 

OK, finally, you'll see, as Garry nears completion of his six minute video, he begins to get very insulting and mocking of me, trying to give the viewer the general impression that this is what I have been doing, for over five years mind you. He likens me to the character Vizzini, in the movie, Princess Bride. How sweet. And with that he proclaims, "You have the wrong site."

If you haven't had enough of this, be sure to see Garry's video #33 at the end of his Gettysburg Daily post. He plays with a wooden house and grass, trying to further explain the "touching" and "crawling tree" concept.

Really fun.

Friday, September 16, 2016

And Just Like That - GONE! The Minor House is no more...

     Some final photographs delivered by our friend Stephen Masters, who has been on-site today, documenting the tragic loss of one of Northern Virginia's historic treasures. Admittedly, the Minor House was lost before today due to obscurity. With additions and expansions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the house faded from view. Its historical importance forgotten as the neighborhood grew around it, only to be revealed at the eleventh hour like so many preservation losses, usually too late to have a happy ending.
     Stephen has logged many personal hours in an effort to save the Minor House. Sadly, the battle is lost. I am very appreciative of Stephen's determination and his continual updates.
     These final images show the remnants of the log structure and stone fireplace, its hearths having seen innumerable faces warming themselves since possibly the late 1700s. Thus is the passage of the centuries, and the fading of memories.
     Attached, by this link, is a pdf report of historical assessment by Fairfax County ARB and History Commission.

As always, click on any of the following images for larger viewing.

 Note the extending length of the chimney as the house grew around it vertically.

 The triangular design fireplace once served separate rooms. 

The Minor House - Supplemental Photographs as the clock keeps ticking...

     More modern images from our friend Stephen Masters. As the bulldozer draws nearer, here are some then and now glimpses. Many thanks to Stephen for his work on trying to save this landmark.
Please read my prior posts on the history of this structure. For those of you coming in new, the original Minor House was a log structure with wood siding. By the early 20th century there was a brick facade added as well as a second floor. There were later expansions and additions. Currently, the oldest section remains, but it is coming down soon to make way for new homes as has been done in the surrounding neighborhood.
     Besides its Civil War history, as recorded in photographs taken in January 1862, the house was also the site of refuge for Dolley Madison during the British burning of government buildings in Washington, D.C., including the Capital and White House, in 1814.

 January 1862
September 15, 2016
Where the Union observation and signal tower stood.

 Large Union encampments covered the fields beyond the hill,
now the site of suburban sprawl. nearly 155 years later.
Review of the 17th New York Infantry at Minors Hill.
Their encampment is seen behind.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Minor House - Coming Down! History Lost

Our friend Stephen Masters brings us very sad news today. The Minor House is coming down. When an asking price of two million, and a 24 hour deadline produced no results, the bulldozers began to remove the early twentieth century expansion of the house. As seen in the following photos, the door and window openings of the original section are quite apparent, despite the overlay of brick on the log structure, and the addition of a second floor.
See our prior posts in July and August regarding the history and location of the structure.

The first image is the most telling, and brings us to the only "then and now" that we will ever see, as the entire structure will soon be leveled.

September 15, 2016.
Photo by Stephen Masters
The tower stood among the debris pile.
January 1862
September 15, 2016
Photo by Stephen Masters

September 15, 2016
Photo by Stephen Masters
General McClellan stood in front of this doorway, as seen in the 
January 1862 photograph below. The original camera position would
 have been located in the area behind the red truck, seen at right.

As close as we will ever see.

Monday, August 15, 2016

McClellan at Minor House, Fairfax County, Virginia - Then and Now (Updated)

     Sadly, the much altered original structure is about to meet the wrecking ball, but thanks to our intrepid reader, Stephen Masters, we are able to provide a then and now look at the spot where General McClellan posed with other officers on the front lawn of the house, in January 1862.
See also the July 24 post linked here.

January 1862. McClellan at center with hand on stump.

     August 2016. This is the best, approximate angle available today due to the hedges in front of the house. The stump would have sat just inside the ell-shaped bend in front of the tree and hedge, at center. Of course, the original camera angle is coming on a diagonal to the left, from the right, as illustrated in my scale diagram below.

     McClellan's position is indicated by the red dot, to the right of the stump, indicated in brown.
The larger brown dot is the approximate location of the larger, mangled tree in the left, rear distance of the January 1862 photograph. Four approximate post locations mark the nearby signal and observation tower, to the right.

     Here are two additional views of the front entrance to the original house, approximating the angle of the McClellan photo, but from a much tighter camera position, so that the wing at left is visible. Both photos supplied courtesy of Stephen Masters. For clarification to those who are just now coming into this information, the original log structure (which had board siding) was bricked over many years ago, turned into a two-story structure and had an addition attached to the east face.

The neighborhood today.
Close up with the original house, outlined in red. Tower to the right.
Original camera position indicated, looking northwest.
View showing tower to east of the Minor House.

     There is also a much larger history to the Minor House and its property beyond the McClellan photograph, one that includes the fact that both President James Madison and wife Dolley came here as the government fled the burning of Washington in 1814. The President arrived here looking for his wife but not finding her, continued on to Falls Church. Dolley arrived later and is said to have spent two nights there. 

Additional information can be found at the Wikipedia link provided by clicking here.