Monday, October 5, 2015

Gettysburg - Harvest of Death, etc debate - More Details... A quick post with video

    Just a quick post, with a video using the Gibson exposure of the view looking to the northeast.
The video points out many of the finer details the photograph shows, and how they relate to today's landscape. The video explains everything regarding the images. Watch the video in full screen.

Click on the photos below for larger viewing.

Detail from Gibson exposure.

Detail from Elliott map with mass Union Burial at left (HoD),
and additional details explained in video.

Overlay detail using O'Sullivan exposure.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gettysburg - Harvest of Death and Field Where Reynolds Fell - Time to stop the debate

     Next month, on November 18, I will mark the fourth anniversary of my investigations into the Harvest of Death/Field Where General Reynolds Fell photos. My adventure began as support to the work of historian Scott Hartwig who had published his findings initially on the Gettysburg, NPS Blog, and later in the magazine, Civil War Times. Hartwig's work was immediately met with resistance by Garry Adelman of the Center For Civil War Photography. Adelman's position was that William A. Frassanito had discounted the site years before. Adelman proceeded to produce a thirteen part dissection of where the Harvest of Death was not, demonstrating numerous past proposals by himself and other investigators, include Mr. Hartwig and my own. That series appeared over several months on the Gettysburg Daily Blog. The episodes concerning my work were filmed on February 5 and 15 of 2012, but were not posted until May, months after my continuing work had been adjusted and fine tuned. Nowhere in this time (or since) was Mr. Adelman welcoming to my offers of meeting with him and actually presenting my material in person, something that I had assumed courtesy would permit. Thus, when posted, Adelman's refutations of my work featured a site long out of line with the ground I had settled on, and he has since adamantly stated that the true location will "never be found". Certain circles consider Mr. Adelman's word to be sacrosanct. This has recently led others to offer wide ranging proposals of the "true" location of the Harvest of Death, making it the obsessively desired, "Tut's Tomb", of Civil War photography.

    The foundation of my work has always been based on what I have stated to be a long visible clue in the upper right hand corner of Timothy O'Sullivan's exposure, titled by Gardner, "Field where General Reynolds Fell". It has been consistently my assertion, over many blog postings and other writings, that the features on the horizon are the Thompson House, and the Dustman House. The Dustman House no longer stands, but appears in other photographs, so we know what it looked like, and we know exactly where it stood. The Thompson House, of course, remains today as the site of Lee's Headquarters, on Chambersburg Pike, and is soon to be restored by the Civil War Trust.

     I will not repeat my previous material, as it stands on its own and is easily found by searching this blog, but I will present two brief videos made after a recent return trip to the site on September 25th. Here I demonstrate, using overlays, that the landscape just east of the Reynolds death marker, along Reynolds Avenue, is, clearly, the location of the bodies seen in the July 1863 images.

     What I continue to find sad about the deniers of this site, is that when I visited the location on the 150th anniversary of Gardner's team's visit, my wife and I, and fellow blogger Scott Manning, were the only people there to recognize the dead and the ground they fell on. Scott's coverage of that day can be found here. This is what we do our research for in the end, so that these honored dead can be appreciably recognized for where they fought and died, and hopefully we can achieve a better understand of the battlefield.

     Below, the first video shows the full, left hand side of Timothy O'Sullivan's stereo negative, with my toggling back and forth between the period and modern images, pointing out important features.
View the videos in full screen.

Below, I have zoomed in for a closer view of the horizon features as well as the contoured land between. As mention in the previous video, James Anderson stands in the modern image along the location of the northern fence that enclosed the "Field Where General Reynolds Fell".

Below, are three progressive views of the overlay used in the videos.

Below, my October 2012 map of the camera's field of view, indicated in bright green.

Below, a close up of the area where the northern fence enclosed the field.
The beginning and ending points of the path taken by James Anderson for 
the September 25, 2015 photo used in the overlay video, are marked "A" and "B".
The approximate point at which he is stopped along the way is marked by "J"
This image is not made from the above map, and shows notation lines of other points
 not discussed in this presentation.

For four years I have not wavered in my assertion we are seeing the Thompson House on the horizon. It is the vital clue to anchoring the location. The evidence speaks for itself.

Since last night's posting, I am adding these of the opposite view for those who have not read my previous material. Please, examine my numerous prior posts, Enter "Harvest of Death"in the search box near the top of the right hand column. There is plenty to see.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

172 Year Old Witness to Battle of Fredericksburg - Destroyed 8/27/15

     One of the last remaining pre-Civil War structures along lower Sophia Street in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia, has succumb to years of neglect with an as of yet unspecified plan for the property. Initial efforts to preserve the 1843 structure were foiled the day before when removal of a later addition on the north face of 401 Sophia Street revealed severe termite damage, making any thought of restoration unfeasible.

     The building can be seen in several war era photographs of Fredericksburg taken from the Stafford County side of the Rappahannock River.

     National Park Service chief-historian, John Hennessy, wrote of the pending threat four years ago in the F&SNMP's blog, Mysteries and Conundrums.

     Update! It has now come out that University of Mary Washington students and faculty, of the Historic Preservation Department, were scheduled to document the structure on Saturday, August 29, but the "owners opted not to wait even that long."

     Below are details from period photographs along with photos and a link for a video taken the morning of the demolition.

 Images circa 1863-1864, F&SNMP, and Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division. Looking west, from the river.
Above, one of the last photographs taken of the river face of the building, looking west, at 8:37 AM, 
August 27, 2015. Remains of additions to the north face of the building are visible to the right,
 and foreground. The photos below were taken between 8:14 and 9:15 AM, 
 View from Sophia Street, looking southeast.

 Looking north on Sophia Street
 Looking southeast on Sophia Street.

 Visible termite damage of 1843 framework.
 North wall foundation exposed.

Looking northeast from Sophia Street.

 Above, Steve Smallwood, Deputy Director of Building Services Division for the City of Fredericksburg, and Erik Nelson, Senior Planner of the Fredericksburg City Planning Department, along with members of the demolition crew from Abby Construction, examine architectural elements from the debris. Below, an original roof truss and details of its construction.

Salvaged foundation stones and an oak beam from 401 Sophia Street.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Iconic Photograph of Gettysburg Dead is a Contrivance A Harvest of Death - Gardner's Artistry

     Tomorrow is the 152nd anniversary of the death of the men seen in this photograph, taken by Timothy O'Sullivan, and published by Alexander Gardner. This is the image that has caused countless clamorings, as to its precise location on the battlefield, since first examined in a scholarly form by William A. Frassanito in his groundbreaking work, Gettysburg - A Journey In Time, published in 1975. The print below is most typical of published versions as they appeared in Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War.

    Below we have, as described by Frassanito himself, in his 1995 in-depth study, Early Photography at Gettysburg, "one of the best versions currently available, courtesy of the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Va.". Its merits are owing to the rich tone and thorough burning of the "horizon line, much sharper than prints in other collections. However, this horizon line is not true, it is a fabrication created by an opaque masking applied to the glass negative as well as artistic embellishments made to multiple print copies that were rephotographed to achieve a marketable composition from a less than stellar original exposure. I offered this subject in a previous post in September of 2012. But, after nearly three years, and the virtually ignored sesquicentennial recognition of this image's honored dead, it is time that these facts are incorporated in our understanding of the true nature of its creation.
     In the copy below I have drawn a black line to delineate the upper third of Gardner's creation. This is the area that was contrived. The process is clearly evidenced by magnification and the existence of progressively modified prints in two other collections. 
     The first print we will examine comes from the collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, in Ithaca, NY. This version shows some of the first steps in defining distant ground as well as the appearance of a smudge or stain that will eventually become the basis of the "standing" figure. Notice the nonexistence of the mounted figure usually seen at left of center. Very evident pencil markings are seen, used to help define the horizon. This is one of the earliest stages in the creation of what was to become a century and a half old con job. 
     The next image, this time from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, shows the continued progression of the ruse. The identical pencil markings seen in the previous print can be seen along with penciled in suggestions of what would become shadow trees in the final version. Also evident is the further enhancement of the standing "smudge" man and the suggestion of a riderless horse. To the left of center is the crudely drawn beginnings of what will become the mounted figure. Over burning has begun to fill in the sky below an initial masking, creating the false horizon.
     For clarification purpose, here are the tops of the two prints so that the reader can see the gradual building up of the composition that we have come to know as A Harvest of Death.
Below, I have enlarged a detail of the Cornell print, showing the pencil work and the origins of "smudge man", and the clear absence of the mounted figure. Note the bright, artificial sky.

Here is the Library of Congress print with the same enlarged area. Identical pencil work, and the first suggestions of the additional mounted figure.
     The next three enlargements are from the Chrysler Museum print. There is a very obvious painted edge of the false trees, created by the application of opaque material to the glass negative. These are not real trees silhouetted against a bright sky, They are a darkening of the area not covered by the opaque masking with a longer exposure during the print out process. The pattern made by the brush bristles is evident as well. The remaining print has no strong, contrasting white area. It is muddied. Opaquing the sky was a common practice with Gardener. Many of his negative show this, and in this case the process was used to essentially create a piece of art from an otherwise flawed negative. Note also the shadow trees against the false tree line, identically place where the penciled trees appear in the Library of Congress copy. Gardner's stereo version was created with a similar process as I also documented in a post from June of 2013.

Additional material on this and its companion photograph are available at the links below:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Spotsylvania Battle Landmark, GONE! Harris Farm House Destroyed!

     UPDATED 12/21/2014! See end of post for recent sale activity on the property!
Additional photos added to the post 9:15 am, 12/21/2014, showing the sad then and now.
Update 12/24/14: Articles from Fredericksburg news sources cover demolition. See bottom.

     It is a sad fact that last week the historically significant Harris Farm House was torn down. I found out early on December 20, but could not get to the site until after dark. Even in the pale remainder of twilight, it was clearly confirmed, the house is gone, along with the adjacent dairy farm buildings on the two acres that had survived after the rest of the property was subdivided years ago. The house itself, built circa 1755, was used as a field hospital during the May 19, 1864 fighting that took the name of Civil War era owner, Clement Harris. There were blood stains on the floor boards in several rooms and the central hallway. My own great-great-grandfather was treated there for a wound received in the action.

     This is a significant loss to the cultural resources of the Spotsylvania battlefield. Although continually on private property, the historical significance is undisputed. In recent years the house had been surrounded by new, high-end houses, some selling for well over a million dollars. The house was on the National Register of Historic Places since May of 2000. It is significant to point out that it survived one hundred and fifty years after the battle.

     I arrived early at the site on the morning after this initial posting, shortly after sunrise, and photographed the now empty lot. See additional image near end of post.

     The following images (first six) were taken by me on March 24, 2010. The next shows the empty lot in a similar view to image six. The last picture is from 1901, the year of the monument dedication on the property.

 The Harris House stands at distant center, down the end
 of the old driveway, surrounded by new construction.
 Approaching the house from an access road into the subdivision.

Then: View of the historic Harris House, March 24, 2010
NOW: Near same view on the morning of December 21, 2014. The historic Harris House: GONE!

The house as it looked from near the same angle in 1901, the year a monument was dedicated on the property to the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, some of the Union forces engaged against those of Confederate General Richard Ewell, May 19, 1864.

Property had been sold on December 1st, along with 2.48 acres.
Here is a link to provide details on the property. Remember, what you see in the photos is now GONE forever!