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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Debunking the CCWP's, Lincoln at Gettysburg Discovery

     Updated. See additional material at end of post.
     On November 16, 2007, USA Today ran a front page article proclaiming that a member of the Center for Civil War Photography had discovered two new images of President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. Stating that the "discovery" doubled the known images of the President on the day he delivered his Gettysburg Address, the article, and subsequent press release from the CCWP, described how the President could be seen riding through the crowd, saluting soldiers with his left hand. Upon seeing the images, acclaimed Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer is quoted, "All I can say is, Wow! Unbelievable." President of the CCWP, Bob Zeller proclaimed, "I think it’s one of the most significant Civil War photographic discoveries in quite some time. It’s as if we can ask a Civil War photographer to go back out on the field and take just a couple of more shots of the greatest president in American history."
     But, what do these photographs, taken as stereo pairs, actually show? The images are derived from glass negatives taken by Alexander Gardner, and are available for inspection via the Library of Congress website's, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Three exposures from virtually the same camera position survive today. Gardner's camera was either purposely, or accidentally moved to the right in the third image of the sequence. The timing of the three images is easily determined by the change in location of various individuals, and a horse-drawn vehicle in the first and second, as well as by the clear movement of a shadow along the west wall of the Evergreen Cemetery gate. Below are the left-hand portion of the three stereo negatives, in order of their creation. Click on these and all images presented, for a larger view.


     Below, the horizon details of each, in the same sequence, anchoring the fixed camera position. Stationary objects at left, and right serve as markers. Remember, for the third exposure, Gardner's camera is slightly moved, but the dominant features maintain their relative position.

 The third is the telling image. It appears the soldiers have decided to get off their feet in some cases.
     The next three detail views demonstrate the shadowing cast of the wall of the gate house. The first is faint due to apparent cloud cover.
      In the second exposure, the sun has emerged to cast a very strong shadow, but this image was taken within a very short time after the first. Minutes? Note that some of the soldiers have now stuck their bayonets into the ground. Not at attention, but at rest.
      In the third exposure, the sun has clearly risen, and the shadow has moved like a sun dial across the face of the wall. Unfortunately, there has been a structural addition built on this wall, which will today, obscure the shadowing seen here, thus making difficult an effort to calculate the exact time it was taken on the anniversary date in November. The soldiers have now stacked their arms.
     Below, closer detail of the three images, again presented in the order taken. In all three I have marked certain features. At left is a tree which I have marked as "T". At right, a grouping of spectators that maintain their relative position, marked as "3". The figure that was said to be the "saluting" Lincoln, is marked by "1", and a horse-drawn carriage, driving toward the right, is marked as "2". This first image here, was incorrectly considered to be the second image by the CCWP.
    The true second exposure below, made probably within a minute of the previous image, shows that the "Lincoln" figure, "1", has actually not moved from his previous position, yet the horse-drawn carriage, "2",  has advanced closer to the group of spectators, "3". The carriage drivers are easily discernible. The foreground figures are getting settled on their mounts. Nobody seems to be focused on the figure said to be Lincoln. The specators at right appear to be more interested in what is happening further to the right (their left), on the speaker's platform.
    And, in the third exposure, taken after a short time has elapsed, (perhaps ten or fifteen minutes?)shows what may very likely be the same "Lincoln" figure, possibly obscured by another mounted figure, still marked by "1". The horse-drawn carriage, "2", has parked and there is an individual seated on its hard top roof. The driver is still seated. The group of spectators at far right have maintained their spots, looking toward the speaker's platform, and the tree at far left has of course stood vigilant throughout.
     Additional thoughts regarding the supposed "Lincoln" are, A. Why would the President salute with his left hand? He wouldn't. B. How is he passing through the crowd as suggested by the CCWP? He isn't. The figure is standing in one spot. It is the horse drawn carriage that has moved past the figure. And C. If this is the President, why are most of the people in the crowd, especially the military, just loitering about? In the third image, the soldiers have stacked arms, and no one seems to be leaving the site, although it was suggested by the CCWP that the President was on the move, facing to the left even. Exiting? The entourage should be arriving from left to right. Note: The speaker's platform is to the right of center, and just left of a large tent, in the full frame images, appearing like a small hill. What this series does show is a very bored crowd waiting for something to happen. No one is standing at attention. Could it be that Lincoln has not yet arrived, and the crowd is waiting for it to happen? Or, is he and the other esteemed guests already gathered and the soldiers in the crowd are preparing for a long period of oration? Edward Everett spoke for over two hour prior to the president's few minutes. If we can firmly determine the time, based on the moving shadow of the sun on November 19, we may have an easier time figuring at what point in the dedication ceremony these images were taken.

And one additional thought to this consideration: Why is the focus of the crowd in this detail below, placed on the apparent speaker's platform, still, if the President has either not yet arrived or is leaving, based on the CCWP presentation? This detail is extracted from the very same image that provides the so called "saluting" Lincoln, the first image in the series. And, you will see, at now far left, the group of spectators that I had previously tagged with a "3", staring toward the center, along with everyone else it now seems. If the President of the United States was far off to the left from this view, why wouldn't the attention be focused on that fact? No, I have to say, Lincoln is already on the speaker's platform in this and the other two images. The third image, based on the absolute look of boredom and the stacked arms of the soldiers, gives me reason to believe that it is during Mr. Everett's agonizingly long speech.

1 comment:

Ramona Martinez said...

Nice work, gumshoe! The contextual questions, such as why is everyone standing around looking lazy and bored if that's the President, make the most sense, in addition to all the movements within the photograph.