Battlefield Guide Services

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Grasp to Find Lincoln at Gettysburg Looks Questionable

Readers of this post will need to click the pictures below for detailed viewing.
     Former Disney animator Christopher Oakley has been recently written up in Smithsonian Magazine and in the USA Today. Both articles are publicizing his assertion that the distinct profile of Abraham Lincoln is now correctly "discovered" within Alexander Gardner's stereo views captured on November 19, 1863.
     Readers of this blog will recall my February post debunking the Center for Civil War Photography's claim to finding a "saluting" Lincoln within Gardner's views.
     I will go on record here, doubting just as strongly, Oakley's claim. In the detailed view below, I have annotated the location of the CCWP director John Richter's "Lincoln", with a red 'R". Oakley's with a red "O". And, to right of center, I have placed an "X" to indicate the apparent center of focus for the surrounding spectators. No one seems to be paying attention to either of the suggested Lincolns. Please click the images for larger viewing. 

Below, an even closer detail of the scene demonstrates the lack of attention to the Oakley "Lincoln",
 marked "O". The point of apparent concentration by the surrounding spectators is marked "X".

     Below, a detail from another photograph taken from a different angle, shows a much more focused attention by the crowd on a seated figure, long accepted as being President Lincoln, marked just above his head with a red "L". A stark contrast to the seemingly ignored figure seen in the above detail.

All images are available for even greater scrutiny on the Library of Congress website.


Lowe said...

A stovepipe hat does not a President make?

Anonymous said...

Just because the crowd is fixated one way, doesn't mean that it isn't Lincoln. Obviously looking at the confirmed Lincoln photo, he had an entourage behind him looking back at the crowd. Looking at the Oakley photo, that could represent the bulk of people up and behind Lincoln. The folks standing on the carriage to the left could easily be spectators gaining a better perspective of the President who again, by the confirmed photo is down from the crowd behind him. Also, looking at the steeple behind him, the Oakley photo just seems more feasible. I also don't think the crowd is fixated directly to where you point but a little more to the right which would further support Oakley's claim. These are just my opinions!

John Cummings said...

Thanks for sharing your opinion. There is no doubt the spectators on the carriage are benefiting from the elevated position. That was never in question. What is your point regarding the "steeple"? There are no steeples in the vicinity, but there is a flag I think you are mistaking as a steeple. Either way, what makes the Oakley theory "more feasible" from that perspective? Look at the spectators all around. There is a focal point below and in front of the Oakley "Lincoln". Additionally, if one was so inclined, there are a good number of other figures throughout the image that one could point to and say "Hey, there's Lincoln." However, none of them make any more sense than the two already proposed.

Anonymous said...

My apologies, that is a flag. My point about it is that by judging the direction in which the folks and soldiers at the bottom of the Oakley photo are looking, and judging by what we see in the confirmed photo, if Lincoln were in the area that you believe, you should (should being a key word) see a flag behind him. I don't see it nor any mountains like is shown in the Oakley photo. That points me to believe that infact, Lincoln is to the right, maybe walking up to give his speech, and the photo was taken from somwhere around the carriage. Just my input. Great blog by the way.

John Cummings said...


I have just posted a follow up that should hopefully put this question to rest. Thank you for following my blog.

Anonymous said...

My ebook "Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: A Review of Alexander Gardner's Stereoscopic Photos" (2012) at: IMHO lays out a better candidate for Lincoln. My arguments against Prof. Oakley's Lincoln include: (1) When Lincoln approached the stand he was "the observed of all observers;" Prof. Oakley's Lincoln is completely unobserved. My candidate is the center of the visible crowd's attention and is trailed by Lincoln's "special escort" from the War Department who rode behind Lincoln to the cemetery; (2) None of the men near Prof. Oakley's Lincoln (on the ground or on the platform) removed their hats; journalists described all or most men removing their hats in a show of respect when Lincoln approached. The few surrounding men hatless on the platform in the first photo were hatless in the second photo when Prof. Oakley's Lincoln purportedly first appeared to them -- no additional hats were removed in the 2nd photo; (3) IMHO Prof. Oakley's Lincoln is seated in photo #1 in the exact spot where Prof. Oakley pegs him in photo #2, sporting the same hat tilted in the same orientation as in photo #2; (4) Prof. Oakley's purported Seward's face is almost completely obscured in photo #2 -- the one in which it is said that he is unmistakably Seward. Unlike Seward, seen in Bachrach's photo elsewhere on the platform, Prof. Oakley's candidate is devoid of a topcoat; (5) Oakley's Seward is seated in the wrong spot at the tail end of the platform near purported stairs. Bachrach's photo shows Seward seated centered in the middle of the first row of dignitaries next to Lincoln; Seward is Prof. Oakley's lynchpin to his alleged Lincoln -- if his Seward is wrong his theory is greatly undercut; and (6) Prof. Oakley's overlay on the face of his Lincoln assumes a beard at the end of the chin. A review of the contrast in darkness on the left stereo of photo #2 at the base of Prof. Oakley's Lincoln's chin between a dark blob and his visible sideburn suggests the presence of a dark bow tie rather than a beard near his chin. Also, the nose outlined over Prof. Oakley's Lincoln doesn't follow the contours of his hawk nose, reflecting more of what was hoped to be seen than what appears on the plate. I greatly respect Prof. Oakley's work on his Virtual Lincoln Project but based upon what has been published over the last two days, must respectfully disagree with his ID of Lincoln. -- Craig Heberton

John Cummings said...

Mr. Herberton, I appreciate your input on the subject. I wish your work was in print rather than an ebook. I just can't reconcile buying a kindle reader. I still love a physical book in my hands. From what I can see on Amazon's preview, we have covered some of the same points.

Anonymous said...

What's missing, in my opinion, is a diagram or map on which to project the viewpoint of the camera lens and determine what should be in view and what shouldn't. Is that possible, given the temporary nature of the speaking platform and such?