Battlefield Guide Services

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Additional Thoughts and Images on the McClellan "mystery"

     See my previous post from 8-19-13, for the complete story.

     Further delving into the happenings of March 1862 indicated a strong possibility that the meeting of General Morell with General McClellan took place on March 9 or 10, prior to McClellan moving the army and his headquarters to Fairfax Courthouse.  However, additional information has shown that the image of the General-in-Chief and accompanying officers was copyrighted on January 6, 1862, making the date of its being taken some three months earlier than suspected. Further details are presented in our October 2nd post.  By March, the Peninsula Campaign would be under way. Observation points such as Minor's Hill provided indication of the Confederate withdrawal from the Fairfax and Manassas region.
     Below is a detail from a view said to be the "Miner House". The Library of Congress source states the location is "Petersburg, Va" although a second source in the MOLLUS-Mass collection of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center is titled Miner's House, Miner's Hill, Va.  Click on any image for larger viewing.
     Take special note of the dark sign on the wall next to the right hand window, and compare it to the one seen in the image below, at the extreme left of the print from the LOC. That, along with the fence like rail and other features of the building make it doubtless the same structure. Knowing that this is indicated to be the headquarters for General George Morell, we can rule out this is Petersburg altogether since Morell was no longer in a field command position after the Antietam Campaign. Numerous sources state the location is "Miner's Hill", near Falls Church. As stated before, the spelling "Miner" is a common misspelling of the day for "Minor", the name of the property since the late 1700's. The area today includes the Franklin Forest and Franklin Park neighborhoods, near the western Arlington County line.
     The complete view of the Signal Tower is shown below. It is identical to the one in the image with General Morell, and perhaps taken around the same time as the McClellan visit. It is also worth noting in the background of the above image, there are arches decorated with greenery, an ornamentation used in the entrance to company streets in many camp situations. We will see this feature again in another image later.

      Take note of the features of the building visible in the right hand portion of the image below. It is the same structure as above, clearly identified as the Minor House, on Minor's Hill, Va.

     Take note of the decorated arched in the background of the photograph below, depicting the camp of the 17th New York Infantry in review, at Miner's Hill, Virginia, vicinity of Falls Church. Very much like the arches seen in the identified photograph of General George Webb Morell at the Minor's Hill Signal Tower.
     Finally, below, here is the copy from the MOLLUS collection, USAHEC, identified as the Miner House on Miner's Hill, Va., not Petersburg as misidentified with the LOC negative. I see no further doubt that the "mysterious location" of the McClellan image is solved. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

McClellan Mystery: Can we put it to rest? Photo taken at Minor's Hill, March 1862.

     My readers will hopefully excuse this wandering off the path regarding Spotsylvania and it's surrounding engagements. Today's post is a quick trek up the road, north to my old neighborhood, so to speak. The outskirts of Washington, D.C.
     I believe this post will correct one misconception regarding the first attached image, and secondly, solve an ongoing mystery.  The mystery involves the very obvious visage of General McClellan. All indications appear to point to an identification of it's location as being "Minor's Hill", roughly two miles north of Falls Church, Virginia, during a visit to the headquarters of Brigadier General George Webb Morell, a division commander of the Union V Corps. The problem in identification has in places suggested that the man to the left of McClellan, with knuckles also on the stump, is General George Gordon Meade. This man is indeed similar to Meade, but there is a lack of Meade's trademark comb over and the absence of Meade's distinct tortoise eyes. The brigadier general seen here is in fact George Morell, and is so identified on this version. Click on any image for larger viewing.

     Notice the man behind Morell, standing with his arms folded. He is identified in this version of the image as "Surgeon Walters" Notice then in the image below, the man pointing at center is identified as General Morell, this time wearing his cap. Look now, two men to the right of Morell, and you will see Surgeon Walters, again, with his arms folded. Both images are in the Library of Congress collection, identified as Minor's Hill, although misspelled as "Miner's". This location was a large camp and observation area for the Union Army, as well as the location of numerous hot-air balloon ascents to observe Confederate movements to the west. The date for these images is apparently in March of 1862 while McClellan was headquartered at Fairfax Courthouse, roughly 9.25 miles to the southwest. (See update in our October 2 post by clicking here.) The structure seen in each image may in fact be the same. Notice the large observation tower that is known to have stood at this location. The location today is somewhere along the Fairfax County and Arlington County line, amongst wooded subdivisions, with no indication of identifiable cultural resources to pinpoint the exact spot, although chances are the tower was placed on the highest point on the hill. 
Updated August 2016
Exact location found. Structure to be demolished for new homes.

Links to the LOC for each image are located here, and here.