Battlefield Guide Services

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Keeps On Slippin' Into The Future........... April 1939 to August 2010

Seventy-one years ago, and seventy-five years after the conflict that raged over the landscape, the National Park Service treated visitors to extensive restorations of battlefield earthworks at the Spotsylvania unit of the F&SNMP.

The planning and construction of these sections has been recently detailed by NPS Historian, Eric Mink, in a three part series at the web blog "Mysteries and Conundrums". Readers can follow Eric’s presentation by clicking, here, for the first installment.

In the “then and now” slide show below, I reveal how the landscape has progressed over time. Most profoundly, the viewer will notice the disappearance of the hard surface road that had also been built in the 1930s. This view looks over the trench restoration, looking essentially south, toward the intersection of Bloody Angle Drive, Gordon Drive, and Burnside Drive. In the 1930s, Burnside Drive was called Grant Drive East. Bloody Angle Drive has been totally removed except for the grading over which it ran. The creation of a level base for the road to follow involved numerous, intrusive alterations that remain in place today, and can confuse the pedestrian experience. Unfortunately, it does not seem that detailed working plans of the 1930s road construction exist in archived files, otherwise a more thorough return of the 1864 terrain could be attempted.

The initial, black and white photograph seen here, was taken in April, 1939, for a collection of images to be displayed at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York. It was part of the Commonwealth of Virginia exhibit in the Court of States.
Please click on the image, it will take you to a larger screen for greater detail viewing. When the "Picasa" window opens, click the "Full Screen" button at upper left to easily see a rolling slide show of the five images that make up the "then and now" transition.

The photograph below, taken around October of 1935, shows workers nearing the completion of the project. The view is looking roughly north from inside the salient. One has to speculate on the degree of arbitrary features built into this particular "restoration", despite documentation of a careful and studied process at other locations. A concerted effort was made to construct this in a deliberate perception of an 1866 photograph, although no hard evidence existed to substantiate the notion. A rendering of the 1866 photograph was later displayed in a weatherproof frame nearby, and undoubtedly led many visitors to believe they were witnessing a restoration of the genuine article. The 1939 photograph in the then and now study, shows visitors standing in front of the frame. Exactly when this restoration was dismantled is not clear, but its misleading features, without the log revetment, remain as a part of the present day visitor experience.

In the aerial photograph below, taken in October 2008, the red arrow points in the direction of the camera for the slide show image. This view also shows the pedestrian trail created by the removal of Bloody Angle Drive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This answers the question I asked you a few weeks ago, thanks!

Stephen Keating