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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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gettysburg's Harvest of Death : "Field Where General Reynolds Fell" - the details

     This is of course a continuation of my study of the Gettysburg, after battle images which are now collectively known as the "Harvest of Death Series" as they are of the same bodies of Union dead, photographed from near opposite directions, a fact originally published by William A. Frassanito in 1975's groundbreaking work, Gettysburg A Journey In Time. "Harvest of Death" is derived from the caption given by Alexander Gardner to the image looking southward, examined in previous posts here on this blog. See the more detailed and all inclusive posting by clicking here.
     Below is the left side of the O'Sullivan stereo pair looking slightly northeast, annotated to compare locations of four key horizon elements in the matching of my then and now images. (A) being the Thompson House, aka "Lee's Headquarters" (B) the faint trace of the Chambersburg Pike, just below the letter, and seeming to jut out from behind the foliage of the large tree. This detail is slightly crisper in the Gibson exposure of nearly the same angle. (C) a lone tree that appears to sit on the south side of the Pike. (D) the extreme left edge of the open field on the north side of the unfinished Oak Ridge Railroad Cut, seen as a whiter strip between the darker trees, and the perceptibly darker field on the south side of the cut.
Click on this, and all images in this post, for larger viewing.

    Below, the approximate same position today with the main elements of the O'Sullivan exposure superimposed over top, and the same four key horizon elements annotated. The open field for (D) is today obscured by mature tree growth on both the former field and the south edge of the rail cut, as well as by the buildings of the twentieth century motel, "Quality Inn at General Lee's Headquarters."
Below, an artificially created demonstration of the effect of the lack of "depth of field"
on objects in the distance when focus is on the foreground subject matter. Any
suggestion that "fence posts" should be visible along the Pike is ridiculous for this image.
An additional complaint, by detractors of this material, suggests that the Thompson House
 should appears darker in the period image if it is indeed the Thompson House.
 This gray scale copy of the above color image demonstrates that that is also an absurd assertion.
Below, the left half of Gibson's stereo pair with (B) annotating the
Chambersburg Pike below it, emerging from behind the large tree's foliage. Very
 possible indications of fence posts are visible here under magnification. This
 image has slightly more "depth of field", and is a bit stronger in contrast than O'Sullivan's,
but it is still not as detailed as other images taken elsewhere around Gettysburg in 1863.

     The sad thing about the ongoing debate with detractors on this subject matter is that this location was initially suggested by a man named John Stewart in 1999 and dismissed by William Frassanito. Stewart's comparison was made at too great a distance from the Chambersburg Pike and an overlay comparison appeared spurious. In 2011, Scott Hartwig independently suggested the same near location, but was again plagued by a miscalculation of the distance between where the bodies were to the Chambersburg Pike. My examinations, first begun in late 2011, were to be made as supporting material for Mr. Hartwig's study, and focused on the previously undetected Thompson House in the right distance of the O'Sullivan exposure. This was my initial contribution to the brew. It was at this time that Garry Adelman of the self-styled "Center for Civil War Photography" pounced heavily on against this suggestion (seemingly out of rapt devotion to the opinion of Frassanito), and produced a thirteen part series on the now dormant "Gettysburg Daily" blog site. When dealing with my material, Garry focused heavily on my earliest, and quickly obsolete postings, filming in February, videos that would not appear on Gettysburg Daily until May. My research had remained fluid and was openly posted during that time on this blog,  and I was continually adjusting my location on the field to correct what remained a somewhat elusive camera position for Gardner and crew, although I was convinced that it was in the immediate area. In the late summer of 2012, I had at last found what proved to be the site that clearly worked in either direction for both "The Field Where Reynolds Fell" and "A Harvest of Death". All along, the same general view as first suggested by John Stewart, but in the end, nearly 200 yards further north along the park road, Reynolds Avenue, and in the end roughly 123 yards west of my initial focus.
     Mr. Adelman continues to the present day to deny that the location of these historically important images has been found, claiming them as still "unknown" and open to discovery.

     Let me state that I hold the Center for Civil War Photography in high regard, and it is composed of a great group of warm and generous people, all with a focused passion for the subject matter. The work they do is invaluable and there annual seminars are inspirational. Garry Adelman, as a founding member of that group, and an indefatigable historian, is a genuine pleasure to associate with and his exuberant manner is endearing to all who meet him. We are just divided on this matter at hand. I look forward to the day we can agree on it. Right now it's like history held hostage.


   Below, based on a suggestion after the initial publishing of this post, are approximate then and now of what I suggest could very likely be fence posts along the Chambersburg Pike from the Gibson image and my detail overlay from above. The angled arrow points to the area that juts out from the foliage of the large tree, a very similar appearance today. 

     There is also worth noting, a thin, dark line that further accents the division of the two sides of the railroad cut, probably a shadow effect of the south side against the north side, thus the line delineates the actual "ditch" of the cut. This view also makes significantly clearer the wood line on the far edge of the lighter toned field, which is today covered with mature trees. The south side of the cut is today, as previously stated, now obscured by trees and the motel buildings.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Bloody Angle Bridge - GONE

     For those who know the Spotsylvania battlefield well, the following picture might be a surprise if you haven't been recently. The wood bridge that spanned the Confederate works at the Bloody Angle for many years has been removed in the latest of the long planned efforts at scene restoration and interpretive improvements. Presently it gives new visitors the impression it is a trail across the works. My first observation of a random tourist witnessed a man on the south side of the trench, as seen here, stopping at the area of the concrete "stump" block, turning north, seeing the monuments and proceeding across to read them in detail, then proceeding along the trail on the north side of the works to the new bridge built in June and July 2010. Hopefully it will take only a brief time to get grass growing back over the area covered by the bridge for years. That, and the additional placement of a "Please Keep Off The Trenches" sign will, or should, do the trick. Hopefully.
     As seen below, the view on the approach from the parking lot is pleasantly uninterrupted with the bridge gone. It does however lack immediate interpretive signage to inform the uninitiated that they are in fact at the "Bloody Angle", one of America's most important landscape features.
     The view below shows the former bridge site from the monuments, looking southward. Note the  remaining stones that held the structure off the ground on the north side. I would imagine the stones will be removed in the new future. Perhaps the work crew was hesitant to remove them initially, not knowing if they had a cultural resource importance.
     Now, the thing that still puzzles me with the new signs is their distance from the actual "Bloody Angle" and site of the fabled 22" Oak Tree. The monuments are essentially in front of the Bloody Angle but nothing makes this clear from the sign, nor does the aforementioned concrete "stump" block get any mention. There is a photograph showing the original stump in the Smithsonian, but there is nothing that indicates that the concrete block stands at its site based on oral tradition and a pre-park stake hammered in the ground on the same spot.
Below, a 1921 photograph of Lynwood Landrum, standing next to the stump site. The 15th New Jersey monument is seen at left, surrounded by a long removed iron fence.
From the author's collection.
The placement of an additional sign, perhaps similar to this one, may help deter visitors from walking over the Bloody Angle.
For now the path looks inviting and intentional, as seen a few days ago, below.
The view below is from the early 1930s when the C.C.C. was building the park road, now removed.
Note the extreme grade that was cut to allow for building of the road with compacted crushed rock. 
Another view from the 1930s shows the Ranger Contact station that stood at the Bloody Angle up until the Civil War Centennial when the current interpretive "shelter" was built near the park entrance on Grant Drive at Brock Road. The concrete "stump" block is at left of front center. This and the previous image are from the archives of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.