Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
You can see where an Army doc would describe the wharf at Belle Plain(s) Landing as of the rudest variety- heck, those planks are wonderful, no trimming, just get them down. It doesn't look very even either, bumps and warps must have made it a dicey ride. ( I'm always distracted by this uneven collection of almost-still-trees glued together ), But. This famous U-shaped wharf facilitated wounded, supplies, soldier transport and prisoners- the stuff of war. If anyone can read which steamer this is, it'd be great. Swear to goodness it looks like " George Wednesday ". And can't be.
A relief ' agent ' describing Belle Plain as well as anyone ever did. And- that wharf.
Belle Plain Landing, hospital department and forage wagons on the banks of Potomac Creek. Men by a rude camp stove and others passing into a tent had no idea this image was being preserved. A barge is anchored on Potomac Creek, Confederate prisoners encamped in the famous Punch Bowl above the scene and wagons made their endless loop to hospital, transport and supply steamers around a U-shaped wharf out of frame. Another day at Belle Plain landing.
Pretty sure there are women in these too blurry closeups, outside what were probably the tents of medical staff.
The ' famous ' U-shaped wharf, steamers and barges on that awesome planking waiting for their turn
We all have our fascinations when it comes to our Civil War, aka That Time We Almost Weren't. A personal weakness is endlessly snooping LoC's terrific tif images, those from Belle Plain's veritable clearing house of the war providing so much scope you're just never done. Seriously, one of the few things beyond flu that'll get me to sit still.
Belle Plains, with an s, was originally a steamboat landing mostly ' servicing ' Washington, D.C.. On the bank of Potomac Creek, this made sense although with what seems to have been only one hotel Belle Plains was either not very busy or served as a largely drop-off, pick-up depot. No idea how it came by its name. Since ' Belle ' can mean ' pretty ' it's possible some early settler came over the rise one day and decided there was no other name- it's incredibly lovely. " Belle Plain is simply a wharf.... a rude rough affair affording only the poorest facilities ... ", one newspaper wrote. Maybe? Seems both busy and hugely productive.
This is cropped from the LoC original and probably my favorite. Like a lot of these old treasures it's been carefully posed. There's another shot of this 2nd Corp Mail Wagon, I like this better- you can see sectioned delivery boxes and one man is holding mail. That's steamer John Brooks at the wharf, I think that trip was troops and mail ( swear, spent time poking around dates ), the Punch Bowl's prisoner camp and the hospital in more tide rows than the other photos make this a comprehensive kind of map.
As war commenced Belle Plain dropped the ' s ' and ballooned into a vital touch point of the war. ( that's a joke. No idea when or why " Plains " became " Plain " ) Proximity to Washington as war rolled through Virginia and some very handy geography made it a wounded way station, supply depot, interim hospital and prison pen. You don't read many accounts by nurses not inclusive of Belle Plain Landing. Hospital steamers carried wounded men who arrived to be dropped off from the " famous U-shaped wharf " . I think that was Mary Livermore's description although could have been anyone's.
And these images have been discussed but I have to include one, cropped again from an LoC image. This apparently young Confederate prisoner is miles away himself, reading while war passes below and all around. Of all my favorite images from our horrific years between 1861-1865 this one is way up there. Wish I could tell him.