CSS Virginia Photo....Real or Not?

BarkJuice

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I have been a Civil War naval modeler for over 30 years, having built operating R/C models of the USS Monitor and USS Cairo (this was in the 1980s, unfortunately no photos remain). Below is a screen capture from a documentary on ironclads, it was not specifically identified as a photo of the CSS Virginia, but it matches many of the descriptions of that vessel. My question is: is this a photo of the Virginia? Does such a photo exist? For decades I had been under the impression that no photos of the Virginia existed, but now.....? I would appreciate comments/insights on this photo, thanks!

CF213BE0-AACE-4E86-B2F3-7486175DD346.jpeg
 

Bil R

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Hello Barkjuice,

Thank you for posting this. I really, really want to believe this is real...but... I keep seeing a 1938 Buick parked on the dock facing the Virginia just aft of the funnel. And I see another vehicle to the right of the Buick in the distance parked in the opposite direction. Classic American diagonal parking. Another concern is that the pilot house seems to be a separate structure with a gap between it and the casemate, which was how it was attached in the 1962 era Lifelike plastic kit of the Merrimac. It seems to be a plastic model superimposed on a generic dockyard scene and appropriately blurred to lend authenticity.

That is not to say such a photograph of the Virginia is not out there. After all, we now have that fine view of the Alabama dockside in Singapore. I think one does exist and will be found one day. The Virginia was arguably the world's most famous warship in the spring of 1862. She spent the majority of time in port, in a city that was known to have photography studios. Hardly a military secret, she was a source of Southern pride and images of her would have been highly desired. I would like to contact the producers of the documentary and determine how they sourced that image.

Happy New Year!
Bil
 

Lubliner

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I sort of thought the water and the waves were too regularly perfect as I have seen numerous paintings of such uniformity, but the sea I grew up near never took on that countenance. Good call on the Buick. I missed that one entirely!
Lubliner.
 

rebelatsea

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I know little about American cars, but spotted Bil's Buick immediately. Photographic images from this era are more usually sharp, sometimes pin sharp as can be seen on many CWT threads, so the blurring was suspect to begin with.
I don't doubt Bil is right. photos must have been taken of the Virginia, but very sadly, and assuming they were glass plate images, could be among the many thousands to have been used as greenhouse glass, or just smashed as of no further interest.
 

BarkJuice

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Thanks men, it appeared to me that the ports were too low based on contemporary artwork and the assumed deck design. I’m glad y’all identified it, but since it is a scale model set, are those really automobiles in the background? Pretty blurry to positively identify, and no reason to have miniature cars on the set either....
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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I think that Ironclads wasn't all that bad... except for A) the plot and B) the actors. The miniature effects were quite well-done for the time, and the 'reenactment' scenes (basically anything James N. was in :wink: ) were nicely done.

I'd sure like to see it redone with CGI FX, better acting, and get rid of that tired beautiful-female-spy 'subplot': it doesn't work.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Actually, how's this for a movie idea: the Monitor-Virginia battle is the 'cold open', and the movie centers around McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, with the climax of the plot where Lee takes command. Done properly, I'd watch it.

Let me play with other script ideas, and maybe I'll take a whack at it. Whether or not a production company and or distributor would buy it is another question.

The Monitor vs. Virginia battle would be a good explosive scene to get the audience interested.
 
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I think that Ironclads wasn't all that bad... except for A) the plot and B) the actors. The miniature effects were quite well-done for the time, and the 'reenactment' scenes (basically anything James N. was in :wink: ) were nicely done.

I'd sure like to see it redone with CGI FX, better acting, and get rid of that tired beautiful-female-spy 'subplot': it doesn't work.
I was about to provide the exact same assessment.

Gawd . . . those horrendous fake Southern accents were at their peak during that film.

Typical Hollywood.

But James N. is correct, there were some impressive battle scenes.
 
Last edited:

BarkJuice

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I am not convinced that those are automobiles in the film. The Virginia is a scale model, as was the Monitor. The dock scene is in miniatures, and it is almost inconceivable that the Oscar-nominated Republic special effects director Bud Thackery would have approved automobiles in a mid-19th century scene. I’m not sure what they actually are, but they probably aren’t Buicks....

Regardless, thanks to everyone for their comments and for identifying the model and the film in which it was shown. Now we just have to unearth a photo of the real thing!



.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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I can't make out for sure what the car is and so on. I've been wondering if this is a photo from an old silent movie featuring ironclads I can't remember the name of. Looking for that, I found this article about a Monitor movie in the 30's. It might be the culprit.

Hearts in Bondage - Wikipedia

I wonder if the silent movie, The Southerners, mentioned in that article is the one I've been trying to remember the name of. I've kind of had this suspicion since this thread started.
 

BarkJuice

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Kazziga identified the film in post #6. The Southerners was produced a long time before Hearts in Bondage of course, I’m not sure of the state of special effects in 1914. But the photo is an out take from the 1936 film. Thanks for pursuing this for me!



.
 

Biscoitos

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May 14, 2020
Hello Barkjuice,

Thank you for posting this. I really, really want to believe this is real...but... I keep seeing a 1938 Buick parked on the dock facing the Virginia just aft of the funnel. And I see another vehicle to the right of the Buick in the distance parked in the opposite direction. Classic American diagonal parking. Another concern is that the pilot house seems to be a separate structure with a gap between it and the casemate, which was how it was attached in the 1962 era Lifelike plastic kit of the Merrimac. It seems to be a plastic model superimposed on a generic dockyard scene and appropriately blurred to lend authenticity.

That is not to say such a photograph of the Virginia is not out there. After all, we now have that fine view of the Alabama dockside in Singapore. I think one does exist and will be found one day. The Virginia was arguably the world's most famous warship in the spring of 1862. She spent the majority of time in port, in a city that was known to have photography studios. Hardly a military secret, she was a source of Southern pride and images of her would have been highly desired. I would like to contact the producers of the documentary and determine how they sourced that image.

Happy New Year!
Bil
Maybe it's not a fake, but a replica built in the late 1930s - early 1940s.
 

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