Following Alexander Gardner at Antietam (Some Graphic!)

James N.

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Part I - Gardner's Visits to the Battlefield
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During my recent visit to Sharpsburg, Maryland and the battlefield of Antietam I wanted to locate the scenes of some of the famous photographs of landmarks and dead taken there by Alexander Gardner; unfortunately, I didn't have a copy of William Frassanito's companion volume to his Gettysburg - A Journey in Time which had been invaluable at Gettysburg.

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Fortunately, my want was anticipated by the National Park Service and the fold-out leaflet above which locates eight of the most recognizable photos which are to be found on or very near the current park auto tour route. In this thread I have used the brochure and added to it a few other scenes and my own "takes" on them.

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When photographer Matthew Brady, at left above, created a special exhibit in his downtown Manhattan studio in the fall of 1862 it created a huge sensation and drew immense crowds and reviewers' comments such as this:

...We recognized the battlefield as a reality, but a remote one, like a funeral next door. Mr. Brady has brought home the terrible earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along the streets, he has done something very like it. At the door of his gallery hangs a little placard, "The Dead of Antietam."

The photographs displayed in Brady's gallery were the products of the manager of his Washington, D. C., studio, Scots immigrant Alexander Gardner, seen at right with his camera. The previous year Brady himself had attempted to photograph the battle at Bull Run but that effort had turned into a fiasco with the loss of his photographic what-is-it darkroom wagon and supplies in the Union rout; besides, Brady's health and eyesight were beginning to fail him, rendering him unfit for such a journey himself. Although he would again take the field in the aftermath of Gettysburg it was his assistants who did most of the actual photography, though Brady likely selected the subject matter and general layout of the shots. Gardner would soon leave Brady's employ and strike out on his own; but he first made two trips to Sharpsburg on behalf of his employer in the wake of the battle there. The first visit occurred Sept. 18 - 21 and is the subject of the photographs here.

The Dunker Church
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One of Gardner or his assistant James Gibson's iconic Antietam photos above shows the wreck of a Confederate battery before the whitewashed Dunker Church on the Hagerstown Turnpike. Likely, the actual site of their camera was a little closer to the church than my modern shot below. The guns in the photo are a NPS display showing the four main types of cannon used in field artillery during the war: from the foreground, an 1840's six-pounder gun; a M.1857 12-pounder "Napoleon"; a 3" ordnance or James rifle; and a 10-pounder Parrott.

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A closer view of the Dunker Church; in order to "match" Gardner's photo I have had to rotate my photo below 6 degrees to the left to copy the cock-eyed angle, caused possibly by his camera not being properly leveled on the slope.

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This less-familiar shot showing the same limber was taken a little farther south than the more famous one and is looking to the north instead of due west. This area had been occupied first by Confederate guns from the battalion of Col. Stephen D. Lee and later by Union guns supporting the attack on the Sunken Road. My photo below shows the ten-pounder Parrott rifle from the group and is looking in the same direction as Gardner's photo above.

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Another artillery subject photographed by Gardner at Antietam was Knap's Pennsylvania Battery deployed below as if for battle; the battery was armed with ten-pounder Parrotts like that above.

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Next, Part II - The Cornfield
 
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James N.

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The Hagerstown Turnpike Near The Cornfield
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I found that my long-time idea concerning this photo had largely been mistaken: on a previous visit when Frassanito's Antietam book had only recently been published, I was under the impression that this famous view was looking south along the Hagerstown Turnpike which was seen at the left of the photo. Instead, I learn it is looking north and the "road" at left is actually only a farmer's lane alongside his field - the actual turnpike is at right between two stout rail fences. As can be seen, this is one of the few places interpreted by the NPS with signage indicating the significance of the location.

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Below, a closer look at the interpretive marker.

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Gardner and Gibson took several other less-well-known photographs showing Confederate dead along this fence like those above; likely they were all taken within a short distance of each other, owing to the difficulties in moving the bulky cameras and darkroom what-is-it wagons.

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The Cornfield South
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Just south of Miller's Cornfield along what is now Cornfield Avenue the scene above was recorded; today it may be identified by the distinctive rock outcroppings, although there are now more and larger trees.

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A closer look at this site reveals the highly unusual monument to the 90th Pennsylvania Regiment, consisting of a stack of rifles forming a tripod from which is suspended an oversized pot, perhaps trying to represent a mucket or individual cook-pot bearing the probably ironic inscription, Sept 17, 1862 - A Hot Place.

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Gardner and Gibson took other photos showing Confederate dead in the northern area of the battlefield, some vaguely identified like the soldier at right above as being somewhere on the Mumma Farm. Perhaps some were on the triangular parcel recently purchased by the Civil War Trust shown in my photo below.

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Next, Part III - Bloody Lane and Burnside's Bridge
 
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James N.

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Bloody Lane
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Today the sunken lane known to history as Bloody Lane happily bears little resemblance to the scene it presented at the end of the battle as recorded by Gardner below. My modern views make no effort to duplicate Gardner's camera angles or precise locations but serve to give a general idea.

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I have reversed the photo at right above to more closely match my shot below; note however that Piper's Cornfield, the shattered stalks of which are plainly evident in both of Gardner's photos, was to the south of the lane or right in my photo.

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The scene as it was seen by most Americans in the 1860's on a stereoptican slide for use in the popular stereograph viewer; most or all of these views were taken with the special twin-lensed cameras used to make these three-dimentional cards.

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Burnside's Bridge
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Owing to current restoration of this Antietam landmark I made no attempt to replicate Gardner's work; my photos were taken two years ago during my previous visit.

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My shot below is something of a reverse image of Gardner's above - his was taken looking north with Antietam Creek on the left; mine was taken looking south with the Confederate-defended heights on the right.

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With Abraham Lincoln at Antietam
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Alexander Gardner returned to Sharpsburg on Oct. 1, 1862, and remained three days during the visit of President Abraham Lincoln to the Army of the Potomac and its commander, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan; unfortunately, the sites of his famous photographs he took there are on the privately-owned Grove Farm and although interpreted on the signage below are unavailable to the casual visitor.

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rpkennedy

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The Confederate dead along the Hagerstown Pike were probably Louisianans from William Starke's Brigade, which fought against elements of the Iron Brigade. Starke's men retreated across the road and the lines took up position on each side of the road, firing across the pike into the enemy just a few yards away.

Ryan
 

James N.

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I love looking at then-and-now comparison photos. It's great to see yours.

Thanks for your comment; I only wish they had been a little more true before-and-after shots utilizing the same camera angles, but in several cases that wasn't on my mind at the time. Welcome to the forums from the host of the Stonewall Jackson Forum!
 

Shoddy

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Thanks for your comment; I only wish they had been a little more true before-and-after shots utilizing the same camera angles, but in several cases that wasn't on my mind at the time. Welcome to the forums from the host of the Stonewall Jackson Forum!

I totally get it. I always think I'm going to take a ton of awesome pictures when I go to a battlefield, and then I get distracted by, you know, actually being there. I have to take advantage of the efforts of other people who take pics and then share them.

Thank you for your welcome! :smile:
 

bdtex

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Gardner and Gibson took several other less-well-known photographs showing Confederate dead along this fence like those above; likely they were all taken within a short distance of each other, owing to the difficulties in moving the bulky cameras and darkroom what-is-it wagons.
I don't think I've ever seen those pictures before. I don't know how I missed this thread last year.
 

Lost Cause

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The Confederate dead along the Hagerstown Pike were probably Louisianans from William Starke's Brigade, which fought against elements of the Iron Brigade. Starke's men retreated across the road and the lines took up position on each side of the road, firing across the pike into the enemy just a few yards away.

Ryan
Here is a painting of the scene by Keith Rocco:


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James N.

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Maybe everyone noticed this, but it appears to me that these guys are the same, just at a different angle.

That's a nice piece of detective work, @pfcjking ! It's not too surprising, though - like I said, the trouble involved in moving the bulky camera and wagon made the opportunities this group afforded all the more something to take advantage of. Of course, Gardner did much the same thing with this well-known group of Confederate dead at the Rose Farm at Gettysburg:

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For more about Alexander Gardner at Gettysburg here's the link to my other thread: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/following-alexander-gardner-at-devils-den-graphic.127728/ It also includes the famous Case of the Rearranged Corpse:

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Package4

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A *BUMP* for the anniversary of Antietam!
Thank you! Our group was there this weekend performing demos for the anniversary and the preservation march from Harper's Ferry to Sharpsburg...Hill's line of march.

One of the finer National Parks that has resisted the commercialization found around so many.

Of particular note:
The Hagerstown Pike pictures reveal some very interesting and unexplained observations. The soldier with his arm in the air and knapsack still attached; this is a copy of the French military knapsack favored by the Louisiana troops and was in use as late as Gettysburg. There is also a soldier along the Pike who is wearing a Union sackcoat; I have heard that he was a federal and might have been missed by the Federal burial details (doubtful). I think he was simply wearing a captured sack and as evidenced, is wearing spun trousers and passed over by the detail for being the enemy. Confederates were later buried in mass or single graves by locals who were paid .50-1.00 each.

The "stacked" muskets are interesting as it is very difficult to stack without bayonets or even pulled rammers; I'm thinking that even then they were worried about public safety and decided that due to the proximity to the ground, it was far better to portray the "stack" wrapped with a sling at the muzzle.
 

Rob9641

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Really nicely done. The stacked rifle monument is actually a replacement - the original was stolen years ago.

Interesting point I'll mention here about the Grove Farm. The house (you can see the roof behind the tents) was built by Philip Grove. His great-great-great grandson, George Grove, has been a member of The Kingston Trio (THE Kingston Trio) for 41 years now but is having his last performance this Saturday night in Asheville NC (sorry - tickets sold out the first day they were available). George is from NC and has never been to Sharpsburg. Maybe now he's retiring I might get him to come by.
 

Noonanda

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The "stacked" muskets are interesting as it is very difficult to stack without bayonets or even pulled rammers; I'm thinking that even then they were worried about public safety and decided that due to the proximity to the ground, it was far better to portray the "stack" wrapped with a sling at the muzzle.

It looks like it was damaged in the past and is held together at the top with Bailing wire. I was there Saturday and took my daughters to see that as well as walk in the cornfield just to the south of it which had been harvested already.
 
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