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Following Alexander Gardner at Devils' Den (Graphic!)

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by James N., Sep 29, 2016.

  1. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Part I - The Slaughter Pen
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    Ever since the publication now forty years ago of the landmark Gettysburg - A Journey in Time by William Frassanito I have been fascinated by the thought of actually being able to stand where Civil War soldiers had lain "dead on the field". Until now, that idea had largely remained dormant when the happy opportunity came together of having enough time to search, plus taking with me a copy of the book to assist. I realize this is scarcely a novel idea but hope you like the result of my efforts as seen here!

    Since the greatest number of identifiable photos of Gettysburg dead had been taken at the Rose Farm on the south end of the battlefield, that was the likely place to begin; however, the area where the bodies of Confederate soldiers killed in part of the struggle for the Wheatfield and lain out for burial by their fellow Confederates before their hasty retreat proved to be totally uninterpreted by the National Park Service and largely unreachable. The open area near a treeline shown in the famous photographs has now been overgrown itself, and although it was accessible - by crossing or crawling through one or more fences - looking there seemed an unlikely prospect. Instead, the next most likely place to search was Devils' Den, above, which oddly is no longer featured on the NPS driving tour but still perfectly accessible.

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    Two days after the battle the photographic team headed by Alexander Gardner above, and including him and his assistants Timothy O'Sullivan and James Gibson reached the battlefield via the Emmitsburg Road bordering the Rose Farm. Gardner hoped to follow his triumph of the previous year showing a gallery of photographs featuring the unburied dead of Antietam with a similar opus of Gettysburg's fatalities. According to Frassanito's study most of the dead had already been buried by the time of Gardner's arrival, so he was quick to zero in on those remaining unburied. From the Rose Farm's grim harvest the team next turned to the nearby Round Tops and Devils' Den area.

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    In Devils' Den Scotsman Gardner encountered English war artist-correspondent Alfred Waud (pronounced Wood) whom he posed and photographed sketching atop a convenient rock, seen above in the double negative produced by the stereographic camera used for the bulk of their photos. I'd wondered just how difficult it would be to locate some of these settings; imagine my surprise when Waud's rock turned out to be the very first one encountered along the paved path which leads from the parking area into the rocks! (It's very obvious due to the profile of other rocks in the background of Gardner's photo as can be seen by mine below.)

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    Another shock was to be had at the closeness of two of Gardner's iconic photos labeled The Slaughter Pen to the parking area - it was literally possible to step over the edge of the parking space and stand exactly where Gardner had placed his camera, then take a few steps to the left to the rocks where two dead Rebels had lain. According to Frassanito, the term Slaughter Pen used to describe this area lying along Plum Run roughly between Devils' Den and the Round Tops was likely one he picked up from Waud (or vise versa); or else one they both heard from members of the burial parties who were working at the same time.

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    Gardner took at least two photographs from this position, including this "close-up" using his well-recorded prop rifle, more of which later. In my recreation of the scene below, notice the top of an an automobile peeking above the large cleft rock at the left of the picture.

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    Frassanito says the exact location of the small group of dead that were likely the subject of at least three different photos taken from different angles, two of which are above, has probably been rendered unrecognizable today but is thought to have been just across Plum Run in the woods at the base of Big Round Top, seen here in the background of my photo below.


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    Next, Part II - The Sharpshooter's Den
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016

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  3. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Part II - A Sharpshooter's Last Sleep
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    Undoubtedly the best-known of the photographs taken by Gardner's team in this location - and one of the iconic images of the entire war - is the one above. (Another stereo view, this half best shows the wooded summit of Little Round Top in the background.) Probably for that reason this spot, unlike all the others seen here, is the only one featured with an NPS interpretive sign. Unlike on my previous visits, the underbrush has now been completely cleared from this area making it possible for tired or lazy motorists to see this place without even having to exit their cars!

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    The famous photo is featured prominently on the interpretive sign; my photo below shows the nearness of the location to the artillery position shown in one of my photos above.

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    Ever since the publication of an article by Frederic Ray called The Case of the Rearranged Corpse in Civil War Times Illustrated it has been known that the "sharpshooter" in the photo above was likely nothing but a regular infantryman whose body had been dragged by Gardner and his assistants to the more "picturesque" location and supplied with the notorious "prop" rifle. Frassanito has shown where he was likely dragged from, a place slightly downslope where these two photos of the unsuspecting subject had already been taken.
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    This location was across the current park road in an area that had very recently been the scene of more of the NPS' ongoing deforestation project and a burn-off to clear underbrush. I opted not to try to find the exact location, but it was at he base of the large rock at center; in the background of this photo in middle distance is the notorious Triangular Field, and beyond that in the distance is Warfield Ridge where the Confederate attack had begun.

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    Last edited: Oct 21, 2016
  4. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    The soldier closest to the rock in the Slaughter Pen appears to have been shot in the head.
     
  5. PeterT

    PeterT 2nd Lieutenant

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    Excellent work James! I had my copy of Frassanito with me but your "now" photos are in better positions than mine. I'll have closer look and post some others here too.
     
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  6. Gettysburg Greg

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    Great work, John. I have the same obsession with the then and nows in Frazz' books. I shoot and reshoot my versions every time I visit GB. Your matching shots are all very good, but I have one slight difference of opinion regarding your now shot of the dead soldier in front of the rock with the large crack in the Slaughter Pen. You mention the car seen in the background. I believe the camera position for this shot was directly in front of the rock, not at the angle that includes the parking area. I have done some work with a highly magnified copy of the original photo and It confirms the rock in the background is the rock that is now the base for the 4th Maine's monument. That matches a camera location right in front of the crack, not off to the side.
    I will attach a copy of my work in which I show the unique identifiers that match the background rock with the modern shot of the same rock. I would be interested to hear your opinion as to whether you agree or not. Thanks for the great post.
    maine combo2.jpg
     
  7. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Really good stuff guys, thanks for posting... I've always been a fan of Frassanito's book.
     
  8. Burning Billy

    Burning Billy Sergeant

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    I didn't notice that until you mentioned it, but I believe you're right. It looks like there is a visible head wound, with brain matter coating his face and hair just beneath the wound. Either he was shot in the head, or struck by a shell fragment.

    In any case, I'm glad that photo is in black and white.
     
  9. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

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  10. Northern Light

    Northern Light Captain

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    Good job, James N.
     
  11. Patrick H

    Patrick H Major

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    Interesting photos!
     
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  12. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    Look at the guy at the bottom of the photo. Look at his eye.
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  13. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    Never seen this photo before. Any ideas?
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  14. Gettysburg Greg

    Gettysburg Greg Sergeant

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    This image was taken in the Slaughter Pen looking towards the base of Big Round Top. The location is not far from the pics from the OP. The unique slanted rock is seen in other post battle images.
     
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  15. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Thanks for your comments, Greg! I want to stress that I wasn't attempting to replicate Gardner's angles exactly, but rather give a general but recognizable idea of the areas. (I was also trying to stay out of the MUD!) I generally try to keep "modern" distractions like cars and people out of all my photographs, and these were no exceptions. The accidental inclusion of the one here however gives a good idea of just how near this important place is - surely most tourists have NO idea just how close these scenes of death and destruction are to their modern lives!
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016
  16. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    When I was searching Gardner's photos online to use in this thread, I inadvertently neglected to look for this particular one; besides, none of the photos I took that day really approximated it or that location. Here's the only other one of mine from there I didn't use:

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  17. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    As pointed out earlier, Frassanito's book is over 40 years old, and was published using (rather grainy) black & white modern photos that don't compare with today's digital technology. I have often thought how neat it would be to publish a new and updated edition of his book, keeping his text, drawings, and period photos, but updating the modern photos to hd color, etc.

    I guess until something like that happens, next best thing is what @James N. and @Gettysburg Greg and others here on CWT are doing... thanks guys!
     
  18. Gettysburg Greg

    Gettysburg Greg Sergeant

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    I see, James. Since you had matched other view (with two soldiers), I thought you intended the other one to match also. No problem, gave me an excuse to post my work pointing out the background rock is now the base for the 4th Maine's monument.
     
  19. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Actually, the first one - and the one with Waud too - were more like "happy accidents", not that I wasn't trying; I was mainly "eyeballing" the sites and comparing with the photos, both old and "modern" in Frassanito. My friend Mike who was with me was helping too, as he's pretty good at figuring out things like this. Watch for my Antietam-themed thread on Gardner and his photographs I intend to post next time!
     
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  20. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    This is looking across the 'unknown' photo from west to east up brt. The distinctive rock is in center and to the left is the man with his left leg bent up at the knee.
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  21. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Great work. I love photography and I just started to seek out the then photo locations. Greg's and your posts provide a source of inspiration for my hunting of Then and Now Gettysburg photo locations.

    I have all of Frassantino's books. I also really like Jack Kunkel's "A Gettysburg Photo Tour" book. That book combined with his website can really pinpoint specific then photo locations using GPS coordinates.

    I use the LOC website to download the historic photos (many in hi def too). I save them on my iPad and use them on the battlefield. Of course I recruited my wife to help carry equipment on the battlefield. I carry two cameras, tripod, IPad, books, note pads, etc. It was funny watching us crawl over the fence last time to get to the split rock on the Rose Farm with all that stuff.
     

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