Monday, August 15, 2016

Gettysburg photo mysteries

A few years ago, John Cummings discovered the previously mysterious position of a famous Gettysburg photograph usually titled 'Harvest of Death'. His notes are here. His research also reveals ways in which that era's photographs were artistically manipulated and don't necessarily record reality.

His work leads me to identify the position of another Gettysburg photograph, conjectured to be on the Confederate right in the 2nd day's battlefield near the Rose farm, but whose actual location is also unknown. No one else has made this leap.

In this photo of partially buried Confederate dead, several landmarks appear: the scraggly trees in the background, the up-sloping topography and the pile of white-washed fence boards.

I have highlighted the most interesting element, the pile of fence boards.
In the photograph whose location John has identified, a similar board pile is revealed in the middle distance, highlighted here.
Other than the landmarks, small gnarly trees and up-sloping terrain, there are several ideas regarding this position.
Concerning the currently theorized position being on the CSA right: there are no other photos of Confederate burials in the area; it  was an active combat zone on the evening of the 2nd and the CSA withdrew from it on the night of the 3rd. It's doubtful that exhausted, front-line troops would have engaged in graves operations.
Now, about my conjecture: This zone was behind Confederate lines from the afternoon of July 1st until the evening of July 5th. The troops in the area were not engaged in fighting after the 1st and conducted extensive graves operations until they left the Gettysburg area. The photographer was in the area on the 6th and it's unlikely they would have limited their photo-taking to a few plates on the ridge near where Reynolds was killed.
I believe the photo was taken in he swale in the left middle distance, perhaps near the trees just over the ridge.

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