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Winter 1863-1864

By the winter of 1863-1864 the American Civil War was entering it’s third year and there seemed to be no end in sight.  As the armies went into their winter camps the soldiers and the public at large were growing tired of the war.

The conflict that many predicted would last at most a couple of months had dragged on.  But at the beginning of 1864 the country would need to steel itself –  for the harshest and bloodiest fighting of the war was still to come.

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The gulf between the antagonists had become impassable….and the South saw one hope on the horizon.  In the coming year the Northern people were going to have a presidential election.  “If by November, the northern people had been made to feel that the war was too painful and discouraging to carry on any longer, they would vote Mr. Lincoln out of the White House.  Then there might be an independent Confederacy.”*

Link to: Winter 1863-1864

Charleston and the Islands – 1863

The Battle of Fort Wagner was fought on Morris Island near Charleston South Carolina in 1863 and is infamous for the assault on the Confederate held bastion by the Union’s 54th Massachusetts regiment.  The 54th were a brand new regiment recruited in Boston and composed entirely of volunteers…and all former-slaves or free-black men.

Confederate reenactors defend "Fort Wagner" at Boone Hall Plantation, SC 2013

Confederate reenactors defend “Fort Wagner” at the historic Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina

One hundred and fifty years later a reenactment of this famous Civil War battle occurred outside of Charleston at the historic Boone Hall Plantation.

Just a few miles away, the City of Charleston is considered America’s “friendliest” city and continues to be a wonderfully preserved antebellum metropolis.

The pristine salt marshes and islets of Sullivan Island, James Island and Morris Island, the harbor’s forts and South Carolina’s colonial and civil war era histories are explored here.  Click the link below to see pinhole camera images of Charleston and the Carolina low country in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Wagner.

Battle of Fort Wagner

Coastal guns at Fort Moultrie, Sullivan Island, SC 2013

19th century coastal guns at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan Island in South Carolina 2013

Clarksville, TN

Clarksville, Tennessee 2013

An old train trestle spanning the Red River shrouded in morning fog. Clarksville, TN 2013.

An old train trestle spanning the Red River shrouded in morning fog. Clarksville, TN 2013.

I had the honor last week of being in Clarksville Tennessee making a presentation of the Civil War 150 Pinhole Project to the Society of Tennessee Archivists.

The Society of Tennessee Archivists have been busy over the last few years collecting artifacts and oral histories from Tennesseans for the State’s Archive on the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

The Civil War 150 Pinhole Project and Society of Tennessee Archivists collided, so to speak, at Shiloh, Tennessee in 2012.  I happen to meet archivists Lori Lockhart and Carol Roberts on the battlefield while working on the project and we quickly realized that we had similar goals.

The Poston Building in Clarksville's Public Square.  2013

The Poston Building in Clarksville’s Public Square. 2013

The Society of Tennessee Archivists and archivists in general are interested in and practiced in the collection, archiving and storing of historical artifacts for future generations.  My approach and the project’s collection of pinhole battlefield photographs, following the timeline of the sesquicentennial, piqued their interest.

The the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers in Clarksville, TN 2013

The the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers in Clarksville, TN 2013

Arriving in Clarksville prepared with a presentation and slide show of pinhole images for STA’s annual conference, I utilized my free time exploring Clarksville and middle Tennessee’s 19th century landscape with the pinhole cameras.

Clarksville and the Civil War

The State of Tennessee played an enormous role in the American Civil War.  The state hosted more battles during the war then any other aside from Virginia.  From the banks of the Mississippi at Memphis to Knoxville in the east evidence of the War can be found throughout the State.

The Cumberland River at Fort Defiance Clarksville Tennessee, 2013.

The Cumberland River at Fort Defiance in Clarksville Tennessee, 2013.

Clarksville in the 1860′s was a vital communications and transportation center for the Confederacy.  Situated at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers, Clarksville was a major producer of tobacco and agricultural goods but became an important source of iron, it’s local foundries producing cannon, artillery shells and musket balls for the Confederate army in the early days of the war.  In the 1860s the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad served the City; its old wood trestles still span the City’s waterways today.

Earthen fortifications and trenches at Fort Defiance, Clarksville, TN 2013.

Evidence of Civil War era fortifications and trenches at Fort Defiance in Clarksville, TN 2013.

Clarksville’s location at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers made it a strategic point during the war.  The Confederates in preparing for the City’s defense constructed Fort Sevier, now called Fort Defiance, on a hill that commands the two rivers.  Today the earthen walls of it’s fortifications are still plainly visible and is the site of Clarksville’s Civil War Interpretive Center at Fort Defiance.

Union Ironclads would have filled the view here in 1862. The Cumberland River at Fort Defiance Clarksville TN, 2013.

Union Ironclads would have filled the view here in 1862. The banks of the Cumberland River at Fort Defiance in Clarksville TN, 2013.

Union gunboats and ironclads filled these rivers in 1862 capturing the fort and occupied Clarksville throughout the rest of the war.  After the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, Clarksville became a Federal recruitment center for the induction of free blacks and former slaves into the Union army.

Stones River Battlefield

I also had a chance, thanks to the Government Reopening!, to see the Battlefield at Stones River just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  The Battle at Stones River or Murfreesboro, occurred on December 31st 1862 through January 2nd 1863.  The three day battle at Stones River was the sixth bloodiest contest in the Civil War with a total of 24,000 casualties.  The two western commanders, the Union’s William Rosecrans and the Confederacy’s Braxton Bragg, slugged it out here in Murfreesboro, a prelude to their fateful and more decisive meeting at Chickamauga, GA in September 1863.

Morning fog envelopes the Battlefield at Stones River in Murfreesboro, TN, 2013

Morning fog envelopes the Battlefield at Stones River in Murfreesboro, TN, 2013

The Battlefield at Stones River is wet and swampy with a collection of open fields and cedar forests dotted with distinctive limestone outcroppings.

A section of the forest here was dubbed, “The Slaughter Pen” the limestone rocks from which the soldiers fought are plainly visible today.

"The Slaughter Pen" limestone outcroppings amongst the cedars on the Battlefield at Stones River. 2013

“The Slaughter Pen” limestone outcroppings amongst the cedars on the Battlefield at Stones River. 2013

A foggy morning mist seemed to heighten the somber, quiet feeling of this comparatively small and intimate battlefield.

The Stones River National Cemetery across the street from the Battlefield is a mournful replica of the National Cemeteries found in places like Shiloh and Gettysburg.  Thousands of small white markers, worn over time, arrayed in unending rows.  A sign along a path laments,

“The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldiers last tattoo. No more on life’s parade shall meet that brave and fallen few”….

National Cemetery at Stones River Battlefield. 2013

National Cemetery at Stones River Battlefield. 2013

I made a point of thanking the Park Rangers at the Stones River Battlefield for their service and dedication through the recent government shutdown.  I said, “Welcome back!” they retorted, “We never left….”

I love the National Park Service.

I would like to thank David Sowell, President of the Society of Tennessee Archivists, for his kind invitation to attend and present my work at their annual conference in Clarksville. Special thanks goes to archivists Lori Lockhart and Carol Roberts who have the designation of being the very first “fans” of the Civil War 150 Pinhole Project.  Our fateful meeting at Shiloh led to this unexpected opportunity to travel back to Tennessee and further explore this wonderful state and it’s plethora of civil war history.

Morning fog shrouds a train trestle spanning the Red River in Clarksville, TN 2013.

Morning fog shrouds a train trestle spanning the Red River in Clarksville, TN 2013.

Chickamauga

The Battle at Chickamauga in September 1863 was the seconded bloodiest encounter of the Civil War.  In the deep woods of Tennessee and north west Georgia the country’s two warring armies maneuvered in the dense mountainous terrain colliding along a meandering creek called the Chickamauga.

Click the link below for pinhole camera images of the Battlefield at Chickamauga and Chattanooga as well as the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia’s historic McLemore’s Cove.

Link to the Battle of Chickamauga

Guns along Snodgrass Hill on the Battlefield at Chickamauga, Ga 2013.

Guns along Snodgrass Hill on the Battlefield at Chickamauga, Ga 2013.

The Decisive Battle of Gettysburg – July 1863

“In a way the story of Gettysburg is a story of the country roads that come to the place.  They were unpaved roads in 1863, white and dusty under the July sun, binding town to countryside, knitting the Pennsylvania townships together, unremarkable and unknown to fame; bearing now a strange traffic.  Thousands of men tramped along them to meet what was waiting at the end of the last hard mile, stepping off the map altogether, stumbling painfully onward and winning a soldiers apotheosis on hills and fields that sandwiched three days of violence in between unbroken generations of peace to make the more perfect union the nation’s elders had dreamed of…..The nation gained unity and an immortal legend because the soldiers followed these roads.”  *

The fence along the Emmitsburg Road that Rebel forces found as a deadly obstacle in their quest for Cemetery Ridge. Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

The fence along the Emmitsburg Road that Rebel forces found as a deadly obstacle in their quest for Cemetery Ridge. Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

 “It was a battle that had to be fought, and the forces that produced it were so stupendous that the battle became the great hinge of the war, the turning point where it began to swing in a different direction.” *

One in 53,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg. 2013

A reenactor portrays one in 53,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg. 2013

“To the living of all subsequent generations, including this one, Gettysburg left an unending responsibility.  A nation built on the idea that all men – all men – are of equal worth and equal rights summons everyone of its citizens to a life-long commitment to put that idea into practical effect.” *

“Gettysburg, then, was the price we paid for our service under that great concept.  It was one step in a long progression; not an end, but a beginning – a pledge written in blood that freedom should be reborn in every generation”*

The above words, from Civil War historian, Bruce Catton, were in my head as I headed down to Gettysburg in late June 2013.  With the 150th anniversary of this famous Civil War battle in our midsts I would push the pinhole cameras to their limits attending two sesquicentennial reenactments and photographing extensively on this famous battlefield.

The Codori Farm on the Emmitsburg Road on the Battlefield at Gettysburg. 2013

The Codori Farm on the Battlefield at Gettysburg. 2013

The Town of Gettysburg today is sort of a place locked-in-time.  The battle that came to this small Pennsylvania town wound up being one of the turning points in our nation’s history. The fighting in July and the dedication of the National Cemetery in November 1863, in some way or other, caused the town to remain frozen in that time; reverentially cementing Gettysburg in the time of its greatest hour.

The battle subsides on "Cemetery Ridge" at Gettysburg 2013.

The battle subsides on “Cemetery Ridge” at Gettysburg 2013.

A central, converging point in the 1860′s, Gettysburg today is still a good hour drive from any major modern highway.  Approaching the town, like 150 years ago, the two lane roads take you through some of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful countryside.  Fruit and vegetable farms line the route in a landscape of rolling hills dotted with neat red barns and pastures.

The same roads that brought the armies to Gettysburg in 1863, still lead to the town today.  Although now paved in asphalt, these roads lead in from this abundant, rich region of Pennsylvania and is one of the reasons Robert E. Lee and the Confederate army could sustain themselves in enemy territory in the summer of 1863.

Wagoneer waits for the sounds of battle during a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

Wagoneer brings water to the battlefield during a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

The battle that raged around Gettysburg, the shape of the battle, basically encompassed the town itself in 1863.  Being such a monumental battle in the Civil War the battlefield at Gettysburg was protected and preserved soon after the fighting, so the town today is surrounded, hemmed-in by the 150 year old battle landscape.

Sutler in camp during a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. 2013

Sutler in camp during a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. 2013

The streets in the Town of Gettysburg are still lined with 18th & 19th century homes and businesses.  Historic hotels in Gettysburg’s center are still operational giving tourists the opportunity to sleep where so and so slept, or lived, or died.  Seems the whole town is landmarked…but mentally block out the over-head wires, the yellow lines in the pavement, and the lantern wielding 19th century civilians leading the Gettysburg Ghost Tours can make you look twice…

The battle raged through the small farms that dot the Battlefield at Gettysburg, PA 2013.

The battle raged through the small farms that dot the Battlefield at Gettysburg, PA 2013.

Also, the Battlefield at Gettysburg is beautifully preserved today.  The 24 mile auto-tour takes you around the battlefield in the sequence of the three day battle in 1863.  Hiking this battlefield can be amazingly revealing if you know even a little bit about this epic battle.  The Battlefield at Gettysburg is superintended by the National Park Service.

Pinhole camera images of the two 150th anniversary reenactments and the famous battlefield at Gettysburg, as well as, further reflections on the sesquicentennial events have been interspersed here in three separate “battle pages” added to the Civil War 150 Pinhole Project.

 

Sunrise along the Emmitsburg Road on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

Sunrise along the Emmitsburg Road on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

See the three days of fighting in Gettysburg at the links below:

Gettysburg Day 1

Gettysburg Day 2

Gettysburg Day 3

* Bruce Catton, “Gettysburg: The Final Fury” 

The Eisenhower Farm on Seminary Ridge, the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

The Eisenhower Farm on Seminary Ridge, the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa. 2013

The Armies Collide at Gettysburg!

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Citizens of Gettysburg watch as the battle begins in the distance on their edge of their small town. 2013

Citizens of Gettysburg watch as the Union and Confederate armies collide on the edge of their small Pennsylvania town. Over the next three days the very existence of the United States is at stake.   The town of Gettysburg, with a population of just 5,000 residents, will see the two armies, numbering over 150,000 men, fight it out amongst the hills, fields and in the town itself. The battle will decide the fate of the Nation.

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Confederate guns open up during the first days fighting at Gettysburg. 2013.

“It had begun as an almost accidental collision between two armies, it had continued because of sheer force of circumstances made it impossible to break it off, and it was actually fought for the possession of control over the future of America.” *

The Civil War 150 Pinhole Project, witnessed this first set of these epic battles, but will be returning to Gettysburg this week for the remainder of the fighting and an extensive tour of the famous battlefield.

 

 

The Iron Brigade enters the fight on the first day at Gettysburg. 2013

The Iron Brigade enters the fight on the first day at Gettysburg. 2013

Please check back in late July 2013 for the complete coverage of three bloodiest days in American History; three days that determined the destiny of the Nation.

*Quote: Bruce Catton, “Gettysburg: The Final Fury”

Gettysburg Redux

On June 15th 1863, confederate forces, commanded by Robert E. Lee,  crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport and headed into Pennsylvania. The Last Invasion had begun.

Signal flag in motion as re-enactors send messages during a battle reenactment near Gettysburg, Pa. 2012

Signal flag in motion as re-enactors send messages during a battle reenactment near Gettysburg, Pa. 2012

On the heals of their astounding victory at Chancellorsville in May, moral was high as the 70,000 strong rebel army moved through the keystone state and marveled at the beautiful countryside.  Pennsylvania’s small family farms were noticeably different then the large plantations of the confederacy.  After nearly two years of fighting in the south, the neat snake-rail fences dividing the country, the abundance of large dutch barns and fields ripe, an unmolested landscape, served as a stark contrast to war ravaged Virginia.  With abundant forage for the troops to acquire along their journey, spirits were high in the confederate army as the South brought the war North.

Confederate re-enactors form up during a battle reenactment in Elizabethtown, PA. 2012

Confederate re-enactors form up during a battle reenactment in Elizabethtown, PA. 2012

General Lee, ” marches knowing that a letter has been prepared by Jefferson Davis, a letter which offers peace.  It is to be placed on the desk of Abraham Lincoln the day after Lee has destroyed the Army of the Potomac somewhere north of Washington.” *  

Reeenactment at Gettysburg, PA. 2012

Reeenactment at Gettysburg, PA. 2012

In June of 1863 the country was at a crossroads.  A string of confederate victories and the continuing cost in blood had many in the north looking to end the war with a negotiated peace.  As word of the Confederate invasion reached Washington, President Lincoln appointed a new general, George Meade, to take the reins of the Union Army. General Meade would have just a couple of days to assume command before meeting the confederates at the crossroads town of Gettysburg, PA.

What takes place at Gettysburg in the coming days would turn out to be the apex of the Civil War and the three bloodiest days in American history.  July 1-3, 1863.

The Civil War 150 Pinhole Project will be in Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of this most seminal battle of the war.  Two major reenactments are being held in the vicinity of this small Pennsylvania town in June/July 2013.  Over 20,000 reenactors have registered for these sesquicentennial events and tens of thousands of spectators are expected.  Please check back to the blog as postings of the battlefield and reenactments will be added to the project in late July.

* Quote from, “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara

Reenactment at Gettysburg, PA. 2012

Reenactment at Gettysburg, PA. 2012

Abe and the Apex of the War

Historians frequently speak of “turning points” in war — events or time periods that produce crucial changes in the progress, nature or ultimate outcome of a conflict. During the Civil War, no period better fit that description than the year 1863. Indeed, that year might justifiably be considered the single most critical 12-month period in all of American history. As we now mark the sesquicentennial of that momentous time, it is — to borrow Lincoln’s elegant phrase — “altogether fitting” to recall some of the key events of 1863 and reflect on their enduring legacy.”  Mark Scherer

Lincoln at School of the Soldier in Wall, NewJersey. 2013

Lincoln at the “School of the Soldier” in Wall, New Jersey. 2013

The Civil War had been raging for almost two years when Robert E. Lee and his confederates nearly destroyed the Union Army at Chancellorsville in May 1863.  The Confederate victory at Chancellorsville was just one in a continual string of victories for the South.  In fact, up until this point, the Rebel armies had bested the Union in almost every engagement of the war.  Dismayed by these set backs, President Lincoln had gone through a slew of commanders.  Irvin McDowell, George McClellen, Alexander Pope, McClellen (again), Ambrose Burnside, Joe Hooker and in the aftermath of Chancellorsville, George Meade.

Not only on the battlefield but in Washington Lincoln had his troubles.  The president was being attacked by not only his rivals in the democratic party but also members of his own party for the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves living within the confederacy, also authorized the enlistment of African-Americans and helped swell the ranks of the Union Army. Despite this the Proclamation was far from popular in the North and gave the impression that the aim of the war had changed from one of “restoring the Union” to one of “ending the institution of slavery”.  Resistance to the Proclamation and general anti-black feeling amongst some white northerners culminated in the Draft Riots in New York City in July 1863 and added fuel to the “copperhead movement”, a growing group of northern citizens that lobbied for a negotiated peace with the Confederate States.

In all of Lincoln’s troubles in the spring of 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee saw an opportunity.  On the heals of his astounding victory at Chancellorsville General Lee felt the time was right to bring the war to the northern states. An invasion of the North would seriously threaten cities like Philadelphia and Washington.  The bounty of Pennsylvania, unlike the countryside of war-ravaged Virginia, would provide all the food his army would need as it made it’s was north.  General Lee and the Confederate government reasoned that fighting a decisive battle and defeating the Union Army on their own soil would end the war and be the final act in securing an independent Confederacy.

In early June 1863 the Confederate Army began the move north, screening their movements to avoid detection, and quietly slipped into Maryland.  This army of more then 70,000 troops quickly moved on into Pennsylvania, the grand movement basically undetected as can be assessed by Lincoln’s telegrams in late June 1863.

On June, 24th, Lincoln sent a telegram to Union Major General Darius Couch in Harrisburg, Pa.  “Have you any reports of the enemy moving into Pennsylvania? And if any, what?” and on June 30th, just one day before the armies would meet at Gettysburg, Lincoln wrote, “I judge by absence of news that the enemy is not crossing or pressing up to the Susquehanna. Please tell me what you know of his movements”.  

By June 30th the Rebel army had in fact reached the Susquehanna at Harrisburg, Pa. 120 miles north of Washington.  Upon hearing this news General Meade quickly moved the Union Army to shield the Capitol.  Moving north and west the Union Army would eventually collide with the Confederates at the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

What transpired there, after three days of intense fighting, on July 1-3rd, 1863, would turn out to be the largest battle ever fought on American soil and the very apex of the war……

Camp at Dusk, Gettysburg, Pa.  2012

Camp at Dusk, Gettysburg, Pa. 2012

The Reenactment of the Wounding of Stonewall Jackson

In Spotsylvania County last week a remarkable historic event was reenacted by a small group of reenactors.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson lay wounded after mistakenly being shot by his own men at a reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

Stonewall Jackson lay wounded at a reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

On May 2nd 1863, after a brilliantly executed flank attack on the Union Army at Chancellorsville, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, the Confederacy’s most popular figure, was mistakenly shot and fatally wounded by his own troops.  That evening General Jackson, so anxious to seal his victory at Chancellorsville, leads his staff out into The Wilderness in an effort to reconnoiter the enemy.  Hearing the sounds of spades and axes in their front, Jackson halted his party.  The Federals were digging-in and the sounds convinced Jackson that his effort to destroy the Union Army that day at Chancellorsville had come up short.

The forest road and site of Stonewall Jackson's wounding on the Battlefield at Chancellorsville, Va 2013.

The forest road and site of Stonewall Jackson’s wounding on the Battlefield at Chancellorsville, Va 2013.

 

Turning back and approaching his own lines in the dark Jackson and his party are mistaken for Federals and fired on by soldiers of the 18th North Carolina Infantry.  Fatally wounded Jackson is carried from the field and taken to nearby Ellwood Manor.  At Ellwood Jackson’s left arm is amputated and the general is taken by ambulance to Guinea Station, a small railroad hub 25 miles away in Spotsylvania County. Weak from his wounds Jackson remains at the depot, develops pneumonia, and dies at Guinea Station eight days later.

The Reenactment

Guinea Station, the site of Stonewall Jackson's death,  Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

Guinea Station, the site of Stonewall Jackson’s death, Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

In May 2013 a small contingent  of reenactors played out the drama of Jackson’s wounding in a non-spectator event designed to commemorate this historic and notorious case of mistaken identity.  Jake Jennette, organizer and General Lee for the weekend, arranged for a group of reenactors from North Carolina to reenact the wounding of Stonewall Jackson.  These North Carolinians were reenacting in the same unit their forefathers fought in at Chancellorsville, but more importantly, the same unit that mistaken shot Jackson on May 2nd. 1863.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, aka, Greg Randall at the reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, aka, Greg Randall at the reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

The gentlemen taking the impression of Stonewall Jackson that weekend was a Virginian named Greg Randall.  Greg takes the impression of Jackson in events all over Virginia throughout the year and is a dead ringer, no pun intended,  for the late general.  Not knowing how the scenario would unfold and sure that the pinhole camera would not be able to record this fast moving event, I just hung back and planned to watch.

The site of the reenactment of the wounding of Stonewall Jackson

The site of the reenactment of the wounding of Stonewall Jackson

The site for this reenactment had a dirt road, either side overgrown with weeds, that led to a hill and another clearing above.  At the top of this hill I could just make out a few figures in Union blue and the muzzles of some cannon placed up there.  As the scenario unfolded, the North Carolina reenactors were deployed across the road about a hundred yards from the hill.

Marker of Stonewall Jackson's arm buried at Ellwood Manor the evening on May 2nd. 1863.  Orange County, Va 2013.

Marker of Stonewall Jackson’s arm buried at Ellwood Manor the evening on May 2nd. 1863. Orange County, Va 2013.

As the scenario began, Jackson and his staff rode down the dirt road, and started to make their way up the hill.  Just then, BABOOM!, the cannons go off, some of the horses rearing and Jackson and his staff turn about and quickly ride back the way they came.  As they approach the North Carolina troops, I hear one of these troopers scream out, “Union calvary on the road, open fire!” and a rippling volley of musketry rings out.  One of Jackson’s staff yells out, “Stop, you are firing into your own men!”, at which point the North Carolinians retort, “it’s a damn Yankee trick, fire!”, another volley rings out, Jackson slumps in the saddle and his aides ride up to keep the general from falling from his horse.  Jackson and his staff ride through these North Carolina troops at which point they are informed that they have just shot Stonewall Jackson.  The scenario is over.

Watching this from the sidelines was strange and moving.  This back and forth dialogue, for instance,  between Jackson’s staff and the North Carolinians is familiar to anyone who has studied the history.  The wounding and eventual death of Jackson was so devastating to the South that every aspect of this event has been written about extensively, including what was said that night in the wilderness when Jackson was mistakenly shot.

North Carolina troops kneel in prayer during a reenactment of the wounding of Stonewall Jackson, Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

North Carolina troops kneel in prayer during a reenactment of the wounding of Stonewall Jackson, Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

I walk up at this point and can’t help but notice that the North Carolina reenactors are visibly upset.  It was their ancestors who had mistakenly shot Jackson and that burden is still clearly apparent amongst these men.  Afterward these troopers knelt in prayer.  There wasn’t a dry eye among these grizzled impersonators and I noticed a certain feeling in the air, the atmosphere was charged with something, I could feel it.

Watching this event, along with me, was another reenactor/photographer, Carl Staub, who asks Greg, as Stonewall Jackson, to get down from his horse and lay on the ground and have his staff gather around to reenact the moment of the actual wounding.   I generally document these events without imputing myself into the scenes and, aside from portraits, do not set up pictures.  But “Stonewall” obliges and gets down from his horse and lays on the ground, the staff gathers and I prepared myself to get a picture of this moment.  Standing out of the photographers way, I quickly was able to pull off two frames with the pinhole camera and felt that these images were an unexpected gift.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson lay wounded after mistakenly being shot by his own men at a reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson lay wounded after mistakenly being shot by his own men at a reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Va 2013.

After I got the film developed I immediately noticed both negatives had a very strange, drastic, light streak across the images. Home-made pinhole cameras can occasionally have light leaks and such but in all the years I’ve worked with pinhole cameras I have never seen anything quite like this.  The rainbow colored light streak obscures most of the subjects in the scene but you can just make out Stonewall’s face below the light streak to the left of the sword hilt.  I do not believe in ghosts……..but I am wondering if the ghost of Stonewall Jackson made an appearance for this photo?

Back to: Chancellorsville

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The Battle of Chancellorsville

The Battle of Chancellorsville is famous for Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack on the Union Army but notorious for his fatal wounding during the battle.  Click here to see the battlefield and a reenactment commemorating this epic battle.

Link to: The Battle of Chancellorsville

The site of Jackson's flank attack on the Battlefield at Chancellorsville, Va 2013

The site of Jackson’s flank attack on the Battlefield at Chancellorsville, Va 2013

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