In the background


From Hennessy:  One of the things we have had both fun and success with over the last many years is the detailed exploration of photographs, especially the background of familiar images, which often produce surprisingly interesting details about our battlefields and the surrounding landscape.  (Eric Mink will be offering up an example of this soon in his post on the location of Chatham’s slave cabins.)  Take this image:

This is perhaps the single most important photograph of wartime Fredericksburg.  Its general effect is powerful, but in it are details that allow us to really see the fabric of the community.  This blowup from the original is an example:

Two things stand out here. One is the large painted sign on the upper facde of the Hope Foundry, which stood where the Fredericksburg Police Department now stands on Princess Anne Street.  Hope Foundry was one of the larger industrial operations in town, and a noisy one too.  Betty Herndon Maury, who for much of 1862 lived across the street at what is today called Haydon Hall, occasionally mentioned the noise of the Foundry in her  wonderful diary.

And to the left of that is the building with the white roof.  If you look closely at its gable, you can see a cross perched atop it.  This is old St. Mary’s Catholic Church–just five years old when this view was taken.  And just above the cross on St. Mary’s is the cupola of the Methodist Church North–still the site of the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church (though today’s building dates to the 1880s).

There are hundreds of such details visible in this image.  Here is the link to a hi-resolution version you can explore yourself.  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/item/cwp2003000164/PP/?sid=9ccef5d1cf13878bf5ad815b6f8bc751

I’ll be posting more tidbits from this and other images….

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