Civilians in View


From Hennessy:

Here is an image we discovered at the Western Reserve Historical Society a couple years ago.  Many of you will recognize right away the oft-photographed Excelsior Mill, built by John L Marye (whose house, Brompton, sits on the distant heights just out of the view to the right).

But this image taken from the Stafford shore, just above the ruined Railroad Bridge,  shows several things we had never seen before.  Take a closer look.

First, look at the ladies who have strolled out onto the bridge.  This is the only known photograph that shows Fredericksburg civilians during the war.  They clearly are aware of the Yankee cameraman on the other side of the river.  In fact, it’s hard to believe some yelling back and forth didn’t go on to pose the image to the photographer’s satisfaction.

In the distance is the cantilevered roof of the passenger station, a structure not visible in any other image. (The freight station, across the tracks to the north, appears in at least one other image.)

More importantly, this image shows the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad passing through town at-grade–something it hasn’t done for nearly 90 years (this part of town is today completely transformed by the elevated tracks, large train station, and parking lots to serve it; today, not a single building visible in this view survives).

None of this is vitally important in its own right, but each is a little piece of the puzzle that is the battlefield landscape of 1862.

Upcoming:  Eric Mink is nearly done with his analysis of the slave cabins at Chatham. It should go up on Friday. Noel Harrison is also going to share his perspectives on a rarely seen image of the upper pontoon crossing in 1863.

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