From: Noel Harrison
A panoramic chromolithograph, View of Fredericksburg, VA, published in 1856 and sampled from time to time on this blog, offers a contemporary database of incredible scope and accuracy as we enter the sesquicentennial of the town’s first Union occupation and first battle. As orientation for discussing a number of magnified details, here’s a medium-rez look at the picture:
What follows is the first in a projected, short series of posts that will review the chromolithograph’s own history; its testimony to the antebellum appearance, development, and self-image of Fredericksburg; and its documentation of the wartime landscape of 1862, six years into the future–little changed in some aspects from the picture of 1856 but altered markedly in others.
Edward Sachse & Co. of Baltimore published View of Fredericksburg, VA in 1856. Sachse & Co., which had already produced panoramic views of Alexandria and Washington, D.C., as well as of Baltimore, began work on the Fredericksburg picture by dispatching an artist, or artists, to the town. Judging from John W. Reps’ book, Views and Viewmakers of Urban American, Sachse artist James T. Palmatary was probably responsible for walking Fredericksburg and its outskirts and preparing at least some of the reference sketches in 1855 and/or 1856. These were then compiled as a master drawing, which back in Baltimore was etched onto smoothed pieces of limestone for printing.
Preparation of the master drawing had involved a key rearrangement of data: re-picturing the human’s-eye, ground-level drawings of Fredericksburg and its individual buildings from a single, high “bird’s-eye” angle, to show the complete town while maximizing information about individual structures.
The final perspective for View of Fredericksburg, VA looked across and over the town from a point just across the Rappahannock River and hovering above Stafford Heights, about a half mile from the RF&P Railroad bridge over the river, and a quarter of a mile or so from the farmstead that occupied the site of George Washington’s boyhood home.
Speaking of which, someone is plowing a field at the former Washington property (known after the Washington era as “Ferry Farm”), while travelers arrive at the adjacent landing of the namesake ferry:
Fast forward from 1856 to December 1862: artist Alfred Waud positions himself beside the ferry landing to sketch Union bridge-builders under fire at the Middle Pontoon Crossing. A week later, following the defeated Federals’ retreat across the river, some of them convert “an old cherry-tree” on or near Ferry Farm into “all sorts of crosses, pipes, rings, etc., that can be sent away by mail” as mementoes of George Washington.