by Frederick Walton, Historian of the 6th NCST (C) 2016
Recently a friend of mine, Bruce Zigler, posted s a famous picture taken from East Cemetery Hill, in Gettysburg looking toward Benner’s Hill, and the area that Hays’ Louisianans and Avery’s North Carolinians came across the fields to attack East Cemetery Hill on July 2nd, 1863. Actually Hoke’s brigade technically was just SLIGHTLY out of frame to the right.
The photo in entitled: “Battle-field of Gettysburg. Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers” and is available from the Library of Congress. It may be downloaded at a very high resolution if you wish to zoom in and be a historical time traveler: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/item/2012647703/
Questions rose about the buildings in the background and the orientation of the view. The description accompanying the photo in the Library of Congress is: “The foreground of the picture is the crest of Cemetery Hill at the point when the assault struck. Hoke’s brigade formed behind the rising ground in centre of picture. Hays’ brigade formed in the streets of the town and moved out by the left flank until it reached Hoke’s line. Both brigades then swept forward in the charge, led by the Louisiana Tigers.”
When you download the Tiff file and zoom in you will see some remarkable details. On the far right in the middle of the photo is the Culp House and Barn, still visible today on East Confederate Avenue. I have zoomed in and cropped out this view for you to see below (LOC Photo 1R). From this angle, the trees, which line Winebrenner’s run, appear to be in front of the Culp house, although if you were standing directly in front of the house, the stream would be perpendicular on the right side. It was in this area that the 6th North Carolina State Troops and Hoke’s Brigade took shelter during the day of July 2nd, 1863.
As you scroll to the left you will observe some cows peacefully grazing in the fields in the middle of the photo. Behind them, on the eastern edge of Gettysburg, houses start to appear and at the very far right is a tall structure. I have zoomed in and cropped out this view for you to see above (LOC Photo 1L). In this Library of Congress print, it appears that someone penciled in the tower to to make it more clear. This would be located around the corner of High Street and Stratton street. My first thought is that it was the German Reformed church but on closer inspection I changed my mind.
Rather than guess, I should have immediately turned to the father of Gettysburg battlefield photography analysis, William Frassanito. The answer is right there on page 100 in “Gettysburg: A Journey in Time“. In fact he took two plates (one from the Library of Congress and one from the National Archives and placed them together to form a Panoramic view of the “Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers” in his book.
Remember, he published his book in 1975 which meant traveling to Washington, D.C. to look through scores of photographs and having the ability and knowledge of Gettysburg to link these two photos. Want to Zoom in, in 1975? Grab a powerful magnifying glass!
Below is the second related photograph he found.Like the first picture, it too may be downloaded at a very high resolution if you wish to zoom in and continue your historical time traveling:
Now you can do something Mr. Frassanito could not. Open the two LOC photos, each in its own browser window and place them side by side, manually adjusting the size until they match. Photo 2 is the left half and Photo 1 is the right half. You are now seeing a scrollable Panorama of the field in front of East Cemetery Hill.
Or you could look at the quick merge I made in Photoshop.
In his book, Mr. Frassanito calls this two-plate panorama “one of the finest documentary scenes taken at Gettysburg.” He believes this was probably taken within a month of the battle, as evidenced by the two Federal soldiers seated in the foreground. He also identifies smoke, supplies and horses on the extreme left. Evidence of a Federal Militia camp. Just imagine what you re looking at! this is the very ground where Louisiana and North Carolina troops faced a deadly and destructive fire from Yankee Artillery dug into East Cemetery Hill. And after laying under this fire all day on July 2nd, 1863, they STILL got up and charged those positions, nearly capturing the hill and turning the tide of the battle.
Imagine being a Yankee watching from this hill as the Confederates began their charge. Hay’s Louisianan’s stretched from the German Reforned Church behind the tall tree (photo 2) to a point directly in front of the Culp farm (far left of Photo 1). That is why this is correctly called “Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers”. Hoke’s Brigade would have joined to the left of Hay’s, in front of the Culp farm and stretched beyond the right of this panorama. too bad the unknown photographer didn’t pan his camera to the right…or maybe he did and there is a third undiscovered view that could be added someday.
Since the German Reformed Church is clearly visible in Photo 2, what is that tall building on the left edge of Photo 1? Lets look at the glass plate negative in the National Archives to help clarify the answer to that.
You can download a hi resolution copy at: https://arcweb.archives.gov/id/529223?q=gettysburg%20cemetery%20hill
We are focusing on the buildings on the far right edge. I blew up that portion and added a cropped view below.
In this closeup, at the far right edge, you can make it out a little more clearly without the penciled in highlighting in Photo 1R. I believe this is the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Stratton Street, one block from High Street.
I once again turned to the master and found the answer in William Frassanito’s “Early Photography at Gettysburg“. On Page 73 he explored the Tyson Brother’s panorama of Gettysburg. View 22e shows both the German Reformed Church (32 in diagram) and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church (33 in Diagram).
You can even identify the square tower that rises between these two. In case you missed it, go back to NA Photo 1 and zoom in. Hint- it is to the right of the German reformed Church, partially hidden by a tree. It’s the steeple of the Gettysburg Public School. I’ll leave finding that an an exercise for you to work on in your spare time!
Notice anything else of interest or have a question about an object in the Photos. Photo Detective Rick Walton would be happy to hear from you in the comments section.
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