It’s the anniversary of Fredericksburg, that horrific and senseless battle in which Burnside sacrificed 10% of his army for nothing. I’ve read a little about the battle, but with the exception of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s recollections in the Ken Burns series, had never read a firsthand account of the fighting. Here’s one from a member of the Irish Brigade, who bore the brunt of the assault.
The Confederates were dug in on a ridge west of the city. They were behind a stone wall and sheltered by a sunken road from Union fire. They had weeks to fortify it and held it with tens of thousands of troops. While the Irish Brigade waited in the city to be called to battle, Private McCarter watched a Union division under General French move against the wall and come back “beaten crushed, demoralized.” When some of McCarter’s comrades asked a lieutenant of the Irish Brigade what was happening on the battlefield he replied: “Well boys, French is licked to beat hell… We are soon to go over the same ground and try the same job that he failed to accomplish.”
Source: Fredericksburg Was The Worst Day In The Young Life of Private William McCarter Of The Irish Brigade – Long Island Wins
Between an intense work contract and a lingering cold I caught soon after, I haven’t updated here in weeks. Sadly, I missed some interesting events, as well as the 150th anniversary of Antietam, early this month. Here’s a cool feature by NPR, showing a modern wetplate photographer’s retracing of Alexander Gardner’s steps on the battlefield. Make sure to click through for the before/after shots!
The image you see below was shot in 2012 by wet plate photographer Todd Harrington. He retraced Gardners steps at Antietam, using the same type of equipment: a stereo wet plate camera and glass plates. If you toggle using the “now” and “then” buttons, another image fades in and out: Thats what Gardner captured in 1862.
Whats striking is how, actually, not much has changed. Trees have gotten bigger and roads have been paved. If you look closely at the Dunker Church image, youll see portable toilets in the background; telephone poles along Hagerstown Pike; construction cones sitting on Burnside Bridge. But whats haunting is that the major difference between now and then is a lack of bodies.
via Retracing The Steps Of A Civil War Photographer : NPR.