The Trostle Farm

On July 2, 1863, the Trostle Farm, located about two miles south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was home to unforeseen destruction. During the struggle for the Union???s left flank, Captain John Bigelow???s 9th Massachusetts Battery was ordered to hold …

 By Natalie Sherif ’14

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On July 2, 1863, the Trostle Farm, located about two miles south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was home to unforeseen destruction.  During the struggle for the Union’s left flank, Captain John Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery was ordered to hold their position at the Trostle Farm no matter the cost.  General William Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade had just broken the Union lines along the Emmitsburg Road and engaged Bigelow’s battery.  The Union line made an ultimately unsuccessful effort to maintain their position on the farm and was forced to retire.  Despite the death of many soldiers, the capture of four out of six of their field pieces, and the death of around fifty of their horses, the 9th Massachusetts’ stand gave the Union enough time to establish a secondary position east of the Trostle House.  In the struggle, the attacking Confederate brigade strategically shot Union artillery horses to prevent them from maneuvering their cannon.  This deliberate slaughter was not uncommon during the battle, as over 1,500 artillery horses were killed, many in attempts to cripple an opposing battery’s mobility.

Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and James F. Gibson were the first photographers on the battlefield, arriving in the late afternoon of July 5th.  Unlike many photographers of their time who focused on depicting the layout of the battlefield and the surrounding scenery, Gardner’s team preferred to capture and record the horrors of the war.  Back home, the emotional response to photos of the dead was enormous as many people had never seen images of such large-scale carnage.  In the photographers’ Gettysburg Series were close to sixty negatives, almost 75% of which contained images of bloated corpses, open graves, dead horses, and related images of death.  The work of Gardner and his associates was unusual in relation to other photographers of the time, which begs the question, why were they so insistent on photographing the dead?  Could it have been for the emotional response that such powerful, raw images produced at home?  Or perhaps it was based more on humans’ natural gravitation toward, and preoccupation with, the concept of death and dying?  Whatever their reason, it can only partially explain the impact of the Trostle Farm photos.  Next to depictions of soldiers lying dead on the battlefield, why would anyone back home care about this equine barricade?  Those men were someone’s brother, husband, or son; what impact would horses have on the general public?  Continue reading “The Trostle Farm”

The Gatehouse: Entrance to Evergreen Cemetery

Three weeks after the battle of Gettysburg, when photographer Frank Gutekunst took this picture of the Evergreen Cemetery???s gatehouse the people of Gettysburg were still feeling the devastating effects of the battle. Although the Union troops had …

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Three weeks after the battle of Gettysburg, when photographer Frank Gutekunst took this picture of the Evergreen Cemetery’s gatehouse the people of Gettysburg were still feeling the devastating effects of the battle. Although the Union troops had effectively repelled Confederate forces from the small Pennsylvania town, the remnants of death and destruction remained. And while the armies returned to Virginia, the task of cleaning up the mess left behind fell to the citizens of Gettysburg. Thousands lay dead across the battlefield; still more remained behind because their injuries proved too severe for travel.
At the time of the battle, the population of Gettysburg numbered approximately 2,400 people. This represents roughly a quarter of the number of soldiers who were killed during the battle. With more corpses than citizens, the townspeople had the arduous task of recovering and burying the bodies in order to minimize the impact that thousands of decaying bodies would have on the air in the days following the battle. Continue reading “The Gatehouse: Entrance to Evergreen Cemetery”

Frederick Gutekunst’s View of the Seminary

Philadelphia photographer Frederick Gutekunst captured this image within a few weeks of the Battle of Gettysburg. The name Gutekunst may be not as well known as other photographers of the battle such as Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner, but it …

By Brian Johnson ’14

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Philadelphia photographer Frederick Gutekunst captured this image within a few weeks of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The name Gutekunst may be not as well known as other photographers of the battle such as Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner, but it is Gutekunst’s photograph of the Lutheran Theological Seminary that is believed to be the first image taken of the now famous building after the battle.  It is interesting to note that when Gutekunst trained his camera on the building, there were likely several hundred wounded soldiers being cared for inside.  Sarah Broadhead, who lived nearby and tended to the wounded at the Seminary, recalled:

The work of extracting the balls, and of amputating shattered limbs, had begun, and an effort at regular cooking.  I aided a lady to dress wounds.… I found that I had only seen the lighter case, and worse horrors met my eyes on descending to the basement of the building.  Men, wounded in three and four places, not able to help themselves the least bit, lay almost swimming in water.  (We) called some nurses to help, and getting some stretchers, the work was begun.  There were somewhere near 100 to be removed to the fourth story of the building.

Continue reading “Frederick Gutekunst’s View of the Seminary”

The Children of the Battlefield: The Picture that Identified Sergeant Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Volunteers

For Sergeant Humiston, the photo of his three children was more than a comfort in his dying moments.

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For Sergeant Humiston, the photo of his three children was more than a comfort in his dying moments. Had he not taken it with him into battle and died grasping it, in all likelihood Humiston’s tombstone in the Soldiers National Cemetery would have read “Unknown,” leaving Mrs. Humiston and her children to speculate as to how their soldier died. Instead, the Humiston family was given closure and could move forward with their lives. The families of 979 soldiers buried in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery were not as fortunate. One example of this is the tragic deaths of three brothers in Co. “B,” 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Adam, Enos, and Samuel Cramer each received a mortal wound while their regiment defended a line of battle directly west of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary on July 1, 1863. When the 1st and 11th Corps were forced to retreat back through Gettysburg toward Cemetery Hill, these men, their commander, Colonel Robert Cummins, and many other Union casualties were left to the care of the jubilant Confederates. Adam and Enos died on the 1st, but Samuel, with his left arm and leg amputated, lingered for eight more days before succumbing to his wounds on July 9th. His brothers are buried in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in graves marked unknown, but when Samuel’s body was moved for burial, it was sent with a note detailing the death of his brothers and confirming his identity. (These men are distant relatives of the author of this post.) Continue reading “The Children of the Battlefield: The Picture that Identified Sergeant Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Volunteers”

A Rare Glimpse of Gettysburg Field Hospitals

The first two photographs above are by Frederick Gutekunst and were most likely taken sometime between July 9th and 11th, 1863, at the field hospital of the Army of the Potomac???s Second Corps. These images are unique in that they are the only know…

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The first two photographs in this article are by Frederick Gutekunst and were most likely taken sometime between July 9th and 11th, 1863, at the field hospital of the Army of the Potomac’s Second Corps. These images are unique in that they are the only known photographs taken of any Gettysburg hospital tents besides those at Camp Letterman, and the only photos of any hospital tents taken in the immediate aftermath of the battle.  This is striking in that Union corps field hospitals and twenty-four Confederate field hospitals were present when two prominent groups of photographers, one headed by Matthew Brady and another by Alexander Gardner, made their trips to Gettysburg.  Camp Letterman was also in the process of being established at the time that Brady, the latter of the two to visit Gettysburg, arrived.  Why did these preeminent photographers ignore these potentially powerful subjects?  Continue reading “A Rare Glimpse of Gettysburg Field Hospitals”