Modern Photography: A Few Favorite Photos

our-favorite-modern-civil-war-photos

Clarksburg90

from the “Statues of Stonewall” series

I’m fortunate that I get to take a lot of pictures. While I’m intense about my writing, I’m relaxed about my photography. I’m not fancy about. I also find it a wonderful excuse to challenge myself to see a battlefield in different ways, from different angles and different perspectives.

I spend a lot of time on battlefields, and while I’ve always loved to take a camera with me, having one built into my phone now makes photography ridiculously easy. Another of my general operating principles has been “If you take enough pictures, something is bound to turn out okay, even if by sheer accident.”

So when Sarah Kay Bierle suggested this photography series, I started to think about the thousands of photos I’ve taken—and which ones have stood out for me.

Probably the most “iconic”” photo for me, personally, was a photo I took so long ago that it was on slide film: an image of the Stonewall Jackson Shrine at Guiney Station. (The color on this reproduction is a little off–I apologize!) I’ve used this image in several capacities, must mostly, it reminds me of many warm memories with my daughter, who has been a lifelong Jackson devotee. The Shrine remains an important place to us.

shrine-original-photo

I came to the Civil War through the story of Stonewall Jackson. As my daughter and I trekked around, exploring his life, I “collected” photos of his statues. That eventually became the 2012 blog series “Statues of Stonewall,” and many of the images appear in an appendix in The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson.

The statue of “Fame” on the Iowa monument represents another of my favorite photographic endeavors (see photo, above). This Civil War monument—my favorite—fascinates me. I’ve photographed it on a couple occasions, and I’m still not quite satisfied with what I’ve walked away with, but the monument never fails to inspire me.

iowa-up-close

 

Another image that came to mind was a photo I took of a shiny brass cannon, glazed with rainwater, at Ball’s Bluff. Historian Jim Morgan walked a friend and me around the battlefield one drizzly day, and the adventure remains a battlefielding highlight for me. (Let me put in a plug here for his great book on Ball’s Bluff, A Little Short of Boats!) I don’t even know why, but this remains one of my favorite photos.

balls-bluff-canon

The last two photos that came to mind are photos I happened to capture on the same day, October 21, 2012. I was out grabbing pictures for A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House that morning, trying to take advantage of the foliage still on the trees. Driving along Brock Road from the Wilderness, near Todd’s Tavern, I grabbed a shot of the early-morning sun. A little while later, in front of the Mule Shoe, I grabbed a shot of the sumac, blood-red at the Bloody Angle.

brock-road-sunrise

bloodyangle-redbushes

I’m grateful that I’m able to share my photos with fellow battlefield enthusiasts. Thank you for the opportunity!

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3 Responses to Modern Photography: A Few Favorite Photos

  1. John C. Fazio says:

    Nice shots, Chris. I’m partial to the two from Spotsylvania, which I consider the true turning point of the war, meaning that after Grant’s turn southward at the Brock Rd.-Plank Rd intersection (after his huge losses in the Wilderness) and the 12-day slugfest that followed, it was no longer possible for the Confederacy to win. No one knew it better than Lee, of course, because he could count.

    • Thanks, John. I appreciate the kind words. I agree that Grant’s turn at the Brock Road/Plank Road intersection was the real Turning Point of the war. Not sure if you ever saw this post, but here’s something from the ECW archives in case it’d be of interest to you:
      https://emergingcivilwar.com/2013/07/04/the-turning-point-of-the-war-the-wilderness-not-gettysburg/

      • John C. Fazio says:

        Chris:
        Thank you for the July 4, 2013, piece, which I could not agree with more. Here’s a description of a PowerPoint presentation I give with some frequency:

        1. The Turning Point: The Wilderness and Spotsylvania.
        This is a PowerPoint presentation of the twin battles of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania, May 5-19, 1864. The speaker argues that these battles, despite the fact that the first of them was a Confederate victory, constitute the true turning point of the Civil War because they forever extinguished the possibility that the Confederacy could win the war. That possibility was already remote by virtue of major Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, in July, 1863, but neither of those battles sealed the Confederacy’s fate, as demonstrated by the later Confederate victory at Chickamauga (September, 1863). The fate was sealed when General Grant turned south at the Brock Road-Plank Road intersection, toward Spotsylvania Court House, after his defeat in The Wilderness, rather than northward to re-cross the Rapidan, lick his wounds and regroup, as the long train of mediocrities before him had done. Grant promised Lincoln there would be no retreat, and meant it. “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer”, he wired Henry Halleck. And he did.
        John

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