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