Saturday, August 31, 2013

Zooming In on More Dutch Gap, Virginia Images

If you have looked through Civil War photograph books the cover United States Colored Troops you have probably come across the above image. It appears to be a staged photograph of two soldiers firing from protected positions beside an abandoned house.

The soldier to the left wears his forage cap with chinstrap in place and is holding a Springfield rifle musket with attached bayonet. It seems unusual that the bayonet would be fixed on the rifle for any other reason than show. He is wearing a cartridge box with sling, bayonet scabbard, and waist belt, but is not carrying a canteen or haversack. A cap pouch is not visible. There is a tear in his four-button fatigue blouse.

The kneeling soldier to the right is holding a British Enfield rifle musket and has similar equipment as his comrade, but this soldier has his cap pouch behind his bayonet scabbard and on his back, where it would be difficult to reach. Perhaps he just buckled on his equipment for the picture without paying attention.

A picture that appears less in publications than that at the top provides a different look at the same scene, and possibly leads to a somewhat different interpretation.

The man in the above cropped picture appears to be the soldier shown in the first image kneeling. He has on a hat with chinstrap and seem to be the same height. One of his trouser legs has a hole in the knee.

Is the man standing on the right in this cropped image the soldier kneeling in the first photograph?  I am not sure. This soldier wears his hat much differently ans has on a greatcoat. Neither man in these particular cropped images have soldier accouterments on, but those could have easily been taken off or put on - as could the greatcoat. A third man is shown who does not appear to be in soldier clothes. He wears a slouch hat and a civilian coat and  may or may not have on military trousers.

Zooming in to the left of the structure one easily observes a photographer's wagon with camera pieces on the ground and in the bed of the wagon. Is it possible that these men were not soldiers at all, but rather photographer's assistants? I would say it is quite possible. That interpretation would make good sense of why they were not wearing all of the equipment soldiers usually carried, were wearing some of their equipment incorrectly, and were equipped with different makes of rifled muskets. The men that are wearing soldier clothes could have been given them for working for the photographer or could have picked them up as army discards.

Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

No comments:

Post a Comment