Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Closer Look

The above photograph was taken at Aiken's Landing on the James River in Virginia during the Civil War. Like many period images it is difficult to see details without enlarging the image. However, once enlarged, the photograph seemingly takes on a new life.

The fourth individual from the left is a slave woman sitting behind a pile of rails with her hands folded on her lap. It appears that she has a ring on her left hand. Her head is wrapped and she has a determined countenance.

To the woman's left is the old and the young. The old man is wearing a double-breasted coat over what appears to be a vest and shirt. He has a stocking cap on his head.  The young man to the old man's left wears a Union army forage cap and enlisted man's four-button blouse.  It would be interesting to know if these two are related. Perhaps they are grandfather or great-grandfather and grandson.

To the young man's left is yet an even younger boy. He sits on the rails with one leg thrown over plank and rests his chin in his hand. Like the older boy, he has a Union army cap. He has his pant legs rolled up and is barefoot. It is difficult to tell what time of year it was when this photograph was taken, but judging from the bare trees it must have been fall, winter, or early spring. A barrel half sits just behind the young fellow.

A period wheelbarrow rests empty just to the right side of the pile of rails. Surely this simple implement was used many times by the plantation's slaves. 

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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