ALEXANDER GARDNER LARGE FORMAT ALBUMEN PHOTO OF THE GATEHOUSE ON CEMETERY HILL TAKEN AT GETTYSBURG JULY 9, 1863

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Item Code: 1054-497

The gatehouse to Evergreen Cemetery was a popular subject for early photographers of the battlefield. Built in 1855, the gatehouse was a prominent structure at the heart of the Union line that eventually wrapped around it from Culps Hill on the right and then down along Cemetery Ridge. On the evening of July 2 it was the object of Confederate infantry assaults and throughout the battle it was a target of Confederate artillery. Alexander Gardner and his photographic crew arrived soon after the firing ceased and this photo, now dated to the morning of July 9 (see Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg,) shows the wreckage of the battle and the beginning of efforts to clean up the ruined area. The building itself has shattered windows. Fence posts remain, but the rails have vanished into makeshift barricades or campfires. Dark earth thrown up in the foreground marks an artillery emplacement abandoned only a few days earlier when the Union army moved in pursuit of Lee. At the right corner of the building, a man is leaning over, evidently burying or digging something up. A wagon at left may be civilians from the area sightseeing or souvenir hunting. A number of figures have been caught in motion and present somewhat ghostly images. In the background to the right may be seen some clusters of tombstones, but also clothing or blankets that have been hung out to dry from the rains of the day before, of which the pool of water in the foreground serves as a reminder. Contemporary accounts testify to bullet-marked and shattered tombstones as well as shattered gun carriages and the debris of battle all over the area. The contrast with the attempts of the rural and garden cemetery movement of the mid-1800s to create a memorial, park-like setting must have been part of attraction for photographers in the area. Gardner, Brady, the Tyson brothers and Gutekunst are all known to have taken photographs of the gatehouse.

Published as Plate 39 in Gardner’s “Photographic Sketchbook” this albumen image has wonderful tones and clarity and is mounted on a page from that famous work. Photo measures approx. 9” x 8”; the mount measures approx. 15” x 12”. The photo credit to O’Sullivan for the negative is printed on the mount at lower left, to Gardner for the positive print, and a copyright dated 1866 for the publication of the sketchbook is at bottom center. The title, plate number and date are at bottom. There is some slight foxing to the mount, but the image is very good. The reverse of the mount shows some faint reverse printing transferred from the descriptive sheet of the photo following it in the bound volume.

This a classic Gettysburg view by one of the war’s most famous photographers.    [sr]

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