GARDNER’S INCIDENTS OF THE WAR: YORKTOWN, BATTERY NUMBER FOUR

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Item Code: 1054-1189

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This view was taken by Barnard and Gibson and published by Gardner in his “Photographic Sketchbook,” as well as in several other forms. The photo is an original period albumen print mounted on a page from the sketchbook bearing the preprinted photographer’s credit, Gardner’s copyright and printing credit, as well as the title and, at bottom, the sketchbook publisher’s credit. The photo shows the rear section of Battery Number Four at Yorktown, which consisted of ten large 13-inch siege mortars laboriously brought up from Fortress Monroe. Five appear in this view, sheltered behind the bank of Wormley’s Creek, which was dug away to provide cover from enemy sharpshooters.

A solitary soldier stands guard at left, outside the doorway to a “bombproof.” Gardner’s commentary in the sketchbook not only mentioned the posting of a sentinel by mortar crews to give warning of an incoming shell, but noted the advanced notion of indirect fire, where the mortar crews could not see their targets but used mathematical calculations to strike them.

McClellan was an engineer by training and disposition. His advance up the Peninsula toward Richmond in 1862 was methodical. When Confederates dug in at Yorktown he set to work entrenching heavy guns to blast them out of their positions. He was probably happy to have photographers around to record the triumph. After taking up a month of his time, however, Confederate defenders were rude enough to pull back just before he could open fire. For McClellan it was a victory that spared the bloodshed of a direct assault and the photographs illustrate the engineering and industrial might that the north could bring to bear.

The page has been matted and framed. The frame overall is 17.5” by 16.5”, and the albumen image is 8 7/8” by 8 inches, with the page and mat opening larger. The mat shows a little damage at top left under the glass. The page and image, though, are in excellent condition, with great clarity and nice tones.   [sr]

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