STEREOVIEW - “REBEL SOLDIER, KILLED IN THE TRENCHES OF ‘FORT HELL’"

$165.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 2021-183

This is a very telling stereo photo taken by T.C. Roche in the trenches of Confederate Fort Mahone, one of a series ranked by Frassanito, “among the most poignant war photographs ever recorded.” A dead Confederate soldier lies at the bottom of a muddy trench, the result of recent rain, his feet caked with mud and resting in the water. The ground around him has been churned up by the feet of troops who had been fighting and moving over the ground and have now moved on. A checkered cloth lies by his side. His accouterment belt is visible beside him. Weapons have been picked up by the same Federal crews who gathered their own dead. Left behind for the moment, he awaits his turn.

Roche sold photographs to E. and H.T. Anthony, who later hired him full-time, and this one was part of their “Photographic History” and “War for the Union” series of stereo images, as printed and copyrighted on the yellow card mount. An additional blue paper label was pasted across the top, reading, “Rebel Soldier, killed in the trenches of ‘Fort Hell.’ / This view was taken the morning after the storming of Petersburg, Va., April 2nd 1865.” On the reverse in period pen is the number “616” and the date “June 7, 1865,” likely the date of purchase by an Anthony customer.

On April 1, 1865 Roche was one of just a handful of photographers present with the army when word of the coming attack reached him at City Point. He prepared his materials and raced to front when the preliminary bombardment began late that night. The attack resulted in the capture of the city, the fall of Richmond, and the retreat of Lee’s army and his surrender at Appomattox a week later. Roche concentrated his efforts in the area fought over by the 9th Corps in the area of Union Fort Sedgwick and Confederate Fort Mahone. Despite implications that he took his photographs on April 2, the fighting lasted throughout the day, with Fort Mahone being taken retaken in heavy fighting, and only abandoned that night as Confederates pulled out of the city. Roche made some fifty exposures in the area, twenty-two of which were evocative death studies at Fort Mahone.

The card is in very good condition, with just minor soiling on yellow mount and two thin bits of foxing at the very right. As Frassanito remarked, it is a poignant photograph, and it deserves a spot with the Antietam, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania death studies that brought the war home to any civilians who might thus far have escaped its reality. [sr] [ph:m]

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