Visual Clues Tell a Different Story

However, there is an amazing amount of visual clues that strongly indicate the body was found and photographed at the wall/boulder position, then DRAGGED DOWN the hill to the final staged battle position. As a fact, there are enough clues to allow me to figure out the exact sequence in which the photos were taken. Please lend me your patient consideration as this will be, at the least, a lengthy report. How else to try and undo such a long-standing and currently universally held notion? Truth be known, the overwhelming evidence dictates he really was a sharpshooter. There is no reason to doubt his status and he deserves to have history acknowledge his role on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

What first tipped me off was the dead soldier's face. You see, his face is telling us something. It "speaks" without moving its lifeless lips, but, nevertheless, it is saying plenty. I invite you to take a careful look at all the photographs/ stereos taken of the sharpshooter, up and down the hill. I have purchased them from the LOC and have scanned them for good viewing resolution. I beg your patience as the images will take a while to present themselves.

Click here for the photos, 1 through 6

Now that you have had a chance to look at the faces in some detail, I will present my initial observation. There is one great distinction which separates this body from all the other bodies photographed by G, G, and O'S while they were working at Gettysburg. This body is in great shape! The young soldier is in a remarkable state of preservation. All those other bodies displayed throughout the photographs are horribly swollen and disfigured. I repeat, all of them. By the time the Gettysburg dead were available to the cameras of Gardner's crew, they had become nothing more than macabre masks of their former humanity. They are all grotesque and will illicit nothing more than horror in the mind of the viewer. All, that is, except this particular body. This soldier's body is just barely swollen, and as such, is a UNIQUE and PRIZED find. As an example take a look at this union soldier- minus his shoes- probably photographed on a day previous to the "sharpshooter" (none of the Gettysburg photo's were dated)): LOC Photo. Shoeless Union soldier photographed by Gardner and assistants.

This is what the swollen bodies looked like by the time the photographers arrived at this battlefield and began their photo work.

In one word? Grotesque. And if you take the time and inclination to peruse all the other shots of bodies taken by Gardner and assistants, you will find only the same.

But this isn't what the body found on Tuesday or Wednesday at the Devil's Den area and photographed six times looked like.

This body has a face that a photographer could only love to capture. This particular face will launch the appropriate sympathetic feelings within the viewer. I can fairly believe that Gardner, et al., were wringing their hands and exclaiming their equivalent of today's "YES!" when they finally found this "beautiful" body. Now this was a subject that could launch some empathy and tears when shown back at their Washington photo-gallery.

The Faces Tell

And so here is the first problem with the scenario of the photographers initially finding the soldier down the hill, photographing him four times, and then- in inspiration- moving him up the hill to the "Sharpshooter's Home" between the wall and boulders.

Take a look at the four photos taken down the hill (3, 4, 5, 6). This is the strange part: There are no "three quarter" or frontal head-shots which show the soldier's facial features. One stereo (4) doesn't even show his head. The other three could best be described as "up-side-down left-ear studies". I suggest to you that this is a rather odd way of first "capturing" the best preserved dead body these photographers had, until now, ever found anywhere on this battlefield (and, repeating myself, they never found another).

Photos 1 thru 6 details in order / purchased by the artist from the Library of Congress. Photos 1 and 2 were taken at the UP hill "Home" site. The other four photos were taken down the hill where the body is currently thought to have been found.

Let's consider something here. These photographers made their living doing three quarter and frontal shots of people's faces all the time. The body/dress is secondary. The face says it all! If anything, Gardner, et al., seemed to be hiding the face in the 4 photos taken down the hill. Why would they want to hide the most recognizable and best feature of this body? To my thinking, this is very odd.

Now take a look at both photos (1, 2) made of the body at the "Sharpshooter's Home". Both show the classic three-quarter facial shot-- which, by the way, is the view most often chosen by painters and photographers down through the ages. This is a very normal approach for initially capturing a subject. However, if we are told these photographs were taken last and not first then we should be confused as this goes against normal procedures.

Why would the photographers find a "great faced" subject down the hill and spend a lengthy interval taking four shots (two stereos and two wet-collodion plates) showing everything BUT the face.....then decide to move that body UP the hill 70 yards where they then photograph the face both times (once in plate, once in stereo)? This scenario makes no sense. That is, it makes no sense if the photos were made down the hill first.

Here is the much more obvious scenario. The only reason the photographers would take pains NOT to show the frontal or three-quarter view of the soldier's face in their down-hill photos is because such facial views are the most easily recognizable to the viewer. Why would Gardner and company not want the soldier to be recognizable to the viewer? Probably because they had already photographed the soldier at the up-hill site and did not want any viewers to discover they had moved the body to stage some additional photographs.

One might think that an upside down and rear-three-quarter head profile, such as is shown in three of the down-hill photographs, would be enough to discern the identity of the soldier. But history already has shown that this would be a false notion. Gardner had the major audacity to place a sample of each view of this confederate's body (one taken UP and one taken DOWN) back-to-back in his post-war book, "Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War" (plate 40, plate 41, herein photos 1 and 6). Not surprisingly, nobody noticed they were the same body photographed in two different places.

As mentioned before, the first person on written record to fathom the similarities was the art-director working for "Civil War Times Illustrated". And so, Gardner got away with his charade for almost a hundred years. And I don't think for a moment he had forgotten the whole episode with the moving of the body. The truth is they are two of the finest photographs made on the battlefield. The corpse made a good subject even without showing its facial features. I believe the patch-pocket frock coat worn by the soldier added something "soldier-esque" to the subject. None of the other Confederate dead photographed on the battlefield were so well dressed. In fact, a lengthy perusal (please take the time to see for yourself) will show they were, with bare exception of three officers lying face down near the Rose Woods area, dressed more like country folk. If you take away that recurring prop rifle Gardner et al., kept using over and over, they appear to be nothing more than common farm-hands. I feel certain that is one of the reasons why the body of this particular sharpshooter was deemed valuable for further photography in another location (there is a further and very strong reason to move the body and I will mention it in depth later on).

This was my initial observation concerning the matter of which photos were made first. I suppose I thought of this visual "face" cue because I am a visual artist- like Gardner, O'Sullivan and Gibson. In my own mind, I can sympathize and, to some extent, retrace the photographers' steps. Perhaps we think alike. Yet I shudder at some of the things Gardner did then and later. I suppose he was a master "paparazzi" of his time. He has done much to confound history; yet without his photographs we would have so much less.

After making this first simple observation about the face, I quickly found other visual leads which further strengthened the argument that the body was found up the hill at the wall and boulders. I was in no hurry to tell the world of my inclination. There seemed to be no point in dredging the whole thing up. It had nothing to do with my painting and I resolved to let the "sleeping dog lay". Plus it no doubt would arouse the ire of the historians and some of my fellow artists to boot. Still, I came back to the idea often; visual sleuthing is a source of great amusement. Then came that day in May when I heard the tour-guide say the soldier was a "fake". In an electrical moment that word became the "F" word to my ears. I had my resolve.

But if I was going to "go for it" then I knew I could not do so without examining all original six photos taken of this body. I had used book reproductions before and found false or misleading visual info. I could not absolutely depend on book photos for drawing my own conclusions. A book photo is sometimes, through no intended fault of its author, misleading. I knew the Library Of Congress had the originals and now I would have to obtain my own copies.

Soon after visiting the LOC, I acquired 8x10 copies of all six photos and stereos (three plates, three stereos) for careful study. I began flushing out additional visual clues that would indicate the correct sequence of the six photographs. There are many. To help you understand fully what I found, I will continue by sub-headings in an attempt to stay focused on each clue.