Civil War Sites Then and Now

We have a good friend, Ken F., who has two big-time interests, sports and the Civil War. Ken and my husband talk for hours about sports, and Ken and I enjoy sharing CW books and discussions. Ken and his equally interesting wife, Eileen, recently made another trek to two of the most iconic CW battlefields in the East, Antietam, in Maryland, and Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania. One of his goals on such visits is to locate battle site views that still resemble today, as closely as possible, the incredible images that were captured by the great CW photographers in the 1860’s, minus the heartbreaking carnage, of course!  He recently agreed to be a guest photographer here on You’re History (thanks, Ken!), and it’s my pleasure to share his great photos and commentary with you.

Little Round Top

Gettysburg: Little Round Top

“Then” photo by Timothy O’Sullivan.

Troops along the ridge line and slopes were the left wing of the Union, coming under attack from the Confederate right wing under Gen. James Longstreet, who were never able to capture this high ground. The area at the base of Little Round Top was know as “The Valley of Death”, as it was almost certain death crossing that area. This view is looking east. The famous stand of the Union 20th. Maine occured at the far right, upon the south slope of  the hill. Most of the fighting in this area happened during the second day of the three day conflict, July 3, 1863.

All three of the “then” Antietam photos below were taken by Alexander Gardner. Battle took place September 17, 1862.

Hagerstown Pike

Antietam: Hagerstown Pike

Hagerstown Pike……..The casualties were of a Louisianian brigade from Gen. Jackson’s Corp, the Confederate left wing of the battle, who were under attack from elements from Gen. Joe Hooker’s First Corp., of the Union right wing. Both sides attacked across the pike multiple times, leaving hundreds of casualties behind each time. Most of this fighting occurred in the morning hours.
Dunker Church

Antietam: Dunker Church

Dunker Church………….The Confederate casualties in this photo were either infantrymen or artillerymen from Jackson’s Corp, probably Gen. McLaws Division. The attacking forces were most likely from a division under Union Gen. Sumner’s Second Corp., occurring mid morning or so.
The Sunken road

Antietam: The Sunken road

Sunken Road………….Casualties in this photo are North Carolinians from Gen. R.H. Anderson’s Division of Gen. James Longstreet’s Corp, who were finally routed out of this farm lane by troops from Gen. Richardson’s Division of Gen. Sumner’s Second Corps, after repulsing wave after wave of attackers. They were finally outflanked, at which time it became a “shooting gallery” when Union infantrymen were able to fire down the length of the road. Much of this action occurred mid to late morning.

15 thoughts on “Civil War Sites Then and Now

  1. Oh those pictures were just wonderful! Just looking at the Antietam pix you could almost imagine the war just happened, it’s kind of like you stepped through time

  2. holly says:

    Reiterating what I already told Linda, I found these pictures very moving, and felt, as historylover does, as though I had been there originally. I’m here in Utah, thinking of a war that never touched this spot. Thank you.

  3. What a cool post! I live in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and am working at trying to learn more about the Civil War. There’s so much I don’t know! And, we’re surrounded by history, here. There’s an antebellum mansion that still has a cannonball lodged in the wall, in downtown Vicksburg.

  4. Rod says:

    I’m from OZ.It’s eerie looking at these old photo’s. I love Your History;the now and then site. Will be over there soon and have a look at it all for ourselves. Don’t take your history for granted. See ya.

  5. I believe the Hagerstown Pike “now” image is looking north, while the historic image is looking south — inside the fence, with the Miller cornfield behind the photographer. The confusion comes from the trail visible at the left of the historic images, which is not the Hagerstown Pike — it’s a trail inside the fence line. The pike is to the right of the historic image, on the other side of the rail fence. It’s clearer here:

    • I’ve been trying to figure this out and agree with you. What I was missing is that the historic image is looking south. Now, if I could just figure out where the roadbed was for the Hagerstown Pike in 1862, I would love to take my own now photo of the exact spot where then bodies were. Surely the road is wider now and has swallowed up the old roadbed. Where is it? Oh, yeah. This past Saturday I took one exactly like what’s shown here! Ha!

  6. Earle says:

    The photographer was facing north, on the west side of the pike. The tracks on the left of the original photo are a farm road.
    See William Frassanito’s excellent book “Antietam”. He documents the original locations of nearly all the Gardner photos taken shortly after the battle.

  7. Wanda Ricciardelli says:

    My 84 year old stepdad and I visited this site just today. I had been there once before. It is puzzling how I could be attracted to the beauty and serenity of this battlefield knowing what occured there. But it calls to me and I will probably go back yet again.

  8. Trey Key says:

    In the Sunken Road photo, if the dead are North Carolinians, they would be from G.B. Anderson’s brigade which was part of D.H. Hill’s division in Jackson’s Corps. They held the road most of the morning. If these men are from R.H. Anderson’s division they would be Georgians from Wright’s brigade who reinforced the far right of the NC troops shortly before the position fell. The modern photo appears to be positioned from the far right of the Confederate line looking back toward the shallow angle in the road that roughly marked the middle of the Confederate line.

  9. Dana R. MacBean says:

    Very fine work. Anyone interested in ‘before and after’ sites from the pages of the James E. Taylor Sketchbook? 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign from August thru December.

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