From Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XIII, July 1882, pp. 212 -
Photographic Reminiscences of the Late War.
assistance rendered the national arms during our late war by photography
and the photographers was much greater and very much more important in its
results than many people imagine. We propose, as best we may, to gather tip
these fragmentary reminiscences on either side, and publish them for
the benefit of our readers.
Anyone, therefore, who may be in
a position to aid us will kindly do so. The following, from the pen of Capt. A.
J. Russell, will be read with interest:
The memories of our great war
come down to us and will pass on to future generations with more accuracy and
more truth-telling illustration than that of any previous struggle of ancient or
modern times; and the world is indebted to the photographic art and a few
enterprising and earnest men, who were not backward in furnishing means, and to
a score or less of daring workers – men not afraid of exposure and who could
laugh at fatigue and starvation, could face danger in add shapes, and were at
all times ready to march, often between the two armies, in the trenches, on the
ramparts, through the swamps and forests, with the advance guard, and back again
at headquarters – not a flank movement, but the willing and indefatigable
artist at his post of danger and adventure. The public do not and cannot realize
the part that the camera served in bringing down the facts of the date war for
future history; one cannot look back but with wonder and admiration on those few
industrious, painstaking men such as Roche, Sullivan, Woodbury, Barnard,
Coonley, Fowx and one or two others who played their parts so well.
It would afford me pleasure to
recount the whole history of this great wood if I were as competent to describe
understandingly as the incidents have followed in my memory to the present time;
they were all known personally to me, having been thrown in contact on the
field, in camp, in victory and, defeat, in the charge of a successful army and
in the retreating columns before a victorious foe.
I cannot but relate a little
incident among the thousands that transpired. It was at City Point, just before
the move on Petersburg. Mr. Roche (now with Anthony & Co.,) entered my headquarters, and said,
“Cap., I am in for repairs and want to get things ready for the grand move,
for the army is sure to move to-night or tomorrow night. The negatives on hand I
wish to send North with some letters, prepare my glass and chemicals; in fact,
get everything ready for the grand move, for this is the final one, and the
Rebellion is broken, or we go home and commence over again.”
This prophecy proved to be
correct, for in this great final move Lee was captured and the confederacy
collapsed. I sat up with Mr. Roche until the “wee sma' hours;” he had
everything in A No. 1 order for the
morrow. We sat smoking and talking of adventures, etc., etc., and among others
Canal, and of the pictures taken there under difficulties a few days
which a friend of mine had been an eye-witness. The enemy were bombarding the
works from Howlett's Point, throwing immense shells every few minutes, tearing
up the ground and raising a small earthquake every time one of them exploded.
He had taken a number of views and had but one more to make to finish up the
most interesting points, and this one was to be from the most exposed position.
He was within a few rods of the place when down came with the roar of a
whirlwind a ten-inch shell, which exploded, throwing the dirt in all
directions; but nothing daunted and shaking the dust from his head and camera he
quickly moved to the spot, and placing it over the pit made by the explosion,
exposed his plate as coolly as if there was no danger, and as if working in a
country barn-yard. The work finished he quickly folded his tripod and
returned to cover.
I asked him if he was scared.
“Scared?” he said, “two shots never fell in the same place.” At this
moment the heavy boom of cannons were heard in the direction of Petersburg. Roche jumped to his feet, and rushing to the door said, “Cap., the ball has
opened; I must be off,” calling to his assistant. In the next quarter of an
hour two horses were harnessed, everything snugly packed, and shaking my hand
with a “we will meet to-morrow at the front,” said “good bye,” and the
wagon rattled off into the darkness of midnight towards that doomed city above
which was such another display of pyrotechnics as few photos. have ever
witnessed – shells flying in all directions, leaving their trails of fire
and fading away only to be replaced by others. This was not all. The whole world
seemed alive; every road was teeming and the call to arms seemed to find a
response from every foot of the ground; the rumbling of artillery, the clatter
of cavalry, the tramp of infantry, the shrieking of locomotives, calling men to
their posts, plainly told that the time had come - that the destiny of a nation
hung in the balance.
In the morning
was ours. I found Mr. Roche on the ramparts with scores of negatives taken
where the fight had been the thickest and where the harvest of death had indeed
been gathered - pictures that will in truth teach coming generations that
war is a terrible reality.
A few minutes later I saw his van
flying towards the war-stricken city, and in the wake of a fleeing enemy. Many
were the records he preserved that day that will last while history endures, to
relate the eventful story of a victory sorely won.