• Gaines' Mill battlefield -- Watt House area

    Richmond

    National Battlefield Park Virginia

Issue 8: Summer 2001 page 2

New Photographs Found and Placed on Exhibit

A temporary exhibit at the Tredegar Visitor Center opened on July 25, featuring dozens of photographs of Richmond from 1865. Although some of the images of the burned-out section of the city are familiar and timeless, many other are less well known. The exhibit draws visitors' attention to many military and economic landmarks during Richmond's short life as capital of the Confederacy. The display may be viewed on the second floor of the visitor center. It will be in place through the autumn.

In the course of research for this project, park historians discovered a cache of rare 1865 views taken by the Philadelphia firm of Levy & Cohen. That photographic team's work around Richmond was not unknown, but its volume and quality came as a pleasant surprise. The Library Company of Philadelphia has preserved the Levy & Cohen views. Some of the gems in the collection include a wider-angle view of the famous Chimborazo Hospital and several new images of Drewry's Bluff. Photographs taken inside Hollywood Cemetery, at the Arsenal and near the Penitentiary all offer clear details. A pair of photographs showing soldiers of the triumphant Union army camped on Libby Hill, in the city's east end, is particularly intriguing.

Levy & Cohen visited the area in the summer of 1865 and recorded at least 30 separate shots. Some of them were sold commercially as cartes-de-visites (cdv's), and thus are known among historians and collectors, although even the cdv's are extremely rare. But the Library Company also owns a stack of glass plate negatives, representing views that apparently were not converted into cdv's. Most of those remain unpublished, and are a valuable resource in the constant effort to understand wartime Richmond, its nearby battlefields, and their 19th century appearance.

As it grows gradually more difficult to unearth important new sources on the Civil War, fresh photographs of wartime Richmond and its landmarks constitute an especially exciting discovery.

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Did You Know?

Large seacoast gun atop Drewry's Bluff

The USS Monitor participated in the unsuccessful attempt to run the Confederate batteries atop Drewry’s Bluff on May 15, 1862.