Then And Now Pictures of the Battlefield

These Then-And-Now pictures bring together some of the more unforgettable pictures of post-battle Gettysburg with modern versions taken from the same location as the originals. For many, these photographs conjure feelings of awe and amazement along with sadness and despair. These feelings are often magnified when visitors realize they can stand on the same ground – and see the same things – that Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and James Gibson did when they took their unforgettable images in July 1863. It is with these unforgettable photographs in mind, and a nod to the men whose timeless images evoke such strong emotions, that we bring you this page. This is our attempt to look back through the windows of time.

 
Meade's Headquarters: Lydia Leister House
An 1863 view of the Lydia Leister house is at the center of this then and now picture meld. This modern day picture shows the Lydia Leister house along the Taneytown Road.
The Lydia Leister house is where Union General George G. Meade made his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Library of Congress.
This modern day picture looks north along the Taneytown Road. The Lydia Leister house is obscured from view by a large tree. NPS Photo.
The Lydia Leister house is where Union General George G. Meade made his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Late in the evening of July 2, Meade held a council of war in this house to decide if the Union army should stay and hold their hard-fought high ground or abandon their position. The council of war decided to stay. Late in the afternoon of July 3, Confederate batteries concentrated their missiles on the center of Cemetery Ridge in an attempt to soften up the Union position. Unbeknownst to the Confederate artillerymen, their rounds overshot their intended targets and began to land around Meade’s headquarters causing substantial damage. Although the commanding general moved to a safer location, evidence of the bombardment is everywhere. The house and surrounding fences are all damaged and dead horses lay in various stages of rigormortis in the center of the Taneytown Road and in the yard of the house.



 
Trostle House with dead horses from Bigelow's Battery
A historic picture of the Trostle house, held up in the center of the modern version, shows numerous dead horses from Bigelow's Battery. The modern picture of the Trostle house is partially obscured by a large tree. The monument to Bigelow's Battery can be seen on a rock between the house and the road.
The historic picture of the Trostle house, held up in the center of the modern picture, shows numerous dead horses from Bigelow's Battery. Library of Congress.
The modern picture of the Trostle house is partially obscured by a large tree. The monument to Bigelow's Battery can be seen on a rock between the house and the road. NPS Photo.
The Trostle farm was the site of desperate fighting on the afternoon of July 2, 1863 as the men of the 9th Massachusetts (Bigelow’s) Battery made a couragious stand against overwhelming Confederate forces. In an attempt to stave off the advancing Confederates from Kershaw and Barksdale’s brigades, the men of Bigelow’s Battery fought desperately before they were overrun and forced to retreat to Cemetery Ridge. Their sacrifice provided valuable time for Union reinforcements to form along Cemetery Ridge and helped thwart the Confederate attack in this area. The dead horses that are visible in the yard of the Trostle house are all that was left of this courageous stand. The framework to the left of the house in the historic photograph is evidence of an 1863 addition.



 
Staged Photo at Devil's Den
Historic view of the boulders of Devil's Den also shows the western slope of Little Round Top in the distance to the right. Modern view of the boulders of Devil's Den also shows the western slope of Little Round Top in the distance to the right.
This view of Devil's Den also shows the western slope of Little Round Top in the distance to the right. Library of Congress.
This modern view of Devil's Den also shows the western slope of Little Round Top in the distance to the right. NPS Photo.
This view of the boulders of Devil's Den shows the western slope of Little Round Top in the distance to the right. This staged photograph was taken more than four months after the battle, by Peter Weaver, on November 11, 1863 and depicts "dead Confederates" strewn among the rocks of Devil's Den.

William A. Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1995), 294-306.



 
Posed Scene in Devil’s Den
A number of men posing as dead soldiers lie across and underneath rocks in Devil’s Den. The modern photo shows the same rocks, the now-wooded summit of Little Round Top in the background.
A number of men posing as dead soldiers lie across and underneath rocks in Devil’s Den. Library of Congress.
The modern photo shows the same rocks, the now-wooded summit of Little Round Top in the background. NPS Photo.
This photograph, taken by Peter Weaver on November 11, 1863, depicts a group of men posing as dead soldiers among rocks in Devil’s Den. The two men standing are doctors, posed as if inspecting the “bodies.” The summit of Little Round Top can be seen in the distance.

William A. Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1995), 294-306.



 
Confederate “Sharpshooter” in Original Location in Devil’s Den
A dead Confederate soldier lies amidst debris in Devil’s Den, with a gun and hat near his head. The rock formations of Devil’s Den remain unchanged in a modern photo of this location.
A dead Confederate soldier lies amidst debris in Devil’s Den, with a gun and hat near his head. Library of Congress.
The rock formations of Devil’s Den remain unchanged in a modern photo of this location. NPS Photo.
This photograph, taken by Alexander Gardner's assistant Timothy O'Sullivan, depicts a dead Confederate soldier at the likely location of his death on the western side of Devil’s Den. The body of this soldier would be moved by the photographers from this location to another one 72 yards away, where he would become the subject of one of Gettysburg’s most indelible images.

William A. Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1995), 268-278.



 
Confederate “Sharpshooter” in Devil’s Den, Gardner Stereo #263
A dead soldier lies in front of rocks in Devil’s Den. The same rocks in Devil’s Den are unassuming today.
A dead soldier lies in front of rocks in Devil’s Den. Library of Congress.
The same rocks in Devil’s Den are unassuming today. NPS Photo.
There were six separate images produced by Gardner and O’Sullivan of this “sharpshooter” on July 5 or 6, 1863. At a time when a single photograph required time and expensive materials to produce, there must have been something about this particular body which captured the photographers’ attention. Notably, the man’s youthful features and the lack of gore on the body present a somewhat sanitized and romanticized version of death at Gettysburg.

William A. Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1995), 268-278.



 
“Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter”
A dead Confederate soldier lies behind a stone fortification, a gun propped against the rocks next to him. The same location today shows little change.
A dead Confederate soldier lies behind a stone fortification, a gun propped against the rocks next to him. Library of Congress.
The same location today shows little change. NPS Photo.
Originally produced in Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, this photograph has become one of the most recognizable images of the Civil War. While the gun propped against the rock would almost certainly not have been used by a sharpshooter, nor is it likely that the soldier fell in this location, this photograph nevertheless presents a powerful narrative of the struggle in and around Devil’s Den on July 2, 1863.

William A. Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1995), 268-278.



 
Confederate Dead near Plum Run in the Slaughter Pen
Two dead Confederate soldiers lie on the bank of a small pond, surrounded by large boulders. The modern photograph of this area reveals the Plum Run footbridge and the slope of Little Round Top in the distance.
Two dead Confederate soldiers lie on the bank of a small pond, surrounded by large boulders. Library of Congress.
The modern photograph of this area reveals the Plum Run footbridge and the slope of Little Round Top in the distance. NPS Photo.
This photograph depicts two dead Confederate soldiers in the Slaughter Pen. Years of weather and traffic have shifted some of the rocks in this area, but enough has remained unchanged that the location can be easily determined. The terms “Slaughter Pen” and “Devil’s Den” were often used interchangeably following the battle, making some photographs difficult to place based on title alone.
 



 
Confederate Dead near the Edge of the Rose Woods, Gardner Stereo #257
This view looks southwest, away from the Rose Woods. Three dead soldiers lie next to a large rock. The distinguishing marks on the large rock are still visible today.
This view looks southwest, away from the Rose Woods. Three dead soldiers lie next to a large rock. Library of Congress.
The distinguishing marks on the large rock are still visible today. NPS Photo.
This photo was one of a series of well-known photographs taken by Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner on July 5 or 6, 1863, near the edge of the Rose Woods. The dead soldier nearest to boulder is lying in a shallow grave.



 
Confederate Dead near the Edge of the Rose Woods, Gardner Stereo #235
A group of Confederate dead lie near the edge of the Rose Woods. A large split rock provides a reference point for the location of the original photograph.
A group of Confederate dead lie near the edge of the Rose Woods. Library of Congress.
A large split rock provides a reference point for the location of the original photograph. NPS Photo.
Another image from Gardner and O’Sullivan’s Rose Woods series, this photograph depicts a group of Confederate dead gathered for burial. These men were likely from either Georgia or South Carolina regiments, which fought in and around the Rose Woods on July 2, 1863.

William A. Frassanito, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1995), 319-325.



Last updated: July 27, 2018

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