THEM: "What did you do this weekend, John?"
ME: "Well, Sunday I went on a tour of places on the Gettysburg battlefield where one specific photo wasn't taken-"
THEM: *blank stare*
|Garry posing a stand-in at a place |
where the photos were not taken.
Much time, hot-air and many electrons have been expended on this topic of late, spurred on by a few publicly expressed theories (many of which end up being rehashes of long discounted theories). Particularly, John Cummings over at Spotsylvania Civil War Bloghas been hammering relentlessly on his theory. In turn, Garry has been urging caution in publicizing new theories before they've been vetted and the author him or herself has vehemently tried to prove themselves wrong.
I spent 5 hours out on the field on Sunday, in a quest to learn about a landscape to better find a photo's true location. But in the end, it doesn't matter at all.
I'll repeat that and emphasize it: the actual location of the Harvest of Death and the other photos taken nearby does not matter at all.
|He had eyes and a nose. |
He had loves and sorrows and joys...
But in a larger sense, finding the site means nothing. The men are gone. The bodies have long since rotted. Either they were moved to the Soldier's National Cemetery when the bulk of the Federal dead were reburied in the winter of 1863-64, or they rest in an undiscovered and likely never to be found grave somewhere in the Pennsylvania topsoil.
The burial crew has found their own home in the earth as well. Finding the site will yield no evidence of what happened there. It will be a sterile farm field among other sterile farm fields. It is not a tangible reminder of anything in particular.
The pictures themselves hold the true power. Zoom in on that photo. Zoom in really close. Download the TIFF version and hold onto your seat as you dive into the world of 1863. It's the wonder of the Library of Congress' massive scans of these images that makes them into true windows into the past.
|Feet that would never walk through |
the door of their home again...
|This could be my Grand-Uncle. |
Or your Grandfather. Or anyone's.
Where the photo was taken doesn't matter. But I guarantee that we'll keep spilling gallons of ink (both real and digital) over the matter for years to come. I have my own theory of where the photo is. I'm not going to say where. I haven't done nearly enough research or meditation to come out an say. It's irresponsible. I'm not going to say where I think Gardner's Harvest of Death series was captured.
In fact, if I discovered with 100% accuracy where that photo was taken, with all the surety available on this earth, I'm still not sure I would say where it was. I might hide the truth from the world and never tell another soul (beyond maybe Garry and Tim, after having sworn them to secrecy). I hope we never find that place. Because when that happens the photo may very well cease to matter. It will simply become a means to an end. It will be the treasure map to a giant red 'X' on the ground, discarded as soon as the shovels (or in this case modern cameras) are whipped out.
While the location is still a mystery, people still stare into those cold, lifeless, sorrowful and twisted faces. And that's the only reason the photos hold any meaning. They're the only reason it matters at all.