Friday, May 30, 2014

Gettysburg: 1st Massachusetts monument dedication

On July 1, 1886, battlefield photographer and Gettyysburg entrepreneur William Tipton took this image of 1st Massachusetts veterans at the dedication of their Gettysburg monument along Emmitsburg Road. During the battle on July 2, 1863, the 384-man regiment suffered 130 casualties, including 19 killed, in a fight that was described as a "perfect tornado of whizzing missiles." Corporal Nathaniel M. Allen, a 23-year-old watchmaker from Boston, earned the Medal of Honor when he recovered the regiment's colors from next to the body of a fallen sergeant William Kelren and retreated in a hail of bullets with that flag and the national colors, preventing their capture.

It's always interesting to explore Tipton images, which are often rich in detail. ...

... All the cool kids think photobombing is so 2014. But as this ahead-of-its-time horse shows, the fad dates to at least 1886. Perhaps the dour-looking animal belonged to Tipton. What a nag!  ...

... although in their mid-40s and 50s, these stern-faced 1st Massachusetts veterans don't look like a bunch you'd want to mess with. ...

... and how about those fancy hats and jackets these band members are wearing? Wonder if they were a tad uncomfortable on this summer day. ...

Nathaniel Allen
... hey, who is the tall man above with the gigantic, dark-black moustache? Could he be controversial Union general Dan Sickles himself? Or is it really Allen, who was awarded his Medal of Honor in 1899, a year before he died. (Although he didn't witness Allen's act of valor, Sickles supported the effort to get the corporal the Medal of Honor.) For comparison, at right is a post-war image of Allen and below is an 1886 image of Sickles (and generals Joseph Carr and Charles Graham) taken by Tipton at the Trostle Farm at Gettysburg, where he lost his right leg to artillery fire on July 2, 1863. Hmmm. Sickles was 66 in July 1886, and the man in the image above appears to be in his late 40s or early 50s. Advantage, Allen!

Sickles, who was instrumental in memorializing the battlefield with monuments, was not a big fan of Tipton, who had angered veterans by building an electric railway line for tourists through Devil's Den and commercializing the sacred ground.

On July 4, 1893, The New York Times 
reported  about a confrontation
 between Union vets, including 
Dan Sickles, and  photographer 
William Tipton.
While photographing a group of veterans after a New York State monument dedication at the national cemetery on July 3, 1893 with his "deadly camera," Tipton was ordered away by Sickles. The next day, while photographing the dedication of the New York State monument at Little Round Top, Tipton was involved in another confrontation with the one-legged general and other former Union veterans. When the photographer refused to move, the old soldiers put their hats over his camera, laid it on the ground and threatened to break it.

In a foreshadowing of life in the 21st century  -- hey, Alec Baldwin! -- Tipton got mad. And then he sued. "You will hear from me later!" he raged, according to a New York Times correspondent who was there. "You are having your fun now; I will have mine later!"

Retorted Sickles: "I think I have the right to determine whom I shall permit to photograph me. If an obnoxious person tries to take a snap shot photograph of me, I have a perfect right to object, and what is more, to order him away ... "

(Check out more Tipton images on my Pinterest page.)

Dan Sickles (center) during an 1886 visit to the Trostle Farm at Gettysburg, where he 
lost his leg to artillery fire.  (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

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