Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Seven Pines hospital: Fabulous details in June 1862 image

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George Barnard, whose Seven Pines images I examined in this post, wasn't the only photographer employed by Mathew Brady to photograph that Virginia battlefield in June 1862. James Gibson, who may have been Barnard's supervisor, also shot images there -- including this one of a two-story, frame house used as a hospital by Union General Joseph Hooker's division.  On May 31-June 1, 1862, the armies fought to a draw at Seven Pines (or Fair Oaks), eight miles from Richmond. Among the more than 11,000 casualties was General Joseph E. Johnston, the commander of Confederate forces in Virginia, who was severely wounded by a shell fragment and replaced by Robert E. Lee. You may have heard of him. Enlargements of the TIFF version of this glass-plate image, available on the Library of Congress web site, include fascinating details, many not obvious in the original. ...

... on the second floor, an officer leans toward an open window, apparently peering at the photographer. ...

... while another man on the second floor, his feet propped against the window sill, relaxes with what appears to be a newspaper. Perhaps he read details of George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, which eventually led Little Mac to change his base or retreat, depending on your perspective.  After a series of defeats, the Federals earned a victory at Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. But their campaign to take Richmond was over. By mid-August 1862, the Union army had been transported north from Harrison's Landing on the James River.

... in the far left window on the second floor, two men are partially obscured by tree branches. ...

... behind the house, near a wood line, two soldiers and tents in a Federal camp ...

... with a bayonet attached, this soldier's musket towers above him. Two other muskets, a shovel and a pick ax lean against the house. ...

... perhaps the shovel seen near the doorway was used to dig this grave, probably for a Union soldier. A small fence made of logs surrounds the gravesite, an unusual treatment and an indication this may have been an officer's grave. A pile of freshly turned dirt obscures the headboard, making it impossible to decipher the name, rank or regiment of this person.

(Some Civil War photographs are so sharp that details such as the names of soldiers on grave markers may be easily read. See my posts herehere, here, here and my favorite example here.) After the war, this soldier's remains may have been disinterred and re-buried at Seven Pines National Cemetery. Sadly, the identities of only 141 of the 1,357 soldiers buried there are known.

What else do you see in the image?

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


  1. Great analysis. Thanks for the post.

  2. I enjoyed your details of the image. Thank you

  3. Always looking to see if I can spot any photo of my G.G.Grandfather who was wounded in the battle of Antietam and perhaps treated at Seven Pines..

  4. I see the shadow of someone sitting behind the tree, plus bullet holes in the tree. Coat hanging in the tree,looks like another person sitting on the right side of the house, a boot pull beside that person, a rickety spit to cook on right side of house, clothes laying about in the dirt, is that someone lying under the tree on the left side of the house?

  5. my Great Great Great Grandfathers were at the Battles of Donelson,Shiloh,Chichamauga,Atlanta,then were sent back to Kentucky to uard the L&N railroad before he made his March to the Sea.Kentucky Volunteer Regiments 17th and 26th.

  6. If it was used as a hospital could the 'grave' have been where the amputated arms and legs were buried? It'd be interesting to figure out which regiment is camped there as I'm sure the officers took over the house as quarters after it's nightmare use as a battlefield hospital.

  7. There are more rifles leaning against the house to the left of the doorway. Thanks for posting, love all the close-up details.

  8. Anonymous5:24 PM

    My great-great Grandfather was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. He was one of the "lucky" ones who was discharged and came home. Was this the main field hospital for union soldiers, or were there others? My daughter and I are going to come down to Virginia this summer to see some of the battlefields, and wanted to try and see some of the locations where he would have walked.

  9. my GG Grandfather James Root Howes 10th Mass Reg. Comp. C was severely wounded at 7 pines/fair oaks

  10. I noticed the stringer was missing on the stairs, wonder if it is used as the head stone on the grave?

  11. I believe I know who lies in that grave. My great Uncle Corporal James Gilmour, 82ND NY. I have a letter describing his burial there. Who buried him, how he died and how he came to be buried there. If you contact me I will email pictures of the letter.

    1. Hi, Mark: You may contact me here: Would be interested to see the information.

  12. Was Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire there?

  13. My Great Grandfather, Milas Holthouser served in the 4th NC. He was wounded within sight of the twin houses and possibly treated there. He was 17 yrs old. He suffered a leg and cheek wound. He walked on a crutch for the rest of his life. I have his discharge paper. Gen. S. D. Ramseur was one of the signers. “By order of Gen. Lee” also appears on the document. His 15 year old brother took the family mule and wagon and found him in the Mechanicsville area and returned him and several other wounded soldiers back home to the Statesville, N C area.