Saturday, January 13, 2018

Journey in time: 'Stunning' 1891 Antietam images surface

The fence in the background runs along the Smoketown Road, the route the XII Corps 
took to the battlefield. (John Banks collection | Click on images to enlarge.)
On the back mounting of each image, Antietam veteran John Mead Gould wrote a detailed
 description. "The mulberry tree so prominent here has probably grown since the war," he noted on this one.

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At 4 p.m. on Sept. 18, 1891, Oliver Cromwell Gould, son of 10th Maine veteran John Mead Gould, shot an image of the East Woods at Antietam, where his father had witnessed momentous events 29 years earlier. Three days later, at 8 a.m., Oliver focused his camera on a nearby 10-acre field (above image) that included a prominent mulberry tree. In the far distance, a wooden fence stretched along the old Smoketown Road -- the route his father took to battle on Sept. 17, 1862.

A war-time image of John Mead Gould.
(Courtesy Nicholas Picerno)
We know precisely when and where these historic images were taken because of the meticulousness of John Gould, who accompanied his 21-year-old son at Antietam and wrote details about each photograph in pen on the back mounting for each. "Camera ... on the knoll where the 128th Penn first stood," noted the 51-year-old former officer in neat handwriting about the first image. "In 1862 the woods extended a few yards west of the fence here seen."

Regarding the second image, Gould wrote: "The 10th Maine crossed the Smoketown road (as well as I can tell) about where the small bush is growing, to right of the mulberry tree. We came to 'front' there east of the road, then advanced down & up the gentle slope & deployed about in the shadow of the tree on the extreme right of the picture."

Believed lost to history, the rare photographs are among six to have recently surfaced in New Jersey -- the largest stash of Gould images yet to be discovered. A unique window into the early, post-war appearance of the battlefield, the photographs have excited Antietam historians, who are hopeful even more "Goulds" will be discovered. According to a detailed logbook kept by the former 10th Maine officer, Oliver Gould took at least two dozen images at Antietam in 1891, including shots of the iconic Dunker Church. Only one other 1891 Gould Antietam image, owned by a Virginia collector, had previously been discovered.

"The 1891 Gould images are truly stunning, as they offer an early, pristine view of Antietam battlefield that many of us never thought we would see, complete with the voice of a veteran pointing out particulars in a way we usually just dream about," said Stephen Recker, whose 2012 book, Rare Images at Antietam And the Photographers Who Took Them, documented historical images taken at the battlefield. Collaborating with 10th Maine expert Nicholas Picerno and preeminent Antietam historian Tom Clemens, Recker pieced together the story of the Gould images in his book.

A circa-1920 photograph of John Mead Gould, 
who died in 1930.
(Courtesy Nicholas Picerno)
"But while we found the documentation for his 1891 images at Duke University," Recker noted, "it was those 'undiscovered' images that we really wanted to see." Gould's images were taken before the War Department greatly altered the lay of the land in 1895, when it added avenues for tourists to use to view the battlefield.

The Gould images once belonged to Irving B. Lovell, an uncle of Bill and Marie Trembley, who were first shown the photographs decades ago. In 2016, four years after the World War II veteran died at age 92, the Trembleys found the package containing the Antietam images in a closet while cleaning out Lovell's house and small cabin in Eastport, Maine. The photos weren't viewed by the couple again until November 2017, when Marie opened the large manila package with the words "Civil War photos" written in red marker on the side. When and where Lovell, who lived most of his life in New Jersey, got the images is unknown.

The author of this post acquired the images in early January 2018.

A bright man who was good with numbers, Gould worked for his father's bank in Portland, Maine before the Civil War. In April 1861, he enlisted in the Portland Light Guards, Company C of the 1st Maine. The regiment served in the defenses of Washington, returning to Maine to be mustered out in August 1861. In September that year, Gould re-enlisted in the new 10th Maine for two years' service, advancing to sergeant major. Promoted to 2nd lieutenant, he served in the Valley Campaign in early 1862, and saw his first significant action at Cedar Mountain on Aug. 9, 1862.

General Joseph Mansfield, mortally
wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.
(Middlesex County Historical Society)
But Antietam had by far the most dramatic impact on Gould's life. It was in the East Woods on the morning of Sept. 17, 1862, that the 22-year-old adjutant was the first to reach a mortally wounded General Joseph Mansfield, shot while atop his white horse as he directed troops in his XII Corps. Gould was among four soldiers to carry Mansfield to the rear.

"Passing still in front of our line and nearer to the enemy, [Mansfield] attempted to ride over the rail fence which separated a lane from the ploughed land where most of our regiment were posted," Gould wrote to Mansfield's widow on Dec. 2, 1862. "The horse would not jump it, and the General dismounting led him over. He passed to the rear of the Regimental line, when a gust of wind blew aside his coat, and I discovered that his whole front was covered with blood."

Antietam was Mansfield's first and last battlefield command. The 58-year-old officer from Middletown, Conn., died the next morning.

After the war, Gould -- who became historian, treasurer and secretary for a Maine veterans' group -- was especially keen on documenting his regiment's role at Antietam. Seemingly no detail was too small. For years, he kept up a lively correspondence with veterans on both sides regarding Mansfield's wounding and death, troop movements and much more. In the 1890s, he provided hundreds of those letters to the Antietam Battlefield Board, adding significantly to the understanding of the battle. And, in 1895, Gould had published a pamphlet on Mansfield's death, noting minute details of the XII Corps' commander's demise.

Antietam map in John Mead Gould's 1895 published work on the mortal wounding of
General Joseph Mansfield. The East Woods, where the 10th Maine fought, appears at center.
Clemens, who edited a massive, authoritative history of the Maryland Campaign compiled by Union veteran Ezra Carman, believes Gould may be the greatest of all Antietam historians.

"He was only interested in the fighting in East Woods and who killed Mansfield, but wound up getting into a lot more than that," he said. "At one point there were six or seven different accounts of where Mansfield was killed, and Gould sorted them out, determining that at least three were people mistaking Colonel William Goodrich of the 60th New York for Mansfield. He really grilled his subjects, asking detailed questions, and his letters, which he routinely shared with Carman, are very helpful for details on fighting in the north end of the field."

In 1889, John Gould tried to document the battlefield photographically himself. Using the recently introduced Kodak camera, among the first cameras easy enough for amateurs to use, he shot images of the East Woods. The experience was unsatisfying -- and unproductive, too. The camera, Recker notes in his book, was cumbersome to use. It didn’t even have a view finder, an innovation that would come with the next version of the Kodak.

"Among the demerits of the work is the fact that I got 'rattled' & made 'doubles' & I forgot to make a note of what I was doing," he wrote to 128th Pennsylvania veteran Frederick Yeager in 1894. "So when I got my pictures from the printer I couldn't identify many of them. In truth the visit of 1889 was little more than an aggravation, but it resulted in determining me to go again ..."

John Mead Gould appears in the background of this image that shows the position 
of two 10th Maine companies on Sept. 17, 1862. It was taken Sept. 18, 1891, at 2 p.m. 
This photograph, taken on Sept. 21, 1891, shows the site of the mortal wounding of  Joseph Mansfield.
And so John and Oliver returned to the battlefield in 1891 to photographically document the sites of the horrible events of mid-September 1862.

In the other four recently discovered Gould images, Oliver focused exclusively on the area of the East Woods, site of fighting the night of Sept. 16, 1862, and intense fighting the next day. In one of those photographs, someone -- probably John Gould himself -- wrote in the margin the position where Mansfield was mortally wounded. Ever meticulous, Gould noted on the back mounting an image number as well as the time the photograph was taken ("September 21, 1891, 5 p.m.") and position of his son's camera ("on enemy's ground 110 yards from the position of extreme right Co. H of 10th Maine”).

In another image, Gould noted the changes on the battlefield since the war. "Potatoes and corn take the place of great oaks, of which one only remains hereabouts as seen," he wrote about a photograph of what once was the East Woods. And on another, he wrote in the margins of the image the positions of the 128th Pennsylvania and 10th Maine. Leaving breadcrumbs for future historians to pinpoint the spot, he wrote on the back mounting of the image: "Camera in the three-cornered clover field ten paces from the Smoketown Road & about 100 yards west of where the East Woods were in 1862. The western face of the woods has been cut off."

After journeying from New Jersey to their new home, the photographs will soon be on the road again, to Antietam, where this story began long ago. We'll match up the images on the battlefield to shoot present-day versions of the six Gould photographs.

And, of course, we'll keep a lookout for other Gould images from 1891. Perhaps those historic images from this series will turn up in an attic or in a flea market near you.

This photograph shows the route of march by the 10th Maine onto the battlefield.
A  tattered backing on the above photograph includes Gould's detailed description of the image.
"Potatoes and corn take the place of great oaks, of which one only remains hereabouts as seen
 in this picture," Gould wrote on the back mounting of this photograph. After the war, many of
 the trees in the East Woods were cut down. (John Banks collection)
"The knoll of the 128th Pa. and position of 10th Maine in opposite edge of woods are shown by arrows,"
Gould noted of this image, taken near the East Woods. (John Banks collection)

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


-- Gould, John Mead, Joseph K.F. Mansfield, A Narrative of Events Connected With His Mortal Wounding, Portland, Maine, Stephen Berry Printer, 1895.
-- Recker, Stephen, Rare Images of Antietam and the Photographers Who Took Them, Sharpsburg, Md., Another Software Miracle LLC, 2012.


  1. Incredible photos John. Thanks for sharing.

  2. New Jersey, huh? Awesome discovery by Stephen Recker, et al.

  3. Wow - what a find, John! Congrats, and thank you for posting about them.

  4. Charles Clackett6:31 PM

    Great work John as usual.

  5. Anonymous9:24 AM


    Those Antietam photos are incredible finds! May I have your permission to use the one with the annotation of Mansfield's wounding location in his biography in my Antietam chapter?

    Thank you,

    Larry Freiheit

  6. Anonymous6:48 AM

    I was stunned when I saw this post a few weeks ago. The photos are awesome, but the map Gould drew is even more helpful for understanding the terrain in 1862. I've been comparing it with 1908 Atlas maps. This is a phenomenal find John!

  7. these are so cool

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Fantastic work ... I really enjoy your work

  10. Really cool pictures, good read as usual John

  11. Wonderful and remarkable... Many thanks for sharing these, Mr. Banks!

  12. Cool. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Amazing, thank you John.

  14. Anonymous11:19 PM

    Great read and find John!