Plate 46. Provost Marshal's Office, Aquia Creek

Description
Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
One of the first operations of the war (upon the Potomac) was the destruction of the wharf and depot of the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad at Aquia Creek, done by a small flotilla under command of Capt. Ward, U. S. N., whose flag-ship was a N. Y. towboat, turned into a gunboat, and called the Freeborn. The buildings were fired by shells, the enemy keeping up a lively fire also from a battery upon the hill and a small redoubt on the shore.
When the rebels gave up the blockade of the Potomac, quite a chain of works existed here. In the winter of 1862 it became the base of supplies for the army at Falmouth; the wharf was rebuilt, greatly enlarged and improved, and quite a town of hastily but well-constructed buildings put up; among them, and close upon the railroad track, the Provost Marshal's Office. To this office came daily crowds of applicants for passes; officers on welcome leave of absence; soldiers with hard-earned furloughs; sutlers and their clerks; negroes, anxious to get up to Washington to spend the generous wages (twenty-five dollars a month, besides rations and quarters) paid by the Quartermaster's Department; all kinds of petty traders; visitors to the army; friends seeking the bodies of relatives slain in battle, or lying in hospital grave-yard, for removal; sick and wounded for hospital treatment; and last, though not least, ubiquitous members of the press, constantly going up or down. Soldiers or citizens who had business with the army in those days will not readily forget how limited was the time between the arrival of the long train of cars from the front and the departure of the Washington boat; nor how often, after successfully elbowing a way in the motley crowd, and getting the pass vised, the end of the dock would be only reached in time to see the steamer moving swiftly down the creek to the Potomac. On such occasions two alternatives were open; to go back to the front till next morning, or remain and study character on the wharf, boarding at the sutler's, and trusting to luck for a bed. As an instance of the variety of character, the writer has seen upon that dock, not only specimens of almost every European race, Africans and-Indians, but Chinamen, dressed in army blue, and to all appearance good soldiers.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
1863-02
maker
Gardner, Alexander
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 7 in x 9 1/16 in; 17.78 cm x 23.07158 cm
place made
United States: Virginia, Aquia Creek
ID Number
1986.0711.0334.46
accession number
1986.0711
catalog number
1986.0711.0334.46
subject
Photography
Military
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Gardner's Sketchbook
event
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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