Plate 63. Breaking Camp

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Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by James Gardner, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
Here is represented the deserted quarters of Gen. Sharp, Chief of the Secret Service of the Army of the Potomac, at Brandy Station, Virginia. The tents have been removed, and the sketch depicts the scene when the camping ground, which had been occupied by headquarters during the winter, is being abandoned for the spring campaign. In the back-ground are the stalls for the staff horses, and the stockade or "bull pen" for prisoners arrested by the Provost Marshal General. The photograph possesses interest only as an illustration of the mode of life of the army in winter. No sooner is it known in camp that the quarters are likely to be permanent, than every man commences the erection of substantial quarters, which, in the winter season are made as comfortable as any village. Floors are laid in the tents, log huts are built, and their inner walls neatly covered with illustrated papers, and chimneys with capacious fire-places erected, rendering the winter home of the soldier, if not desirable, at least a very pleasant residence. Storms and frost are unheeded, and the long evenings pass in mirth, with no care for to-morrow's hardship or future perils.
What sad reflections crowd upon the mind in visiting these relics of the past! All through the South in many a lonely waste such columns stand as mournful monuments of forgotten joys and aspirations; sealed volumes, whose unwritten lore none can interpret save those who made the record. Fragments of a sorrowful era, and witnesses of events which the world may pray shall never be re-enacted, the visitor beside each wreck will ask:
"Why standest thou, lone mark?
Gray ruins, mist and mould
Are dripping where thy spark
Glimmered in the times of old.
Within thy bosom now
The snake hath made his home:
The owl, from 'neath thy brow
Hoots [sic] in nightly gloom."
"The chirping cricket's song has ceased,
The silent spider spreads his feast;
Here did thy winter welcome shine,
Where darkly creeps the poison vine.
So hopes too bright forsake the breast,
And canker comes a constant guest.
Old fragment! perish with thy lore,
Nor longer memory implore."
Currently not on view
date made
Gardner, Alexander
place made
United States: Virginia, Brandy Station
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 6 3/4 in x 8 15/16 in; 17.145 cm x 22.64842 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
related event
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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