Plate 77. Army Forge Scene

Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by David Knox, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
This photograph represents one of the forges used by the army at Petersburg, and was taken during the intense heat of a summer day. The trees in the distance are dimly seen through the tremulous air, and the pine twigs droop from the eaves of the but as if a fire had scorched them. The hoofs of the horse are buried in burning dust, and the boots of the men are loaded with powdered earth. By the tall pine in the back-ground, a little tent seems to be vainly seeking the shadow, while over all glares a hot sky, without a cloud to relieve the weary eyes. The parched ground and arid appearance of the landscape was characteristic of the country about Petersburg, where the constant movements of troops crushed out vegetation. Forests, houses, and fences were swept away, and the fields were transformed into vast commons, where the winds raised clouds of sand, and covered everything with the sacred soil. On these glaring deserts, with no covering but the shelter tent and withered brush, the army toiled and fought through many months, filling the valleys with graves, and sapping the vigor of men in the prime of life. Many are the dead that might now be living but for the poison of those torrid days, and all through the land are feeble veterans, who look back upon that campaign as does the pilgrim on his journeyings across the great Sahara.
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
Gardner, Alexander
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 22.86 cm
place made
United States: Virginia, Petersburg
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Gardner's Sketchbook
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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