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Plate 71. Aiken House, on Weldon Railroad, Virginia

Plate 71. Aiken House, on Weldon Railroad, Virginia

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Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by John Reekie, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
This is not the place on the James river, near the landing of the same name, where so many of the prisoners of War were exchanged, but an ordinary house, not far from that known as the Yellow House, and near the line of the Weldon Railroad. While Grant was extending his lines towards the left, in front of Petersburg, the country near this house was the scene of severe engagements. A more uninviting country to manoeuvre troops in could hardly be found. It was even worse than the "Wilderness." Woods of heavy pines, of hard timber, and of the scrubby black jack, combined with the dense growth of underbrush and vines, formed thickets, infinitely more impenetrable than the Mexican chaparral. Threaded by muddy streams, and almost destitute of roads, this section seemed the chosen haunt of malarial disease. Into these fastnesses, whose geography was entirely unknown to our engineers, the army made three movements, during November, 1864. In one of them the Second Corps suffered by a flank attack made with some impetuosity by the rebels. On another occasion the enemy made a break in the Fifth Corps, till finally, badly whipped and driven back, when our soldiers made permanent their occupation of the disputed territory by building roads, bridges, and earthworks, burning off the underbrush, and cutting down the trees for abattis, firewood, and the construction of winter quarters.
Close by the Aiken House, the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac were pitched; to the no small gratification of some of the junior officers on the staff, as in that house were domiciled no less than seven young ladies. Female society was scarce in camp, and thankfully accepted, without much regard to politics. Within the railing of the garden was the tent of the safeguard, pasted [sic] to protect the house and its inmates from intrusion or injury at the hands of stragglers. These guardians were often left behind when the army was on the move, to find themselves unexpectedly relieved by officers in gray uniforms. The person of a safeguard was, however, sacred, and on examination of his papers he was sent under flag of truce to his own command.
It was in the neighborhood of the Aiken House, that a group of generals and other officers were once assembled, while a movement was in progress. They were in a field entirely out of sight of the enemy, when a rebel battery opening at random, dropped its shells in the immediate vicinity of the group, causing a most undignified leave-taking. Near this house was one of the stations on the military railroad, built for convenience in supplying the army in its cantonments.
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
Gardner, Alexander
place made
United States: Virginia, Petersburg
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Civil War
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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