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[Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War. Incidents of the War, pl. 77]
7 x 9 in
Courtesy of Lee Gallery (Z1393)
"Negative by David Knox. Front of Petersburg, August, 1864. Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1865, by A. Gardner, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Columbia. Incidents of the War. Forge Scene. Published by Philp & Solomon, Washington. Positive by A. Gardner, 511 7th Street, Washington" printed in the margin recto.
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 were dimly seen through the tremulous air, and pine twigs droop from the eaves of the hut 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 th 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.