Jan 9

This is the Timothy O’Sullivan view titled “A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.” The location for this photograph and its companion views, shown later in this post, have been a mystery to many individuals. In today’s post, historian Jerry Coates will present his location of where he believes this photograph was taken. Jerry calls this angle, “the long view.” If Jerry Coates is correct, this view was taken facing southwest on Sunday, July 5, 1863. It is courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On approximately July 5, 1863, the photography crew of Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and James Gibson approached the Gettysburg battlefield to produce images. The photographs taken by Gardner and his crew are some of the most famous of the American Civil War, and many of the locations for those photographs were identified by the detective work of pioneering historian William Frassanito.

Mr. Frassanito, in his publication of Gettysburg: A Journey in Time, failed to locate (to his satisfaction) where one group of photographs were taken. These photographs, now known as the “Harvest of Death,” show a group of dead Union soldiers from two different angles. Many individuals have gone out on the battlefield with Frassanito’s book in hand, trying to find the location of the Harvest of Death photographs. In today’s post, Mr. Earl J. “Jerry” Coates presents his location for the Harvest of Death.

Earl J. Jerry Coates is a native of Ashland, Ohio. One of his great-great uncles, Nathan D. Hanson of the 1st Maine Heavy ARtillery, was killed in action at Petersburg, Virginia. Mr. Coates also had four other great-uncles who served in the Civil War. Jerry attended Ashland College and graduated from Baltimore’s Loyola College with a degree in American history. He served in the United States Army, and after his discharge worked for the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C. Coates was instrumental in the establishment of the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort George G. Meade, and he served as the facility’s first curator. He retired from the U.S. government in 1994 after 35 years of service. During his time in Washington, his interest in history led him to spend at least one evening a week at the National Archives studying uniforms, firearms, and other equipment. He became a member of the North South Skirmish Association (NSSA) in 1970 and by 1992 was the national commander of the organization. Mr. Coates is considered to be one of the leading authorities on the Unites States Army Quartermaster’s Department operations during the Civil War, and has authored or coauthored several volumes and numerous articles. He served as a consultant for Time-Life books, the A&E Network’s Civil War Journal, and artist Don Troiani. He is a past president of the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg.

This map shows the locations where the videos were filmed. Video #1 was filmed south of the Henry Spangler Farm. Video #2 was filmed near the Emmitsburg Road by the monument to the 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. This map was created facing north at approximately 1:00 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.

Historian Earl J. “Jerry” Coates is the host for this series on the Harvest of Death photographs. He is standing south of the Henry Spangler Farm. The Spangler Barn is in the right background. Spangler’s Woods meet Seminary Ridge in the left background. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

In Video #1, Historian Earl J. “Jerry” Coates is standing south of the Spangler Farm. He introduces himself, and explains the evidence that led him to this location for the Harvest of Death photographs. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 2:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.
Here’s the requisition list that Jerry found at the National Archives for Burling’s Brigade. This is a list of “Deficiencies to be supplied to fully equip the Brigade” following the Battle of Gettysburg on July 18, 1863. The 5th New Jersey needed 27 more “coats,” which Jerry says are frock coats. If they had wanted the four button blouse, it would have been labeled “blouse.” This list is found in “Record Group 393, Entry 202; Letters, Orders, and Reports Received by the 1st-3rd Divisions, 3rd Corps 1862-64″ in the National Archives, and is courtesy of Jerry Coates.

This is the same group of bodies that we showed at the beginning of the post. The photographer photographed them from another angle, however. When Timothy O’Sullivan arrived with his photography wagon, the burial details were either doing their job, or preparing to bury the bodies. This image was titled by the photographers: “Federal dead on the field of Battle of First Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.” If Jerry Coates is correct, this view was taken facing northeast on Sunday, July 5, 1863. It is courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Another view of the same bodies but without the burial detail. The photogaphers and/or their publishers gave this image several captions over the years including: “Federal dead on the field of Battle of First Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,” “Gettysburg, Pa. Bodies of Federal soldiers, killed on July 1, near the McPherson woods,” and “Field where General Reynolds fell, Gettysburg.”If Jerry Coates is correct, this view was taken facing northeast on Sunday, July 5, 1863. It is courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Jerry Coates is standing by the monument to the 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. It is located along the Emmitsburg Road (behind the photographer) between the Rogers House to the right or north, and Spangler’s Lane to the left or south. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

In Video #2, Jerry” Coates is standing is standing by the monument to the 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. He explains how reading the monument led to where he believes the Harvest of Death photographs were taken. This view was taken facing northwest to north to northwest to northeast to north to east to northwest at approximately 2:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

Jerry Coates points to the inscription on the south side of the monument that led him to the 5th New Jersey’s skirmish line. The 5th New Jersey Monument was dedicated on June 30, 1888. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

A topographical map of the area along the Emmitsburg Road. The Klingel House is labeled “Smith,” and the Spangler House is labeled “Wells.” This map is oriented facing west, and is courtesy of Jerry Coates.

This map shows where the skirmish line of the 5th New Jersey was located around the Spangler Farm. This map is oriented facing west, and is courtesy of Jerry Coates.

In the second video, Jerry mentioned bringing his daughter to the area so that he could take pictures using human figures, such as in this view facing northeast. The Spangler Barn is out of sight on the right. Hope Coates is now a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide. See her posts on the Battle of Westminster, Maryland here. This image is courtesy of Jerry Coates.
William Frassanito’s Gettysburg: A Journey in Time provides a detailed explanation about the Harvest of Death photographs. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
William Frassanito’s Early Photography at Gettysburg discusses the various attempts to find the Harvest of Death photographs in his section on the Rose Farm. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
Jerry Coates has authored or co-authored a number of publications including Civil War Sharps Carbines and Rifles. For ordering information, click here. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
Jerry Coates has authored or co-authored a number of publications including Don Troiani’s Soldiers in America, 1754-1865. For ordering information, click here. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
Jerry Coates has authored or co-authored a number of publications including Don Troiani’s Civil War Cavalry and Artillery. For ordering information, click here. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
Jerry Coates has authored or co-authored a number of publications including Don Troiani’s Regiments and Uniforms of the Civil War. For ordering information, click here. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
Jerry Coates has authored or co-authored a number of publications including Don Troiani’s Civil War Militia and Volunteers. For ordering information, click here. This image was copied facing north at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.


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