Jan 18

When photographer Timothy O’Sullivan arrived with his dark room 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.

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.

In our first post, Historian Jerry Coates provided background on himself and on the evidence that he gathered which led him to this location for the Harvest of Death photographs.

In the second post, Jerry Coates walks us down Spangler’s Lane, explains the itinerary of Gardner and crew, and presents both views at his location for the Harvest of Death.

In today’s post, Jerry Coates relates questions that he has heard about his spot over the years, and provides some explanations. He also emphasizes how important the frock coats are to the identity of these men.

This map shows the locations where the videos were filmed. Videos #1 and #4-#7 were filmed south of the Henry Spangler Farm buildings. Video #2 was filmed near the Emmitsburg Road by the monument to the 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. Video #3 was filmed in Spangler’s Lane.This map was created facing north at approximately 5:00 PM on Saturday, January 7, 2012.

Earl J. “Jerry” Coates is the host for this series on the Harvest of Death photographs. The Henry Spangler Barn is in the right background. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

In Video #5 (Videos #1-4 were seen in our previous posts) Historian Earl J. “Jerry” Coates is standing southwest of the Henry Spangler farm buildings. He answers questions that he has received over the years such as why one can’t see the Spangler Barn in the pictures, or the fences around the barn in the views facing northeast. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

Jerry Coates lines up the northerly view of the Harvest of Death photographs. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

In Video #6 Jerry Coates is standing is standing in the area where he believes the Harvest of Death photographs were taken. He discusses in more detail how one can tell that the soldiers are wearing frock coats, and how he would try to match up any military units wearing frock coats with the Gettysburg terrain. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.

The same bodies that we showed in the first picture of this post, 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.

The picture in the Harvest of Death series that is actually titled “A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.” Historian Jerry Coates calls this image, “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.

A black and white image that Jerry Coates took in the 1990s of “the long view.” This image is courtesy of Jerry Coates.

In Video #7 Jerry Coates concludes his presentation on the Harvest of Death, and asks the viewers to decide for themselves if he is correct. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:30 PM on Monday, November 28, 2011.
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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