Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
HomeSite MapSearch
The Civil War
Biography of America logo
Civil War Photography Key Events Maps Transcript Webography

Does this photograph depict an actual battlefield scene, or did the photographer contrive it?

highlight of soldier's uniform highlight of rifle highlight of rock formation highlight of blanket highlight of soldier's head Photo: 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' by Alexander Gardner.  Image has four links that are discussed in the text below.

1. In the narrative that accompanied the photograph, Gardner claimed that "the sharpshooter had evidently been wounded in the head by a fragment of shell which had exploded over him, and had laid down upon his blanket to await death." Gardner asked viewers to consider what was in the sharpshooter's mind as he lay mortally wounded: "Was he delirious with agony, or did death come slowly to his relief, while memories of home grew dearer as the field of carnage faded before him?"

2. By studying other photographs, scholars have determined that the soldier died elsewhere on the battlefield at Gettysburg and was dragged to this spot forty yards away in Devil's Den.

3. Gardner claimed that on revisiting the battlefield on November 19, the day of the consecration of Gettysburg Cemetery, he found "the musket, rusted by many storms, still leaned against the rock, and the skeleton of the soldier still lay undisturbed within the mouldering uniform."

The rifle propped against the wall was not the type used by sharpshooters. In addition, it would have been impossible that four months after the battle the rifle and skeleton would have remained in the same location.

4. The striking rock formation lent compositional power to the photograph and allowed Gardner to use the word "Home" ironically in his title.

Something More

Title: Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (A Dead Confederate Sharpshooter in Devil's Den)
Photographer: Alexander Gardner

Version for Flash 4-enabled browsers


© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy