Sunday, March 01, 2009

CWL----William Frassanito, Gettysburg and a Correction in History

Frassanito: Battlefield Photography Then & Now, Greystone Communications Group, VHS, 60 minutes, 2001.

Nearly all look back to the History Channels' Civil War programming with fondness for Greystone Communications efforts. Those who travelled to Gettysburg in the late 90s and until about 2005 usually made a stop at Greystone's American History Store at the intersection of Steinwehr Avenue and Baltimore Pike. Did CWL buy Gettysburg Magazine anywhere else? Probably not, it was always discounted 10% at the store. As a matter of fact, the December the store went out of business, CWL was in town for a whole week on a honeymoon. With books and media ranging from 50% to 80% off the retail price, s couple of shopping bags of books went home. Fortunately, the American History Story quickly reopened under new management and currently, with the near demise of the Farnesworth House's bookstore this winter, the AHS is among the best bookstores in Gettysburg.

Greystone's The Unknown Civil War series included Frassanito: Battlefield Photography Then & Now. Narrated by Stephen Lang, who was cast as George Pickett and Stonewall Jackson in Ron Maxwell's films, the film summarized William Frassanito's groundbreaking detective work on 1863 photography at Gettysburg. The publication of William Frassanito’s Gettysburg: A Journey in Time began a new field in Gettysburg studies. Approaching post-battle photographs as historical documents, he found many to be misidentified and misunderstood. Frassanito toured the battlefield with Brady’s, Gardner’s and Tipton’s photographs in hand. He struggled with the changed tree lines and missing fences. Key to Frassanito’s discovery were the unique shapes of rocks and boulders. He found that published pictures were mislabeled as being on the July 1 field when in fact their setting was the July 2 field. The settings were on the Rose Farm, which had been absent from battlefield studies, now came to the forefront. Frassanito focused on the positions of arms and legs and realized that the bodies were photographed from different angles. Furthermore, he reinterpreted the famous Devils Den sharpshooter photograph and concluded the body had been carried to the spot and equipment added.

CWL surveyed Glen Tucker's 1958 High Tide at Gettysburg and Edwin Coddington's 1968 Gettysburg: A Study in Command and found that indeed that prior to Frassanito's work, the Bushman/Rose/Slyder farms' actions did indeed get short discussions.

Gettysburg Books by William Frassanito:
Gettysburg: A Journey in Time, 1975
Early Photography at Gettysburg, 1995
Gettysburg, Then & Now: Touring the Battlefield With Old Photos, 1996
The Gettysburg Then and Now Companion, 1997

No comments: