Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows photographers at work capturing the beauty of cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. And isn’t that what any visitor to our nation’s capital would do? But what distinguishes the professional from most amateurs is the tripod. Apparently a professional photographer was working on the day my great-uncle Millard Davis and his wife Edith visited the Gettysburg National Military Park. Note the tripod to the far left of the photo Millard snapped.
|Edith Kite Davis at the entrance to Devil's Den|
Gettysburg National Military Park
However, Millard and Edith took their own pictures with their own camera, most likely without benefit of a tripod.
One of their stops along the Gettysburg Battlefield tour that day was Devil’s Den, an important site for artillery and infantry snipers during the battle that became the turning point in the War Between the States.
|Edith Davis at Devil's Den|
overlooking Plum Rum
The outcropping of boulders formed a high ridge giving the soldiers a strategic vantage point overlooking Plum Run valley between Little Round Top and Big Round Top. It was at Devil’s Den that the South claimed one of its few successes at Gettysburg.
|Millard Davis at Devil's Den|
Some of the boulders
stood 20 feet high
Touring battlefields has been a long-standing tradition in my family. Readers of Sepia Saturday might recall that just recently I wrote about my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring (Millard’s sister) and her friend Olive Williams.
Their trip to Mercersburg was not their only trip
together. Two months earlier in June
1928, Woody and Velma, along with her sister Violetta, accompanied the Williams
family on a trip to tour the Antietam battlefield in Maryland. Antietam’s two claims to fame are that it was
the scene of the first major Civil War battle on Union soil AND it was the deadliest
single-day battle in American history.
|at Antietam Battlefield June 1928|
Standing: Helen Williams, Mary Williams
Seated: Rosie Williams, Violetta Davis, Robert Williams
Seated on the grass: Velma Davis Woodring, Olive Williams
In that post I included a letter that Olive wrote in 1925 asking Velma’s mother to allow Velma to make a trip to Gettysburg with the Williams family and their mutual friend Virginia Cole.
While transcribing that letter, I experienced what can only be described as "a light bulb moment": the moment when clues in a letter shed light on an old photo that my family had laughed about unapologetically because we figured we weren't disrespecting the memory of a family member. After all, we didn't know the women in it. To us the photo was simply funny
|Left: Virginia Cole|
Right: Olive Williams
Gettysburg August 1925
because the mood of those two unidentified women standing beside a cannon in a battlefield resembled the mood in this picture at another battlefield:
|Me, Momma and Stonewall Jackson|
Manassas, Virginia 1967
The light bulb moment was realizing those then-unidentified women were none other than Virginia Cole and Olive Williams. The August 1925 date scrawled in the upper right corner (cropped out of the posted picture) offers strong evidence that this was the big trip to Gettysburg that Mr. Williams had planned for the girls.
We all agreed that those two women (now identified as Virginia and Olive) seem as bored as I had been that summer when my family visited yet ANOTHER Civil War battlefield, that time in Manassas, Virginia.
|Momma and me at the Union monument|
Manassas, Virginia 1967
Could anyone be more pouty, more disagreeable, more "fun" to be around?
(Come on, Daddy – how much
|Momma, me and Mary Jollette|
at the Governor's Hotel, Falls Church, Virginia 1967
And what is that in my lap? Why, my camera case, of course. I certainly didn’t want to miss out on recording all those memories of us crisscrossing battlefields dotted with cannon, statues of war heroes, and monuments honoring dead patriots.
For more Kodak moments, please visit Sepia Saturday.