Historic Photo of Confederate Solders in Frederick (2012)

Confederate Soldiers in Frederick, MarylandA more detailed and heavily revised version of this has been posted. I want to share a different way viewing the historic photograph of Confederate Soldiers in Frederick. The photo shows the soldiers as they prepare to march toward the Antietam battleground. It is embedded in a three-dimensional Google Earth map overlaid on a contemporary view of Frederick, MD.  The overlay allows you to view the scene as the photographer saw it through the lens of his camera.  The photo, which was obtained courtesy of the HSFC, was taken in 1862 from Rosenstock’s Dry Goods and Clothing store which was located at the northeast corner of Market and Patrick Street.

Loading the Map on Your Computer

To get started, you need to download the Google Earth (kml) map file and open it in Google Earth.  If you don’t have the free Google Earth application installed on you computer, go to the Google Earth website for instructions. Once you open the presentation, double click on the “Confederates in Frederick” link to display a balloon with further information and instructions.

Historical Background

Here is a link to a very informative review of Lee’s strategy in late 1862.   It contains an excellent map showing Lee’s Invasion of Maryland and the Union response over the September 3-13, 1862 time period.  It shows that Frederick occupied a critical location. Lee’s objective was to ” keep the enemy occupied north of the Potomac until the approach of winter would make an enemy advance into Virginia difficult”. After crossing the Potomac near White’s Ford, the main portion of the Army of Northern Virginia reached Frederick by September 7. About 45,000 confederate troops camped in and around Frederick mostly to the south near the Best farm,  which later become a focal point of the Battle of Monocacy.  On September 10, Lee’s army left Frederick to execute the plan that led to the bloody battles of South Mountain and Antietam. It was probably this day that the photograph was  taken.

Viewing the Historic Photo

Back in the Google Earth presentation. Zoom out to about 50,000 feet to show the area to the South of Frederick where the Monocacy river crosses  the Urbana Pike.  This is the general location of the Confederate campgrounds. No one knows the exact routes of individual units  on September 10, but the main axis of the Confederate movement was north on the Urbana Pike, which becomes Market Street, then west on Patrick Street, which becomes the Old National  Pike.

Now double click on the “Rosenstocks Store” label, which marks the location of the camera.   Google Earth will fly to corner of Market and Patrick streets viewed from above. It goes without saying that the map shows contemporary Frederick; the original buildings were replaced long ago.  The historic record shows that the northeast corner was occupied by Rosenstock’s  Dry Goods and Clothing store which was founded in 1855 by Joseph Rosenstock and later run by his sons, Aaron and Jacob. Across the street was the Frederick County Bank and next door to the bank were the offices of the weekly Herald Newspaper.  Further north on Market Street were a variety of stores and shops. The historic Red Men’s Hall occupied the southeast corner across Patrick Street from the store.

The marker labeled “Camera View” is located at the approximate position of the camera.  The camera was located above street level, either on an upper floor or the roof of the store.  It was pointed north up Market Street.  Double click on the “Camera View” label to see the image as the photographer saw it through the lens of his camera.  The markers labeled “Left Edge” and “Top Edge” mark the edges of the photo as seen in this view.

Finally, double click on the “Historic Photo” label to activate the Google Earth photo viewer.  Using the controls in the top right of the window, you can zoom and pan through the photo.

A Close Examination of the Photo

The original photo is in the archives of the Historical Society of Frederick County Maryland where I volunteer  I am grateful to the HSFC for allowing me to use the image and for providing much of the historical background used here. Please contact the HSFC for information on how to obtain additional printed or digital copies. Beyond its place in the history of Frederick, this photo, according to an interesting discussion in the Civil War Education Association Facebook page, is the only known photo of Army of Northern Virginia troops in the field as combatants. It shows authentic details about the uniform and equipment of fully armed and equipped Confederate  troops. Very little more is known about the photo. We don’t know which unit the soldiers in the photo belonged to or the exact route they followed through town.  We know from the photo  that the unit has halted heading north on Market Street about a half block beyond Patrick Street, which would be their most direct route to the West.  We know that they were part of the incredibly complex operation of moving 45,000 soldiers into  battle.  Perhaps they were waiting until Lee’s officers in the background decided it was time for them to go.

Its interesting to look at other details in the photo. The building in the background at the top  left probably  held the offices of the Herald Newspaper.  To the right were various Market Street stores and shops. We see what appears to be two soldiers sitting on the porch of one of the stores.  In the top middle is a figure that appears to be a woman holding an object with two hands.  Presumably, civilian life in occupied Frederick had to go on.

I am particularly struck by the faces of two men at the bottom just to the left of the sign.  At this instant in time, they were captured in the photo gazing curiously directly at the camera.  They look barely old enough to shave.   I know that they, with the other solders in the photo, will soon be engaged in the bloodiest battle in American history.  I wonder what happened to them. Because nations always send their youngest men to fight their battles, sadly when they are killed, they leave this world with wives never embraced, children never born, whole lives never lived. I hope their fate was different. I hope they survived the war, lived long and prolific lives, and now have hundreds of descendants wondering what their ancestor did in the war.

 Process

I want to add some details about the process used to create this presentation.  I started looking for the location of the photograph by searching for the name as it appears on the sign, “J. Rosens  Dry Goods & Clothing”.  I expected to find the name in the 1859 Frederick Md Directory which I described in an earlier post. Surprisingly, there is no reference to the Rosenstock store or family even though they had been in business since 1855. I am still puzzled by this strange omission. Happily, the Historical Society provided me with the missing information.  Two useful references are the “History of Frederick County Maryland, Volume 1” and “The Citizen. Historical and Industrial Edition”, Frederick City MD., September 30, 1904.

Armed with the name and location of the store in the foreground of the photo, I started to try to locate the position of the camera.  To me, the most logical position was at the Red Men’s Hall which had a direct view in the direction of the troops.  I positioned the “Historic Photo” photo overlay the “Camera View” placemark where I now have the “Red Men’s Hall” placemark. But, from this location, I could not set the camera bearing to line up the street in the photo with the direction of Market Street while still looking at the store.   Then I moved the camera position to its current location.  I adjusted the camera tilt to align the image of the buildings in the photo background with the contemporary scene and the bearing to line up the sidewalk with the direction of Market Street.  Then I adjusted the image size by tweaking the photo overlay.  We know that the photo was taken from above the sign, but we do not know the actual height nor do we know the precise location of the sign.  I guessed that the height was about 8 meters (26 ft) and positioned the camera at the extreme southern end of the building.

There are still missing details.  I would love to see photos that show the building in the background as they existed when the photo was taken.  I could then add them in this presentation as more photo overlays.

I hope you enjoy this way of viewing history. I would appreciate any comments that add to the story or correct any details I may have wrong.

5 thoughts on “Historic Photo of Confederate Solders in Frederick (2012)

  1. Volume 2 of Williams’ History of Frederick County was published while Aaron Rosenstock, Joseph’s son, was still living. On page 1391 the address of the Rosenstock store is given as at the corner of Market and East Patrick but expanded to 7-11 East Market. I believe the photo was taken on East Patrick facing Market. Try a window there for a shot.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the reference which I will read with great interest. I am a bit confused about the address you mention. In the current street layout, there can be only North or South Market and East or West Patrick. I assume you mean 7-11 North Market, but will check what it says in your reference. They were only beginning to use street numbers about the time the photo was taken. I will take another shot at locating the camera on Patrick St and see ho that works out.

  3. my family lived there before the war of states rights. the only reason there is a decent picture is because of the older woman blocking the road, I guess you may say in protest.

  4. Greetings from Norway.
    Great post.
    The picture is taken between 10 and 10.30 on the morning on September 10.
    So the unit in the picture is most likely from Hoods Division.

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