A spectacular and remarkably informative bird’s-eye view of the Battle of Gettysburg by John Bachelder, the pre-eminent 19th-century documentarian of the event often viewed as the “high-water mark of the Confederacy”.
The view was published in late 1863, within months of the events depicted, and marked the beginning of John Bachelder’s three-decade career documenting and depicting the battle in prose, maps and prints. He depicts the battlefield in tremendous detail as seen from an imaginary point above and to the west, using shading to indicate the rolling hills of the Pennsylvania countryside and showing roads, lanes, wooded areas, the boundaries of fields, &c. By assigning different colors to Union and Confederate forces for each day of the battle, he was able to condense three days of action into a single image while enabling the viewer to follow the overall sequence of events, if not the details of the many individual encounters (Note: The example offered here was issued uncolored, and recently was colored to replicate Bachelder’s color scheme.) The margins bear legends, a plan of the Gettysburg National Cemetery and endorsements of Union Commander George Meade and other officials attesting to the accuracy of Bachelder’s work.
John Bachelder (1825-1894) was an American painter, photographer and historian. In the years before the Civil War he drew and published nearly three dozen views of New England and Pennsylvania towns, such as this lovely view of Amherst, Mass. Within days of the battle he traveled to Gettysburg, where he spent months traversing the field, making sketches, and interviewing participants and witnesses.
The view offered here was his very first published image of the battle, but, intellectually engaged by the challenge of reconstructing the complex event and deeply committed to honoring the sacrifices of those who fought there, he spent the next 30 years researching the battle down to its most minute details. This entailed corresponding with hundreds of Union and Confederate officers and ultimately enabled him to produce a 2500-page manuscript account, as well as a number of remarkable maps and prints. He won wide acclaim for the thoroughness and fair-mindedness of his work, including the endorsements of dozens of Union as well as Confederate officers, and was later named Superintendent of Tablets and Legends for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association.
Grim & Block, Torn in Two, pp. 134-5 (ill.). Rumsey #3655 (variant ed.) Stephenson, Civil War Maps, #323.
Minor marginal soiling and staining. Mended tears, one 2 ¾” into image at upper left, the other 2 ½” into legend. Lower margin trimmed just into “doodle” below Meade signature. Lined on verso. Withal, an attractive impression with unusually vibrant original color.