Bikes Around Town

Another regular subject for me is bicycles and public transportation. Here are four more bicycle photos seen around town.

A couple walking home together. He’s using a Bikeshare bike, which is a pretty positive commentary on their adoption by more than just tourists.

Walking Home
Walking Home

A pair of interesting old bikes locked up on the rack outside the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum.

Bikes, National Portrait Gallery
Bikes, National Portrait Gallery

I’m on the fence about how much I really like this image, but it’s bikes, so I’m including it for now. Let me know what you think – does the composition work well? Placement of depth-of-field?

Bikes, Planter Box, Scooter
Bikes, Planter Box, Scooter

Finally, the bike in the Hermes window. While it’s not in use for its intended purpose, it’s a nice looking bike, and it’s in the Hermes store window, very cleverly employed in the window design. I forget if it was red or dark blue (I think red), but it was a splash of color that popped out against the white backdrop of the window, pulling your eye around the display.

Bike, Hermes Window
Bike, Hermes Window

Ball’s Bluff – Ed Bearss

Here’s another photo of Ed Bearss I took on the Ball’s Bluff tour, as he’s describing the battle in front of the sign at the park entrance, armed with one of his US Marine Corps- themed swagger sticks.

Ed At Balls Bluff
Ed At Balls Bluff

He’s always carrying one to point and gesture with while he talks, for emphasis.

Ball’s Bluff Battlefield

Another stop on the tour I did with Ed Bearss earlier this month was the battlefield of Ball’s Bluff. Ball’s Bluff was a very significant early battle in the Civil War – while in the grand scheme of things a minor engagement with a total of three hundred or so Union casualties (including drowning deaths of soldiers trying to escape the Rebel onslaught across the Potomac River, swollen with recent rainwater), the Union loss and its aftermath (bodies of soldiers who drowned fleeing the battle washed up in Washington DC and as far south as Fort Washington, some 60 miles downriver) were shocking enough that they triggered the formation of a joint committee comprised of senators and congressmen, the Committee on the Conduct of the War. This oversight committee was empowered to investigate not only the military but the executive branch up to and including the President himself.

Today, while the cemetery itself is administered by the Veterans’ Administration and is a National Military Cemetery, the parkland surrounding it is not US Park Service property but instead is a joint program of local and regional governments and non-profits. There is a 1970s subdivision built right up against its southern edge, which you have to drive through to get to the park.

This is a view down Ball’s Bluff – some three hundred feet tall, you can see the river as a bright patch in the lower center of the image. Many of the Union casualties were chased down this cliff face by charging Rebel soldiers and plunged to their deaths. The photo doesn’t do justice to the steepness of the cliff face – that would be a truly terrifying predicament – leap or fall over the edge to break your neck if you’re lucky, or get shot.

Balls Bluff
Balls Bluff

Here is the gate to the cemetery – one of the smallest in the National Military Cemetery system. Fifty-four are buried, with twenty-five markers. Only one is known. The cemetery is closed to new burials, for rather obvious reasons. There are two markers outside the cemetery where a Union commander, Col. Edward Baker, and a Southern infantryman, Clinton Hatcher, were killed, but neither are interred in the cemetery or within the park.

Balls Bluff Cemetery Gate
Balls Bluff Cemetery Gate

The cemetery itself is a very simple design, with the headstones laid out in a semi-circle around a flagpole, enclosed by a wall of Seneca sandstone, the same stone used to build the Smithsonian Castle.

Balls Bluff Cemetery
Balls Bluff Cemetery

A close-up of one of the headstones for the unknown dead buried within.

Balls Bluff Unknown Headstone
Balls Bluff Unknown Headstone

This in a way closes a loop in my antique image collecting. While I don’t actively seek out Civil War soldier images, as they are highly sought after and very expensive, especially when the subject is identified, the graves of the unknown soldiers are a reminder of why so many soldiers at the time had their portraits made. Not only to send home to loved ones out of pride in their profession, but to help provide a means of identification should they be killed in battle, in a day when the dog tag had not been invented, nor DNA profiling or even dental records. Today, the unknown soldier is almost impossible, but back then, an all too frequent reality. When you were killed on the battlefield without any form of ID, and the battle lasted for several days, and your body lay in the sun as it ripened and rotted, and maybe there was no good way to get your body back to civilization at the time of the battle, you could end up not buried, or just dumped in a shallow grave for sometimes years. There are photos of burial parties at Cold Harbor where formerly enslaved black men are collecting remains for inclusion in the cemetery, and they have a cart full of skeletons.

Monocacy Battlefield – The Farms – Best Farm

The Best farm is the largest remaining property on the battlefield at Monocacy. The original property was 750 acres, today it retains 270-some. The property was owned by a white family who immigrated from Santo Domingo (now Haiti) at the beginning of the 19th century, fleeing political and social unrest after the slave rebellion on the island. They re-established their plantation outside Frederick, Maryland, which they named L’Hermitage. The landowners who established the farm had 90 slaves, an unusually large number for a property of its size, and they were the second-largest holding of slaves in the county. According to the Park Service website, one theory has it that they were trying to replicate the slave-labor system they were used to in Haiti, and had that many slaves as part of a rental scheme where they would rent them out to neighboring farmers. On my tour, it was mentioned several times that recent evidence has come to light that the farm operation included the breeding of slaves like racehorses for sale.

The main house is quite large, bigger even than the Thomas farm house. Like the Thomas and Worthington homes, it is not open for tours. The interior is in quite rough shape, but stable. Perhaps one day they will be able to restore it and re-open the home for interpretive tours. The farm was privately operated until 1993 when the park service acquired it. The house was not occupied during the later years of farm operation, though, judging from the condition visible through the windows. If I recall correctly the last occupant of the home was a relative of former Senator Mac Mathias. I wonder if she knew the full history of her property – I don’t know how comfortable I would feel living in a house, no matter how lovely, that was built on the profits from the sale of human beings.

Big House, Best Farm
Big House, Best Farm

I originally thought this structure was the summer kitchen. In fact, it was a secondary home on the property. It was furnished with plaster walls with decorative motifs, much to the same standard as the main house. It is thought that the structure was built to support other French refugees from Haiti and the French Revolution who were relatives or friends of the family. There would have been a porch with stairs on this side facing the house to provide access. The row of slave cabins would have been between this structure and the main road. If they were still standing, they would be visible in the background of this scene.

Secondary House, Best Farm
Secondary House, Best Farm
Secondary House, Best Farm
Secondary House, Best Farm

Here is a view of the stone barn as seen from inside the corn crib. I remember seeing this barn from the interstate highway as we would drive past every weekend when I was a child, and wanting to go see it up close. I had no idea then of the history of the property. The roof of the barn is of course not original, but the stone walls themselves date to 1798 when they were mentioned in the tax assessment. It is an unusual structure in its design, and looks and feels more like a French or English country barn from the 18th century than an American barn structure.

Stone Barn, Best Farm
Stone Barn, Best Farm

A view of the corn crib.

Best Farm Corn Crib End
Best Farm Corn Crib End

The reason the farm is called the Best farm is that it was leased for operation by the Best family from 1864 until 1993. It was owned, however, by the Trail family, which has provoked a friendly dispute between Ed Bearss and the Park Service staff because he still wants them to call it the Trail farm, not the Best farm.

Photography, Alternative Processes, Really Big Cameras, and other cool stuff

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,668 other followers

%d bloggers like this: