Fredericksburg architecture

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Graphic Arts GC216 Civil War Photographs

These two half stereos are part of a large collection of Civil War photography given to the Graphic Arts Division by Augustin J. Powers, through Charles Powers, Class of 1938. All were published by the Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), although no individual photographers are credited.

We know very little about the odd structures seen here, beyond the few words written below. They were built near the estate known as Chatham or the Lacy House, which overlooked the Rappahannock River and Fredericksburg, Virginia. We know that near the main house were dozens of supporting structures, although we have yet to find images of any other elaborate sod houses such as these.

During the American Civil War the house’s owner, James Horace Lacy, enlisted as a Confederate soldier. While he was away, the Union army took over his estate and used it as their headquarters. Then in November 1862, General Ambrose E. Burnside crossed the Rappahannock River below Chatham, seized Fredericksburg, and attacked Robert E. Lee’s Confederate camp. Burnside’s army lost, suffering 12,600 casualties in the battle. Chatham was turned into a temporary hospital. For several days army surgeons operated on hundreds of soldiers inside the Lacy House, assisted by such eminent volunteers as poet Walt Whitman and Clara Barton, who later founded the American chapter of the Red Cross.

Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan is known to have visited and photographed Chatham in March 1863 and may be the author of these images. If anyone knows more, please let us know. For more about the Lacy House, see

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I found an image very much like the sod house above, in Timothy O'Sullivan, American's forgotten photographer by James D. Horan, 1966 (p. 138)