With funds provided by an FSU Planning Grant and the support of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, Assistant Professor Jeff Beekman continues his “Battlefield Project” – an investigation into the enduring legacy of the Civil War, as evidenced in how we memorialize those sites where devastating loss of life occurred.
The Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park maintains four battlefield locations. Three of the ten bloodiest encounters of the Civil War took place on these grounds, with a combined casualty rate of 100,000. My interest is not only in better understanding this violent history, but also how these sites have been constructed to honor the memory of those who have fallen.
In these battlefields at night, archival photographs of injured soldiers are digitally projected back into physical locations where they were wounded. The images have primarily been extracted from the six-volume “Photographs of Surgical Cases and Specimens,” commissioned by the U.S. Surgeon General in 1864. This archive provides visual documentation of many traumatic wounds suffered by soldiers, both living and deceased at the time of their photographing.
As emitted light, projected into the columns of dark trees and subtly changing dome of the sky, these archival projections are both supported by and illuminating of the landmarks and landscapes they are cast upon. In compressing these two moments (the archival past upon the present day), these photographs investigate the legacy of this tremendous violence, as evidenced in the bodies of soldiers who fought and in the landscapes we continue to maintain 150 years later.