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Quarters of Men in Fort Sedgewick, generally known as Fort Hell

Quarters of Men in Fort Sedgewick, generally known as Fort Hell

Publisher: Alexander Gardner

Medium: Photographic print

Shelfmark: 1784.a.13.2_f068r

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photographer: Timothy H. O'Sullivan

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Quarters of Men in Fort Sedgewick, generally known as Fort Hell was captured by O’Sullivan in May 1865 at Petersburg. The Union fortifications, supposedly 'bomb proof quarters', were close to the Confederate line and in his description, Gardner comments that 'only the reckless would dare expose the slightest part of the person for a second' for fear of being shot, hence the nickname ‘Fort Hell’. Gardner notes that a nearby fortification was nicknamed ‘Fort Damnation’. The image is reminiscent to photographs of trenches during the First World War and highlights how both armies constructed large trench fortifications during the long siege that made up much of the Battle of Petersburg. Gardner notes that photograph cannot do justice to battlefield scene and that although the image 'presents a singular and grotesque appearance – to be appreciated it must be seen; no description will prove adequate'. O’Sullivan took this photograph at the end of the war, a month after 'this ground became consecrated and holy to the memory of the brave soldiers who fell in that glorious assault upon the opposing batteries, and to those who so courageously defended their post of honour – it was strewn with the dead and dying'.

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