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The Old Stone Church: 1862

March 1862. "Centreville, Virginia. Stone church. [Photo shows the Old Stone Church as it appeared between the two battles at Bull Run.]" Wet plate glass negative by the Civil War photographer George N. Barnard. View full size.

March 1862. "Centreville, Virginia. Stone church. [Photo shows the Old Stone Church as it appeared between the two battles at Bull Run.]" Wet plate glass negative by the Civil War photographer George N. Barnard. View full size.


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Perspective not so wild

It's tricky but not quite as wild as it first appears. If you look closely at the front of the church (right next to the sentry's face) you'll see a door with a window above. So, the church is really two stories tall, with room for a balcony. The side windows are actually double-height (note that they're triple-hung) but they look like ordinary windows and the church as a whole seems smaller than it really is because there's very little right next to it to compare it with. And that, as architecture professors say, is the difference between size and scale.

"Was that 'Right Face'?"

Our soldier is standing along Braddock Road, which originally stretched unbroken from Alexandria to the vicinity of Gilbert's Corner. Construction of other roadways over the years has broken it into sections, this orphan is north of US 29 (aka Lee Highway, formerly known as US 29/211, and originally Warrenton Turnpike.)

That's the Church of the Ascension in the background. A similar looking addition was added on after this photo was taken.

If he were here today, he would be facing a sound barrier blocking the view of Sully Road, which was two lanes when I moved here in 1988 but is now six wide and growing. Behind him would be I-66, which grew from four to eight lanes in the same time period. And above him would be airplanes making their approach to Dulles Airport, about ten miles to his right.

Large Windows

If the 6 men seem small, but aren't, then the windows in the church must be extremely large.

The gable end windows are more standard in size. The chimney also is correct, yet looks puny compared to the windows.


This is a view of the church today. since rebuilt using stones from the original. It was said to be pretty much gutted of wood for burning by troops during the war. Story here

Regarding comments on perspective. I thought this would make a pretty good image in 3D and apparently it is actually half of a stereoscope image. Maybe someone can do the anaglyph thing with it. I don't have the tools here.

[Click here for "the analglyph thing." -Dave]

The church is still standing and is actively used

The stone church appears to still be standing and has an active congregation. You can read a brief history of the church here:

There are no stacking swivels on these muskets

Stacking swivels were a later innovation. At this time, muskets were stacked by interlocking the bayonets. It works quite well, but is a little tricky to master. Stacking swivels are much easier to use and allowed muskets to be stacked without mounting the bayonet. The soldier closest to the camera appears to be carrying a Springfield model 1842, .69 cal smoothbore musket. These were quite common early in the war, but were phased out as more rifled muskets became available.

Maybe Because!

That church is a two story building and the windows you can see are 3 pane windows and the one above the doors is a single pane. If you take one of the small soldiers and move him to the door of the church, he fits just right.

Myth busters had a good episode on film perspective.

Why so confused?

The perspective is fine. Everyone is so used to various items being out of focus today (bokeh) that they don't know how to look at a photograph where everything is in focus. Obviously, the "large" soldier is on a hill, overlooking both the other men and the church. The perspective is flattened, sure, but is not "weird" or unexpected.

Toy soldiers

I can not understand the perspective in this picture. A group of soldiers looks like toys. Not only compared to the soldier in the middle, but above all to the buildings in the background.

Stack arms.

A little over a hundred years after this photo was taken, the stacking swivels on the M1903 Springfield rifles we recruits lugged around Great Lakes. Illinois, were still being put to use. At the command "stack arms," the stacking swivels on three rifles would be connected to form a tripod and 20 or more could be stacked loosely and evenly around them. There was a little of the lost-car-in-the-mall-parking-lot vibe when you tried to find your weapon among several hundred others after two or three hours of classroom training.

Perspective gone wild!

What's going on here? The differences in perceived size between the three objects of known size (6-ish foot soldier, 6-ish foot soldiers&cart, church) is bewildering.

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