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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Potomac Passage: 1861

Potomac Passage: 1861

Washington, D.C., circa 1861. "Guards at ferry landing on Mason's Island examining a pass." Wet plate glass negative by George N. Barnard. View full size.

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Regarding Jefferson Davis

Downer commented that the 1841 Mississippi rifle was designed by Jefferson Davis. Actually I believe he popularized it for his command, reputedly in opposition to the desires of General Winfield Scott, but had no hand in its design. I read that Eli Whitney Jr. though was one of the first contractors to build it at Harpers Ferry.

There's millions like her but this one's mine

The soldiers have fixed bayonets because they only have one shot. It will take at least 30 seconds to reload the powder and ball into the muzzle and replace the percussion cap. You can be assured they have at least four opposing teeth to open the ball and powder packets, as that's a draft requirement. One hand to hold the rifle upright and one hand to hold the packet while you rip it with your teeth. If they had revolver pistols, which weren't common at the beginning of the war, you could get off six shots quickly with poor accuracy. But it would take 3 or 4 minutes to reload because at that time they were muzzle loaders too. Levity aside, the next few years are full of horror for all.

Rare Rifle

The weapons in the possession of the Yankee guards is none other than the 1841 Mississippi Rifle, designed by the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, when he was the Colonel of a US regiment from Mississippi. The rifle was first manufactured in .54 cal and later enlarged to .58. It was a short weapon, but the rather nasty saber bayonet was long enough to compensate for the rifle, and reached out in length to equal the length of the longer 1861 Springfield rifle and its bayonet.

The brass on the butt was an access to the rifle's cleaning kit -- or tobacco.

A Visual Time Machine!

What an interesting photo especially when you consider how old it is. There is so much to see. And to think that Abe Lincoln could have walked right into the frame!

That civilian on the left

Has "spy" or "journalist" written all over him.

Mason's Island

Presently Theodore Roosevelt Island. That's Georgetown on the other side of the river I would wager.

Time warp

Sorta like going thru airline security today, huh?

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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