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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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Lunch Among the Ruins: 1862

Lunch Among the Ruins: 1862

Bull Run, Virginia, winter 1862-63. "Ruins of railroad bridge at Blackburn's Ford." From photographs of the main Eastern theater of the war, Second Battle of Bull Run (Battle of Second Manassas). Wet plate glass negative. View full size.

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Misidentified Brady photos

Several of Brady's Bull Run photos were misidentified. The lunch photo is of the ruins of the bridge that carried the track of the Confederate spur railroad from Manassas to Centreville. It crossed Bull run above Mitchell's ford, not Blackburn's. The pontoon bridge above crosses a river between Warrenton and Culpepper not far from Rt 29. There are several other photos of this bridge, including one from downstream with a dam across the river.

150 Years ago

I wonder if, 150 years from now, people will look back on our world and think it to be so primitive.

Maybe the two fellows in the photo had the same thought?

The Picnic Is Over

From the group of Brady pics mentioned earlier, same spot (White Oak Swamp) minus the picnic: Clicky here.

Bridge does look flimsy

Trains were a lot lighter back then, but still probably at least as heavy as your typical 18-wheeler today. They also moved more slowly. Still, even with that taken into account, this bridge would probably not meet today's engineering standards.

Manet, anyone?

Without knowing the context, one could see this view as an unwitting adaptation of Édouard Manet’s "Déjeuner sur l’herbe" (Lunch on the Grass), painted in the very same year - 1862-1863 - minus the naked ladies, of course.

More photos

As we can see in Beachgirl's photo below, Federal troops rebuilt the bridge as a pontoon span. Some more pics by Mathew Brady here, both of the rail ford and the remains of a stone bridge.

[Interesting, although I'm not sure if any of those photos depict the location shown in the picnic photo. - Dave]


I like the way that, in an impressive feat of technological prescience, the gent on the left has chewed his bread into the shape of a folding camera.

Centreville dining

Midway between the world famous Yorkshire Diner and the now defunct Payne's Diner.

A hunk of cornbread, a bottle of hooch

... and thou.

Downright Romantic

Bottle of wine, picnic basket, babbling brook.

[Whiskey, according to the label. - Dave]

Always time for lunch

Hunger happens, man. No matter the time or place. Fantastic photo. It might be fun to colorize this one.


In the classic hobo style. Good thing they packed the fancy picnic basket, it'll be a while before a train comes along. Speaking of which, look at those tiny rails, and instead of ties, apparently they were nailed to planks, probably to facilitate use by wagons and pedestrians as well as trains.

After lunch

Well, after lunch was over, the men got down to brass tacks and rebuilt the durn thing.


Seems kinda early for a Ford dealership.

RR Bridge?

Somebody want to make that read as a "railroad bridge" for me, or have I missed something? I do realize that's the original caption, but they've been wrong before. Then again, so have I.

[Do you not see the bridge? Or the rails? - Dave]

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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