The principal subject of this humorous view is a tree trunk expertly carved and painted by the Confederate army to look like a massive cast-iron cannon. George N. Barnard’s assistant stretches to fire the weapon known as a "Quaker gun" (it can never be fired, no one gets hurt). The photograph offers wry commentary on the nature of war and on the art of deception. At Centreville, Virginia, Union General George McClellan had been fully deceived by the Confederate fortifications and row upon row of "large guns" seen through the lenses of his ever-present field glasses, or binoculars. His Confederate counterpart, General Robert E. Lee, had far fewer weapons than McClellan, but he had outsmarted his opposite by designing and building his fortifications to appear at a distance far stronger and more dangerous than they actually were.
Signature: Inscribed on verso: "305-IV / Conf. Fortifications at Manassas"
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on mount, verso TC: " 1 pos[?] 200% // 305 - IV // Conf. Fortifications at // Manassas".
Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
General Albert Ordway; [Paul Katz, North Bennington, Vermont, June 10, 1984]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," April 2, 2013–September 2, 2013.
Gibbes Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," September 27, 2013–January 5, 2014.
New Orleans Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," January 31, 2014–May 4, 2014.