Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Alleged Photographs of German Skirmishers Advancing Towards a French Position at La Moncelle During the Battle of Sedan

There has been a lot of discussion of these photographs online about whether or not they are authentic combat photographs from the Franco-Prussian War. At the moment I think they are images from some sort of elaborate recreation that were made to sell postcards or else some other attempt to document the conflict by photographing a reenactment. If these photographs were real, the hardest thing to explain would be the position of the photographer as he would have been in an extremely exposed position. What I once thought were French soldiers in the second and third photographs in the foreground are actually clearly firing towards the photographer in sharper versions of the photographs I have found, which would mean that they are more German soldiers. There doesn't seem to be any blurring in the photographs caused by movement of the soldiers which was a common trait in photos of the era and could be a sign that the photographs are posed. Cameras with fast exposure times which would minimize any blurring existed at the time but their use was not very widespread.

The first photograph.
What I have deemed the first photograph is on a postcard that is said to show lines of German skirmishers advancing towards a French position at La Moncelle during the Battle of Sedan in 1870. A few fascinating details that are discernible in this photograph are the trail of what some think is blood flowing from a spot next to the doorway of the house in the foreground, the bullet holes visible in the same house, the columns of German soldiers marching down the road, and the large amount of smoke rising in the distance to the left. I have also assembled seven related photographs below, possibly for the first time online, that were taken at the same event:

Uncropped lower resolution version of the photograph from Getty. Source.

The second photograph. Source.

Second photograph taken from another angle at a noticeably different time. What look like German soldiers in the foreground who seem to be facing the camera and firing. They appear much closer than they were when some of them presumably were in their skirmish lines and columns in the first photograph. What appears to be additional columns of German infantry can be seen marching down the road in the left background. The puffs of smoke in the trees in the right background look much more prominent than they do in the first photograph.

Uncropped lower resolution version of the second photograph from Getty. Source.

The third photograph. Source.

A third photograph taken from what looks like the same position as the second image. The German soldiers in the foreground look like they are clearly aiming their rifles in the direction of the photographer. There seems to have been at least three other versions of postcards featuring this photograph I have collected below.

A second version that is sharper but cropped. Source.

A third cropped version. Source.

A fourth uncropped version that has much less detail. Source.

What looks like the same house today in La Moncelle which is featured in all of the photographs. Source.

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