The Emancipator and the Animator: Lincoln at Gettysburg

Part of the interactive from Smithsonian Magazine showing Oakley’s discovery.

On November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln paid tribute to the men who gave the “last full measure of devotion” on that hallowed ground four months earlier.

In the course of the battle between July 1 and 3, over 7,000 men were killed, and it’s estimated that North Carolinians represent one in four of battle’s overall Confederate casualties. The day’s losses were recorded by photographer Timothy Sullivan. The Gettysburg Address was less well documented, the primary record being stereographs by Alexander Gardner. Images from both events have been digitized and made available by the Library of Congress.

In 2013, UNC Asheville professor Chris Oakley, a former Disney animator and screenwriter, worked with several students to create the “Virtual Lincoln Project.” The project’s objective was to recreate the Gettysburg Address in 3-D animation. In the course of that work, Oakley discovered what he believes to be an image of Lincoln in a crowd scene.

A different image of Lincoln, sans top hat, on the dais alongside his Secretary of State William Seward, had long been believed to be the only shot of the President at Gettysburg. Others contend that a top-hatted, bearded man on horseback is Lincoln. Oakley’s discovery drew wide press attention and renewed interest during the Civil War sesquicentennial.

An interactive photograph, mounted by Smithsonian Magazine, allows you to look at the experts’ choices for Abraham Lincoln along with Oakley’s justifications for his own.

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