A couple of weeks ago, I received my purchase, an original print of "The Village of Lewinsville, Virgina, Now Occupied by United States Troops" from Old Prints and Maps, an on-line store. The engraving comes from the December 14, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly. I generally like to purchase old newspapers and magazines in their entirety and had somewhat mixed emotions about contributing to the practice of cutting them up for the purpose of selling individual images. This print had sentimental value, as I live right down the street from the location depicted in the engraving, so I made a break from standard policy.
|Engraving of Lewinsville from Harper's Weekly (image courtesy of the seller). The newspaper described Lewinsville as a "miserable, broken-down village, very Virginian in aspect." A copy of the entire December 14, 1861 Harper's Weekly can be viewed at sonofthesouth.net.|
The intersection shown in the print is likely the convergence of today's Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road. (For a current map, see here.) Local historian Edgar Hon places the Union troops on the south side of the crossroads, with Great Falls Street to the left, and Chain Bridge Road running along the length of the engraving.
Both Hon and Carole Herrick, another local historian, believe that Harper's Weekly likely took liberty with the actual depiction of the town as it appeared at the time. I tend to agree. In particular, the graveyard of the Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, which was established prior to the Civil War, should be located on the northeast corner of the crossroads, but is missing. Moreover, the various structures depicted on the engraving do not appear to align with those shown on an 1862 Union Army map of Northeastern Virginia and a subsequent version in the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records. But even these maps contain contradictions. Short of photographic or written evidence that I have not yet seen, we may never know what Lewinsville looked like exactly in 1861.
I am now having the print framed, and before long, it will occupy a space on my office wall. Regardless of any inaccuracies, I really like this print. The bleakness of the image conveys the sense of foreboding calm that settled over the Union lines in the fall and winter of 1861 before the carnage of future battles and campaigns. The print also serves as a constant reminder of Lewinsville's rurual and Civil War past. Sometimes pictures are worth a thousands words, and a find like this one explains why collecting antique prints is so satisfying.
Carole Herrick, Images of America: McLean (2011); Edgar R. Hon in the Yearbook of the Historical Society of Fairfax County, Vol. 29 (2003-04).