* the American Civil War -- photography the American Civil War -- photography

The American Civil War: Photography

Figure 1.--This photograph of children watching some officers of the Federal cavalry at Sudley Ford, Bull Run, Virginia was taken in March, 1862. Bull Run or Manasass was the scene of two important early battles. This photograph is notable because it is one of the few Civil War photographs, other than studio portraits, that show children at the time. Notice how the children are wearing uniform items. The photograph wa probably btaken by Alexabder Gardner. Click on the image to see the entire photograph.

No individual is more associated with Civil War photography than Mathew Brady. This is because he equipped traveling photigrapers to vist Union Army camps and battlefields. Given the lmits of photography of the time, the battlefirld shots were taken after the battles and depict scenses where the fighting took place and unburied corpses. Brady was of course not the only photographer at the time. There were photographic studios located throuhjout the Uninted States. Thus there are numerous studio portraits taken at the time of both the soldiers and civilians affected by the War.

Mathew Brady

Many existing Civil War photographs were taken under the supervision of Mathew B. Brady, who at the time had acquired a reputation as one of America's greatest photographers. He spent most of his time during the war supervising his corps of traveling photographers, preserving their negatives and buying others from private photographers freshly returned from the battlefield, so that his collection would be as comprehensive as possible. Brady's exhibition in 1862 of photographs of battlefield corpses marked the first time most people witnessed the carnage of war. Brady's work depicted enlisted men, officers, prisoners, freed slaves, the President, the dead, military installations, armaments, and many other aspects of the great conflict.

Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner wss born on Scitkand (1821). On his return to the United States in 1851, Gardner paid a visit to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, Lonsib (1851). He was a nespaper publisher. At the time lithograpgic tecbology did not permit the publication of photographhs. It was there he saw the Mathew Brady phoograpgs for the first time. Gardner began covering photography in his newspaper, the Glasgow Sentinel New York Times wrote that Brady was able to 'bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along streets, he has done something very like it…” This and other misatribution medant that much of Gardner's work was attributed to Brady. Gardner went on to cover many of the major battles, amning the battle fought bin and around Wadhington and Richmond (Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and the siege of Petersburg). He was one of the photographers that sescened on Richmond after the Condederate Capital fell to Federal forces. He is believed to have taken the last photograph of President Lincoln, only 5 days before his assassination. Gardner would then photograph the assaination conspirators as well as their execution.

Photographic Processes

There were two principal types of studio portraits taken during the Civil War. Throughout 1850 at in 1860 the principal photographic process was the Dauerreotype. It was, however, expensive and had many limitations. The most serious was that because it was a positive, there were no negatives thus copies could not be made. The War actually broke out in 1861. This was the same year the popular carte de viste (CDV) appeared. CDVs rapidly replaced the Daguerreotype. The portraits were less expensive and because a negative was produced, copies coild be made.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Civil War page]
[About Us]
[Biographies] [Campaign] [Causes] [Emancipation] [Families and youth] [Fiscal policy] [Formations and units] [Law]
[Railroads] [Reconstruction] [Slavery] [Soldiers] [Uniforms] [Weaponry]
[Lost Cause] [Segregation] [Civil Rights movement]
[Return to CIH Home page]

Created: 11:01 PM 10/31/2004
Last updated: 7:38 PM 2/28/2020