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Civil War Photographers

Hundreds of photographers whose names may never be known made their living following the armies during the Civil War. They worked out in the field tents and traveled at a moment’s notice. Photographers recorded the faces of tens of thousands of soldiers: new recruits and veterans—producing a vast likeness of American society.

Many Civil War photographers began their careers as apprentices to Mathew B. Brady, America's self-appointed photographic "historian." Initially, a small corps of photographers copied maps and charts for the Union's Secret Service, which were distributed as photographic prints to both field and division commanders.

During the Civil War, most photographers worked with the collodion-on-glass negatives, which required delicate and laborious procedures even in the studio. When the photographer was ready for action, a sheet of glass was cleaned, coated with collodion, partially dried, dipped carefully into a bath containing nitrate of silver, then exposed in the camera for several seconds and processed in the field darkroom tent--all before the silver collodion mixture had dried. Given the danger of their situation and the technical difficulty of their task, front-line photographers rarely if ever attempted action scenes.

Civil War photographers produced vast photographic documentation of the Civil War. Despite decades of painstaking research by dedicated historians and Civil War buffs, a large number of the era's photographs remain unidentified.
General Robert E. Lee
1860
1860
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1908
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1908
91 Media in collectionpage 1 of 1
The Evacuation of Fort Sumter

The Evacuation of Fort Sumter

This exceptional early war carte-de-visite album inscribed "The Evacuation of Fort Sumter" was given by an unknown donor to a "Mrs. Crawford Washington" in 1862. It includes sixteen cartes de visite of Fort Sum... more

[Maneuvers, Union Cavalry, Winter Quarters].  Brady album, p. 127

[Maneuvers, Union Cavalry, Winter Quarters]. Brady album, p. 127

Formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady (American, born Ireland, 1823?–1896 New York)

[Family Group]

[Family Group]

Although Civil War photography has been much studied, there are still important photographs about which little is known. This formal portrait of a well-to-do family with two military guards and a black servant ... more

Hamilton's Floating Battery Moored at the End of Sullivan's Island the Night Before They Opened Fire upon Fort Sumter

Hamilton's Floating Battery Moored at the End of Sullivan's Island the...

In January 1861, prior to the outbreak of war, James Randolph Hamilton began the construction of the ironclad floating battery to be used by the Confederate government to attack Fort Sumter and other Federal po... more

Confederate Trestle Work on Alexandria Railroad

Confederate Trestle Work on Alexandria Railroad

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830–1902)

Confederate Fortifications, Yorktown, Virginia

Confederate Fortifications, Yorktown, Virginia

James F. Gibson (American, born 1828)

Union Cavalry Winter Quarters

Union Cavalry Winter Quarters

Formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady (American, born Ireland, 1823?–1896 New York)

[Antietam Battlefield]

[Antietam Battlefield]

At the outbreak of the Civil War Alexander Gardner was appointed to General George McClellan's staff with the honorary rank of captain. Initially he and a small corps of photographers copied maps and charts for... more

Fortifications, Manassas

Fortifications, Manassas

This early war view documents Union soldiers investigating the extensive defensive works built by the Confederate army after their stunning victory at Manassas in the war’s first land battle, on July 21, 1861. ... more

Confederate Earthworks, Centreville, Virginia

Confederate Earthworks, Centreville, Virginia

George N. Barnard (American, 1819–1902)

[Supply Steamers at Nashville, Tennessee]

[Supply Steamers at Nashville, Tennessee]

The seemingly endless array of steamships along the wharf at Nashville, Tennessee, provides an accurate report of the complex preparations required to supply the United States Army before an impending Civil War... more

Ruins of Mrs. Henry's House, Battlefield of Bull Run

Ruins of Mrs. Henry's House, Battlefield of Bull Run

Despite their preparations, Mathew B. Brady and his corps of field photographers did not return with a single photograph from the war’s first land battle, at Bull Run, Virginia, in July 1861. And no Southern ph... more

Confederate Soldier [on the Battlefield at Antietam]

Confederate Soldier [on the Battlefield at Antietam]

The Battle of Antietam (named after a creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland) occurred on September 17, 1862, and was known as the "bloodiest single day of the war." More than 26,000 soldiers on both sides were wounde... more

[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near  Antietam, Maryland]

[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), ...

Two weeks after he recorded the carnage at Antietam, Alexander Gardner returned to the battlefield to photograph the visit of President Abraham Lincoln. The president made the seventy-mile journey to Maryland t... more

Quaker Gun, Centreville, Virginia

Quaker Gun, Centreville, Virginia

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 weapo... more

Bull Run. Bridge near Union Mills (destroyed seven times)

Bull Run. Bridge near Union Mills (destroyed seven times)

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Negroes (Gwine to de Field), Hopkinson's Plantation, Edisto Island, South Carolina

Negroes (Gwine to de Field), Hopkinson's Plantation, Edisto Island, So...

In late fall 1861 or spring 1862, Henry P. Moore, a New Hampshire photographer, traveled from his home in Concord to make portraits of the Third New Hampshire Regiment in camp in Union-occupied coastal South Ca... more

Confederate Earthworks, Belle Plain, Virginia

Confederate Earthworks, Belle Plain, Virginia

James Gardner (American, born 1832)

Wheat–Field in Which General Reynolds Was Shot

Wheat–Field in Which General Reynolds Was Shot

This atypical Civil War panorama shows the artist looking over a split-rail fence at the Gettysburg battlefield where one of America's greatest armed conflicts raged for three bloody days. Brady, America's self... more

Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg

Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg

This photograph of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg appears in the two-volume opus Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-66). Gardner's publication is egalitarian. Offended by Brady's hab... more

Camp of Confederate Prisoners at Belle Plain, May 12, 1863

Camp of Confederate Prisoners at Belle Plain, May 12, 1863

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Sergeant Alex Rogers with Battle Flag, Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac

Sergeant Alex Rogers with Battle Flag, Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volun...

This unusual horizontal carte de visite—a period copy of a now-lost ambrotype or tintype—shows Sergeant Alex Rogers proudly posing for the camera holding the scarred colors, or flag, of the Eighty-third Pennsyl... more

Confederate Method of Destroying Rail Roads at McCloud Mill, Virginia

Confederate Method of Destroying Rail Roads at McCloud Mill, Virginia

Russell made several photographs of the discovery by the Union army of the simple but effective method developed by the Confederates to destroy Union railroad track. Using the ties as fuel, the soldiers stacked... more

Part of Construction Corps Building New Military Truss Bridge Across Bull Run

Part of Construction Corps Building New Military Truss Bridge Across B...

In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Fowx left his portrait studio in Baltimore, Maryland, and joined Mathew Brady's corps of photo-graphers documenting the War Between the States. In 1863, along with man... more

Confederate Prisoners at Belle Plain, May 12

Confederate Prisoners at Belle Plain, May 12

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia

Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia

Better known for his later views commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad, A. J. Russell, a captain in the 141st New York Infantry Volunteers, was one of the few Civil War photographers who was also a soldier... more

Armory Square Hospital, Washington

Armory Square Hospital, Washington

After the first land battle at Bull Run, both the Union and the Confederacy saw the need for large hospitals. Confederate States President Jefferson Davis acted first and began construction of five hospitals ne... more

[Orange and Alexandria Railroad Bridge, near Union Mills, Virginia]

[Orange and Alexandria Railroad Bridge, near Union Mills, Virginia]

A. J. Russell, a captain in the 141st New York Infantry Volunteers, was one of the few Civil War photographers who also was a soldier. As a photographer-engineer for the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corp... more

Gettysburg Wheat Field

Gettysburg Wheat Field

This atypical Civil War panorama shows the artist looking over a split-rail fence at the Gettysburg battlefield where one of America's greatest armed conflicts raged for three bloody days. Brady, America's self... more

Frank Wyatt, One of General Dodge's Band, Corinth, Mississippi

Frank Wyatt, One of General Dodge's Band, Corinth, Mississippi

This Union portrait was made on the war’s western frontier. Frank Wyatt, cradling his saxhorn, noted on his print that he was a member of Brigadier General Grenville M. Dodge’s band and that he plays second E-f... more

End of the Bridge after Burnside's Attack, Fredericksburg, Virginia

End of the Bridge after Burnside's Attack, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Likely made in April 1863 during a truce just before the Battle of Chancellorsville, this view from the buttress of a ruined railroad bridge spanning the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg documents a small g... more

Confederate Prisoners at Belle Plain

Confederate Prisoners at Belle Plain

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Pennsylvania Light Artillery, Battery B, Petersburg, Virginia

Pennsylvania Light Artillery, Battery B, Petersburg, Virginia

Civil War photographers were most effective at chronicling things that did not move, such as heavy mortars, bridges, tents, and ruins—subjects that cameras had more or less successfully recorded since the mediu... more

General Grant's Council of War, Massaponax Church, Virginia

General Grant's Council of War, Massaponax Church, Virginia

This small, candid photograph—likely a half-stereo view—offers an illuminating “snapshot” of a typical late war meeting of Union generals, a “Council of War,” in a field near Massaponax, Virginia. The chaotic s... more

White House Landing, Pamunkey River

White House Landing, Pamunkey River

This study of river steamers and barges moored at a Union Army supply base on the Pamunkey River in Virginia takes its name from a building, the "White House," that was nothing but chimneys in 1864. The site wa... more

Scene of General McPherson's Death

Scene of General McPherson's Death

George N. Barnard released this volume of views in November 1866, ten months after Alexander Gardner published his Sketch Book. Together, the two volumes are the foundational publications of nineteenth-century ... more

Dead Confederates, Fort Mahone

Dead Confederates, Fort Mahone

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895)

Outer Confederate Line at Petersburg. Captured by 18th Corps, June 15, 1864

Outer Confederate Line at Petersburg. Captured by 18th Corps, June 15,...

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Confederate Fortifications, Petersburg

Confederate Fortifications, Petersburg

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Dead Confederates, Fort Mahone

Dead Confederates, Fort Mahone

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895)

Confederate Torpedoes Taken from James River

Confederate Torpedoes Taken from James River

Formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady (American, born Ireland, 1823?–1896 New York)

Outer Confederate Line, Petersburg, Captured June 15, 1864

Outer Confederate Line, Petersburg, Captured June 15, 1864

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

[Four Officers]

[Four Officers]

Gardner was an expert in the new wet-collodion-on-glass-plate process of photography and able manager of Mathew Brady's Washington, D.C., portrait studio from 1858 until 1862, when he had a falling-out with his... more

[A Union Station on the James River Established for Extracting Gunpowder from Confederate Torpedoes]

[A Union Station on the James River Established for Extracting Gunpowd...

Attributed to Egbert Guy Fowx (American, born 1821)

Dead Confederate Soldier at Fort Mahone, Petersburg

Dead Confederate Soldier at Fort Mahone, Petersburg

Formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady (American, born Ireland, 1823?–1896 New York)

Brigadier General Gustavus A. DeRussy and Staff on Steps of Arlington House, Arlington, Virginia

Brigadier General Gustavus A. DeRussy and Staff on Steps of Arlington ...

Gardner was an expert in the new wet-collodion-on-glass-plate photographic process and was manager of Mathew B. Brady's Washington, D.C., portrait studio. He split with Brady in November 1862 and formed his own... more

Confederate Prisoners for Exchange, Cox's Landing, James River

Confederate Prisoners for Exchange, Cox's Landing, James River

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830–1902)

[A Union Station on the James River Established for Extracting Gunpowder from Confederate Torpedoes]

[A Union Station on the James River Established for Extracting Gunpowd...

Attributed to Egbert Guy Fowx (American, born 1821)

Sergeant John Lincoln Clem, The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga

Sergeant John Lincoln Clem, The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga

In addition to gallant, if classical, portraits of Civil War elite such as Presidents Lincoln and Davis or Generals Grant and Lee, one finds stored in the same surviving Civil War carte-de-visite albums soldier... more

Outer Confederate Line, Petersburg, Captured June 15, 1864

Outer Confederate Line, Petersburg, Captured June 15, 1864

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

[Ordnance Wharf, City Point, Virginia]

[Ordnance Wharf, City Point, Virginia]

Very little is known of the early career of Thomas C. Roche. During the Civil War, he worked for E. & H. T. Anthony, New York publishers of cartes-de-visite and stereoscopic views and distributors of photograph... more

General Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The Civil War was over. If not whole, the nation was at least reun... more

Ordnance Wharf, City Point, Virginia

Ordnance Wharf, City Point, Virginia

Like their military counterparts, Civil War field photographers had to carry all their "battlefield" equipment with them in specially designed mobile studios and darkrooms. In addition to cameras and lenses, th... more

Ruins in Carey Street, Richmond

Ruins in Carey Street, Richmond

Very little is known of the early career of Thomas C. Roche. During the Civil War he worked for E. & H. T. Anthony Company, New York, publishers of cartes-de-visite and stereoscopic views and distributors of ph... more

Copying Maps, Photographic Headquarters, Petersburg, Virginia

Copying Maps, Photographic Headquarters, Petersburg, Virginia

Alexander Gardner, George N. Barnard, and numerous other Civil War photographers duplicated maps and important military documents using a copy camera set up like the one shown in this view. Leaning against the ... more

Execution of the Conspirators

Execution of the Conspirators

Alexander Gardner's intimate involvement in the events following President Lincoln's assassination would have challenged even the most experienced twentieth-century photojournalist. In just short of four months... more

Ruins of Richmond & Petersburg Railroad Bridge, Richmond, Virginia

Ruins of Richmond & Petersburg Railroad Bridge, Richmond, Virginia

Alexander Gardner, John Reekie, and other members of Gardner’s corps of photographers were the first to document Richmond, Virginia, after its evacuation by the Confederate government on April 2, 1865. Gardner ... more

Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond

Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond

In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the Confederate government moved its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the front and to protect Richmond’s ironworks and flour mil... more

Bridge on Orange and Alexandria Rail Road, as Repaired by Army Engineers under Colonel Herman Haupt

Bridge on Orange and Alexandria Rail Road, as Repaired by Army Enginee...

This view by Russell documents the engine Fire Fly testing the stability of a new wooden trestle bridge built quickly by the United States Military Railroad engineers to replace a masonry bridge destroyed by th... more

Smokestack of Confederate Ram Merrimac at Richmond/Remains of Ironclad Ram "Virginia #2", April, 1865

Smokestack of Confederate Ram Merrimac at Richmond/Remains of Ironclad...

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)

[The Wilderness Battlefield, near Spotsylvania, Virginia]

[The Wilderness Battlefield, near Spotsylvania, Virginia]

The Battle of the Wilderness was fought May 5-7, 1864, in the same Virginia forest disputed a year before in the Chancellorsville campaign. When the soldiers took their positions in the woods, the ground was al... more

Light Artillery, Sergeant Major

Light Artillery, Sergeant Major

This hand-colored portrait provides a good look at the colors of war—at least as worn by the Union army. It comes from a set of photographs commissioned in 1866 by Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General of the... more

Artillery, Quartermaster Sergeant

Artillery, Quartermaster Sergeant

This hand-colored portrait provides a good look at the colors of war—at least as worn by the Union army. It comes from a set of photographs commissioned in 1866 by Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General of the... more

Ordnance, Private

Ordnance, Private

This hand-colored portrait provides a good look at the colors of war—at least as worn by the Union army. It comes from a set of photographs commissioned in 1866 by Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General of the... more

Fatigue, Marching Order

Fatigue, Marching Order

This hand-colored portrait provides a good look at the colors of war—at least as worn by the Union army. It comes from a set of photographs commissioned in 1866 by Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General of the... more

Artillery, Musician

Artillery, Musician

This hand-colored portrait provides a good look at the colors of war—at least as worn by the Union army. It comes from a set of photographs commissioned in 1866 by Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General of the... more

Excised Knee Joint. A Round Musket Ball in the Inner Condyle of the Right Femur [Gardiner Lewis, Company B, Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers]

Excised Knee Joint. A Round Musket Ball in the Inner Condyle of the Ri...

Presented like fragments of an ancient sculpture, this set of bones was the right knee of Union Private Gardiner Lewis, who was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg by a round musket ball. It is specimen number ... more

Hanging Rock, Foot of Echo Cañon

Hanging Rock, Foot of Echo Cañon

From mid-1868 until the driving of the golden spike on May 10, 1869, A. J. Russell photographed the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad and the landscape of the "Great American Desert" through which it r... more

Civil War (Guerre Civile)

Civil War (Guerre Civile)

Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris)

[Lynching, Russellville, Kentucky]

[Lynching, Russellville, Kentucky]

From the first year of Reconstruction to the early 1940s, lynching was the primary means of maintaining white supremacy in the American South. Considered by the federal government a normal condition of post-Civ... more

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Picture Gallery Photographs]

[Picture Gallery Photographs]

Hundreds of photographers whose names may never be known made their living following the armies during the Civil War. They worked out of canvas tents like this one and traveled at a moment’s notice. Inside thes... more

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers

Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers

According to the medical history on the verso of this photograph, "Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers, aged twenty-seven years, was wounded at the South Side Railroad, near Petersburg, Virgini... more

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al

[Civil War View]

[Civil War View]

Thomas C. Roche (American, 1826–1895) , et al