Brigadier General Gustavus A. DeRussy and Staff on Steps of Arlington House, Arlington, Virginia
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 company, taking with him many of Brady's best photographers. Gardner and his corps, like Brady's, produced a vast photographic documentation of the Civil War.Here, Union soldiers pose for the camera in deliberately casual attitudes on the front steps of the Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's mansion, which was confiscated by the government in 1861. Laying blame-literally at Lee's doorstep-for the vast suffering of the Civil War, the Union Army in 1864 began to bury its dead on Lee's property in what later became Arlington National Cemetery.
Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)
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.