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Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg

Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg

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description

Summary

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 habit of obscuring the names of his field operators behind the deceptive credit "Brady," Gardner specifically identified each of the eleven photographers in the publication; forty-four of the one hundred photographs are credited to Timothy O'Sullivan. Gardner titled the plate Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg. But the photograph, its commemorative title notwithstanding, relates a far more common story: six Union soldiers lie dead, face up, stomachs bloated, their pockets picked and boots stolen. As Gardner described the previous plate, aptly titled The Harvest of Death, this photograph conveys "the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry."
Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

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.

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Date

1863
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Source

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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