Hamilton's Floating Battery Moored at the End of Sullivan's Island the Night Before They Opened Fire upon Fort Sumter
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 positions or naval vessels in Charleston, South Carolina. Built in clear view of the Union forces stationed at Sumter, the floating battery was one hundred feet long, twenty-five-feet wide, and sheathed in two layers of iron plate. It flies the first Confederate flag. Towed into the harbor close to Fort Sumter, Hamilton’s Battery fired on the fort intermittently for thirty-four hours beginning on the morning of April 12. It survived the intense counterattack sustaining little damage; by 1863, however, its protective skin had been stripped off and reused by the Confederacy for the construction of navigable ironclad ships. Southern troops would occupy Fort Sumter until February 17, 1865, when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s forces cut off supplies to Charleston and the city itself was evacuated.
Attributed to Alma A. Pelot (American, active Charleston, South Carolina, 1850s–1860s)
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.