Photography during the Civil War
The Civil War was the first major war to bring a continued collection of battlefield images to civilians on the home front through the emerging technology of photography. Innovators like Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan mastered their craft on the battlefields and in their studios. Their work became widely distributed and the destruction of battlefields were no longer left only to the memories of the participants. You can read about the history of photography in the Civil War in Bob Zeller’s book The Blue and the Gray in Black and White.
Alexander Gardner became famous for his images of Abraham Lincoln but the President and his Generals were not the only subjects caught on glass. Thousands of photographic portraits were created of ordinary soldiers. These images were sent home to sweethearts and families. The images also made war heroes suddenly recognizable to the whole country. Monroe’s own boy general, George Armstrong Custer, known for his gallant cavalry charges, also become known as the most photographed man of the nineteenth century.
(Image from the Lawrence A. Frost Collection)
Richard S. Lowry details the effects photography had on politics during the Civil War in his book The Photographer and the President: Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Gardner, and the Images that made a Presidency. Dr. Lawrence Frost details the history of the people who photographed General George Custer in his book General Custer’s Photographers and D. Mark Katz provides a photographic biography in Custer in Photographs. More images of Monroe soldiers are available in the Monroe Evening News book In the Rockets’ Red Glare, which provides images of Monroe soldiers through the Gulf War.
With the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War coming to a close not only have new books revisited military strategy but old images have been digitized and enhanced. John C. Guntzelman’s book The Civil War in Color: A Photographic Reenactment of the War Between the States uses computer technology to add color and detail to historic images, giving a brand new view to widely known images.
The Monroe County Library System offers even more books about Civil War photography, check them out..
|Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War|
|Capturing the Light: The birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry|
|War Photographs taken on the Battlefields of the Civil War|