P is for photography of the Civil War

Civil War photography changed war from something remote to something with visceral impact.

civil-war-005Photography of the Civil War has fascinated me for many years. Wikipedia says: “The American Civil War was the fifth war in history to be photographed [without specifying the first four], and was the most widely covered conflict of the 19th century.” The most famous photographer of the conflict was Mathew Brady, but there were several other men behind the camera.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art: President Abraham Lincoln “called up 75,000 militiamen to put down an insurrection of Southern states,” in what proved to be a painfully optimistic assessment of the length of the struggle. “

“Brady secured permission from Lincoln to follow the troops in what was expected to be a short and glorious war.” Ultimately, Brady instead financed a corps of field photographers who, together with those employed by the Union military command and by Alexander Gardner, made the first extended photographic coverage of a war.

“The terrible contest proceeded erratically; just as the soldiers learned to fight this war in the field, so the photographers improvised their reports. Because the battlefields were too chaotic and dangerous for the painstaking wet-plate procedures to be carried out, photographers could depict only strategic sites camp scenes, preparations for or retreat from action, and, on rare occasions, the grisly aftermath of battle.”

Yes, this picture is likely who you think it is. Check out how to replicate the wet-plate process today.

It is clear that photography of the Civil War changed war from something remote to something with visceral impact.
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The Library of Congress has an online collection [which] “provides access to about 7,000 different views and portraits made during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and its immediate aftermath.” Some of them are much more gruesome than what you see here.

ABC Wednesday – Round 18