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At Ease: Don't Smile for the Camera!

Civil War Photographs: Visual Sources

Photographs taken during the Civil War period are incredibly helpful for research in so many different ways. Here, at Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, we often use these historic photographs to learn what the land looked like or to hunt for specific details if we're lucky to have an image of a specific site. The process of creating photographs "in the field" was laborious, innovative, and revolutionary during the American Civil War. It started changing journalism and how the homefront understood the realities of war. Thanks for sharing about some of your favorite Civil War photographs, and we hope you enjoy the video and features.


Survey Results

Here are the answers received for the question: what's your favorite photograph from the Civil War? And we tried to round up the correct images to share as well. (Just click on the photo, if you wish to view it larger.)

  • Terry’s Texas Rangers A group from Company “C” circa 1863; Walter S. Wood, Thomas S. Burney, Felix G. Kennedy, William A. Lynch, Peter L. Kendall

  • It’s either the famous shot of Grant leaning against a tree outside of his tent or, Winfield Scott Hancock with his staff also outside his tent. (see feature in this email)

  • Alexander Gardner’s photo of Col. Henry Strong’s dead horse at Antietam.

  • Lincoln reading his Second Inaugural Address on the steps of the Capitol, March 4, 1865

  • Unburied fallen near Cold Harbor/Gaines Mill

  • The dead in the Sunken Road at Fredericksburg

  • Company C of the 110th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment


A Few Photographers In Central Virginia

The new video this week highlights three photographers and some of the images they took around Fredericksburg, the camps, and during the Overland Campaign.


Confederate Photographers?

The South had photographers, and some traveled in the field like their Northern counterparts. However, limited supplies—including the chemicals and materials needed for the complicated development process—curbed some of the creative and journalistic process. Some researchers also think that many of the Confederate photograph that may have created in the field were destroyed in the ending or shortly after the conclusion of the war. Some of the Northern photographers documented Confederate battle positions, fallen soldiers, towns, and homes, giving us glimpses of those locations and scenes.


"I Do Not Like Mine"

How often do we have a photo taken and when we check it we're not pleased with how it looks? (Frequently, for this writer!) At this time, we probably just delete it off the digital device and try again. Well, Civil War soldiers and generals didn't have that digital convenience. In fact, it often took extra weeks before they saw the photographs taken in the field. Remember that famous image of Union General Winfield S. Hancock and the division commanders of the II Corps during the Overland Campaign? Well, at least one of the guys didn't like how he looked in the photo: "I have seen Brady's Photographs. The one where all the staff was taken do not amount to much but the one of four figures is good they say though I do not like mine. I presume no one likes their own. I should like 4 or 5 of both kinds if they can be sent me in any portable form—without the large cards on which they usually come." (General Francis C. Barlow, 1st Division, II Corps - standing on the far left in the photo)


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

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