Photographers of the American Civil War

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Photographers E.T. Whitney and an assistant having lunch at the destroyed, temporary R.R. spur near Mitchel's Ford in March 1862.
Wet-Plate Collodion Process inventor, Frederick Scott Archer, by Robert Cade c.1855

The American Civil War was the fifth war in history to be photographed, and was the most widely covered conflict of the 19th century. The images would provide posterity with a comprehensive visual record of the war and its leading figures, and make a powerful impression on the public. Something not generally known by the public is the fact that roughly 70% of the war's documentary photography was captured by the twin lenses of a stereo camera.[1] The American Civil War was the first war in history, whose reality would be brought home to the public, not only in newspaper accounts and gallery prints, but in 3D, stereo photography in the form of a "stereograph" or "stereocard." Millions of these cards were produced for a public eager to experience the true nature of warfare.[2]

Historical context[edit]

The American Civil War (1861–65) was the fifth war in history to be photographed, the first four being the Mexican-American War (1846–48), the Crimean War (1854–56), Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Italian War of Independence (1859).

Northern photographers[edit]

Confederate Dead behind the Stone Wall at Marye's Height's, Fredericksburg VA. May 3, 1863

Andrew J. Russell[edit]

Andrew Joseph Russell (1829 - 1902), was born in Walpole, New Hampshire, the son of Harriet (née Robinson) and Joseph Russell. He was raised in Nunda, New York. He took an early interest in painting, and in addition to executing portraiture for local public figures, he was drawn to railroads and trains.

During the first two years of the Civil War, Russell painted a diorama used to recruit soldiers for the Union Army. On 22 August 1862, he volunteered at Elmira, New York, mustering in the following month as a captain in Company F, 141st New York Volunteer Regiment. In February 1863, Russell, who had become interested in the new art of photography, paid free-lance photographer Egbert Guy Fowx $300 to teach him the collodion process of wet-plate photography.

Capt. Russell's first photographs, taken with cameras borrowed from Fowx, were used by Brigadier General Herman Haupt to illustrate his reports.[3] Impressed with his work, on 1 March 1863, Haupt arranged to have Russell detached from his regiment and assigned to the United States Military Railroad Construction Corps, making Russell one of only two, non-civilian Civil War photographers (Pvt. Philip Haas). In his embedded capacity, Russell not only photographed transportation subjects for the War Department, but also likely moonlighted by selling battlefield negatives to the Anthonys.[4] In fact, Russell took over a thousand photos in two and a half years, some of which were distributed exclusively to President Lincoln.[5] He's probably best known for "Stone wall at foot of Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Va." showing dead Confederates of Barksdale's brigade, during the battle of Chancellorsville.[6]

One of Roche's Civil War photographs, showing a dead Confederate soldier inside Fort Mahone, Petersburg, Virginia April,1865.

Thomas C. Roche[edit]

Thomas C. Roche (1826 - 1895) was a photographer for E. & H. T. Anthony & Company and while with the Union Army of the James in April 1865 made twenty-four photographs of dead Confederate soldiers killed April 2, 1865 at Fort Mahone, Petersburg Virginia. Besides contract work for the War Department, Roche was Anthony Co.'s senior operator and R&D man and counts among his many accomplishments the roughly 50 stereoviews taken on April 3, 1865, after the fall of Petersburg. These include at least 20 stereoviews of the dead, taken at Fort Mahone, known as "Fort Damnation" by Federal troops.

Mathew Brady[edit]

Mathew Brady taken shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run, wearing a sword given to him for defense by a soldier of the New York Fire Zouaves

Mathew B. Brady (1823?-1896), the son of Irish immigrants, was born in Warren County, New York. Brady would spend his fortune to accumulate photos of the war. In the early 40s, Brady was a manufacturer of "jewel cases" for daguerreotypes in New York City. By 1844 he had opened his own daguerreian gallery at 205 Broadway, the "New-York Daguerreian Miniature Gallery, having with Edward Anthony learned the trade in 1840 from Samuel B. Morse. Still in his 20s, Brady's next goal was to establish at his gallery a hall of fame, a Gallery of Illustrious Americans. He himself said, "From the first, I regarded myself as under obligation to my country to preserve the faces of its historic men and mothers." [7][8] Then in 1856, seeing the tremendous potential for reproducible and enlarged prints, and illustrated newspapers in America, Brady hired photographer and businessman, Alexander Gardner to adopt and teach him the new art of collodion wet-plate photography.[9]

Mathew Brady's unequaled fame derived not only from his abilities at self-promotion and a strong determination to succeed, but because he also happened to be in the right place, at the right time in history. Besides being the foremost portrait photographer of his day, he would also come to be known as the most prominent photographer of the American Civil War. From the very beginning Brady determined to accumulate as many war views as possible, with the understanding that in the not too distant future a photomechanical means of reproduction would be possible. With this end in mind, Brady bought, exchanged, borrowed, acquired and copied prints and negatives. If there were duplicate views to be had, he bought those. In light of Brady's practice, it is not surprising therefore, that a very large number of war views that were not actually his came to be associated almost exclusively with his name. Nearly every photograph associated with the struggle seemed to be a "photograph by Brady."

At the beginning of the war, Mathew Brady secured the necessary permissions from the War Department, purchased rugged cameras and traveling "darkrooms", and sent his employees out to begin documenting the struggle, all at his own personal expense. The First Battle of Bull Run provided the initial opportunity to photograph an engagement between opposing armies, however Brady returned with no known photographs from the battlefield. Following the Federal rout, he arrived back in Washington D.C. the day after the battle and was photographed at his studio wearing a soiled duster and sword (see photo). Tantalizingly little is known about Brady's life, as he kept no journals, wrote no memoirs and left but few written accounts.[10]

While it is true that, in the beginning, the enterprising Mathew Brady determined to finance and direct the documentation of the American Civil War with photography, it was others, particularly those under the direct supervision of Alexander Gardner, such as Timothy O'Sullivan, James Gibson, George Barnard, James Gardner and William Pywell, who would follow and share the fate of the armies, and ultimately fulfill the difficult task, recording for posterity a timely, consecutive photographic history of immense value.

By war's end, Brady estimated he had spent $100,000 to amass more than 10,000 negatives that the public no longer showed an interest in. In 1875, the War Department came to Brady's relief and purchased, for $25,000, the remainder of his collection, which were mostly portraits. Anthony Co. possessed most of Brady's war views, received by them as compensation for Brady's continued indebtedness. From the War Department, the collection went to the U.S. Signal Corps, and in 1940 it was accessioned by the National Archives. On January 15, 1896, Brady died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. However, in his last days, Brady did not die in isolation. He was visited and comforted often, by friends and admirers up until the very end. His funeral was largely financed by the friends of his adopted regiment, the 7th NYSM.[11]

Alexander Gardner, 1856 self-portrait

Alexander Gardner[edit]

Alexander Gardner (1821–1882) was born in Paisley, Scotland. He became an apprentice silversmith jeweller at the age of fourteen. In his youth, Gardner found out that his interests and talents lay in finance, journalism and photography. Deeply disturbed by the exploitation of the working class, and in the spirit of the early cooperative movements in Scotland, Gardner conceived of a like-minded utopian venture in the US called the "Clydesdale Joint Stock Agricultural and Commercial Company" in Iowa. By 1853, many at the Iowa colony were sick and dying of tuberculosis, then called "consumption", and the Clydesdale company was dissolved. In 1856 Gardner emigrated to America with his family and sought out the renown Mathew Brady for employment. Gardner's business acumen and expertise at collodion wet-plate photograph and the making the "Imperial Print", a 17 by 21 inch enlargement, brought Brady enormous success. In November 1861 Gardner was appointed to the staff of General George McClellan, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, and was given the honorary rank of captain. Up until Nov. 1862, while he retained his unofficial rank, Gardner and/or his operators photographed the 1st Bull Run battlefield, McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, and the battlefields of Cedar Mountain and Antietam. Though Gardner never lost his status as army photographer, the battles of 2nd Bull Run, 1st Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville went unphotographed, possibly due to unofficial War Deparment policies or those of the commanding generals. In Nov. 1862, Gardner opened a gallery with his brother James, and subsequently hired many of Mathew Brady's former staff. In July 1863, Gardner and employees James Gibson and Timothy O'Sullivan photographed the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Grant's Overland Campaign and Petersburg operations were mostly photographed by Gardner's employee Timothy O'Sullivan, at a time when the designation of official photographer for Grant's headquarters command had devolved to Mathew Brady.[12]

In April 1865, Gardner photographed Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O'Laughlen, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold, who were arrested for conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Gardner, with the assistance of O'Sullivan, also took photographs of the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt and David Herold as they were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on July 7, 1865. Four months later, Gardner photographed the execution of Henry Wirz, commanding officer at the infamous Andersonville Prisoner of War camp in Georgia.

In 1866, "Lincoln's favorite photographer" published his two-volume compendium, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. Each leather-bound volume contained 50 hand-mounted original prints. However, it was not a sales success. When asked about his work he said, "It is designed to speak for itself . . As mementos of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that it will possess an enduring interest."[13][14]

In 1867 Gardner closed his gallery, and with his son Lawrence and assistant William R. Pywell set out to photograph along the proposed route of the UPRR from west Kansas along the 35th parallel to the Pacific ocean. The result was Gardner's folio sized, "Across the Continent on the Kansas Pacific Railroad." In 1875 the civic-minded Gardner worked at the D.C. Metropolitan Police Dept. copying nearly a thousand daguerreotypes to be used as "mug shots", the forerunner of the "Rogues Gallery."[15]

In 1879, Alexander Gardner formally retired from photography, devoting his remaining years to the Washington Beneficial Endowment Association, the Masonic Mutual Relief Association and the St Andrews Society, a Scottish relief organization.[16]

Ruined roundhouse in Atlanta, Georgia after the Atlanta Campaign. Albumen print by George Barnard, 1866. Digitally restored.

George N. Barnard[edit]

George Norman Barnard[17] (1819-1902) was born in Coventry, Connecticut. During his childhood, he lived throughout the country, including the South. In New York, he opened a studio; to this day, it is not known where he learned his skill. He married Sarah Jane Hodges in 1843, with whom he had two children, a daughter, Mary Grace, and a son, who died in infancy. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Barnard was sent to photograph various locations in Virginia, including Harper's Ferry, Bull Run and Yorktown, as well as in, and around, Washington, D.C. Later, he followed Sherman's Campaign from Tennessee through Georgia and South Carolina and produced a book from the photographs he took, including famous views of the ruins of Atlanta, Columbia, and Charleston, South Carolina.[18]

A distinctive attribute of Barnard's work was to superimposed clouds into an otherwise overexposed sky.

Incidents of the war: "A harvest of death, Gettysburg, July, 1863"

Timothy H. O'Sullivan[edit]

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882) was born in New York City. As a teenager, he was employed by Mathew Brady and worked for him continuously from 1856 to late 1862, when he would be hired by Alexander Gardner as "superintendent of my map and field work" and living with the army. In the winter of 1861-62, O'Sullivan was dispatched to document Gen. Thomas W. Sherman's Port Royal, S.C. operations. In July 1862, O'Sullivan followed the campaign of Gen. John Pope in Virginia. In July 1863, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he took pictures at Gettysburg, PA., most notably, "The Harvest of Death". In 1864, following Gen. Grant's trail, he photographed during the Siege of Petersburg and the siege of Fort Fisher. That brought him to Appomattox Court House in April 1865, and back to Petersburg in May. Fully 45 of the 100 prints in "Gardner's Sketch Book Of The War" are credited to O'Sullivan.

Following the end of the Civil War, O'Sullivan was made official government photographer for the King (1867, 68, 69, 72), Darien (Panama 1870) and Wheeler (1871, 73, 74) Expeditions respectively, during which time he married fellow photographer, William Pywell's sister Laura in 1873. O'Sullivan's pictures were among the first to record the prehistoric ruins, Navajo weavers, and Pueblo villages of the southwest, and were instrumental in attracting settlers to the West. In 1875 O'Sullivan returned to Washington, D.C. where he spent the last years of his short life as the official photographer of the Treasury Department. Just seven years later, at the young age of 42, O'Sullivan died of tuberculosis at his parent's home in Staten Island, New York.

"Savage Station, Virginia Union field hospital after the battle of June 27", by Jas. Gibson - June 28, 1862

James F. Gibson[edit]

James F. Gibson (1828/29-?), perhaps the least recognized of the war's most significant photographers was also one of the least known.[19] In 1860, Scotsman Gibson's name appeared with that of his wife Elizabeth in the Washington D.C. census, and the city directory showed that Mathew Brady employed him. Gibson may have emigrated to America with Alexander Gardner, who was also from Scotland. Gibson's first documented trip into the field was when he accompanied George N. Barnard to the Bull Run battlefield in March 1862. He worked with Alex Gardner at both Antietam and Gettysburg, but his own greatest legacy was the wide array of photographs he took while on the Virginia peninsula,[20] in particular his poignant, landmark photo of the wounded at Savage's house (Savage Station, Virginia). Several years after the war, before a court could rule on his civil suit against business partner, Mathew Brady (he also sued Gardner), Gibson heavily mortgaged Brady's Washington Gallery, left for Kansas with the cash, and was never heard from again.[21]

Jacob F. Coonley[edit]

Jacob Frank "Jay" Coonley (1832-1915) was originally a landscape painter who early on learned photography from George N. Barnard and managed Edward Anthony's stereoscopic print shop. When war erupted, Coonley began a relationship with Mathew Brady. In 1864 Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs tasked Coonley with photographic work along the lines of the railroads in US. possession in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. During this time, Coonley also produced the Nashville series for Edward Anthony.[22] Around 1889, Coonley found an idyllic life in Nassau, Bahamas with his family, and never left.[23]

Sam A. Cooley[edit]

Samuel Abbot Cooley[24] (?-1900) worked as a sutler and photographer for X Corps, employing his large format, drop-shutter and twin lens stereo cameras. In 1865 he opened a mercantile in Beaufort, S.C., simultaneously advertising himself as "Photographer, Department of the South", though he only did contract work for the government.[25] Cooley had galleries in Hilton Head, S.C. and Jacksonville, Florida. In 1866 he had established himself as an auctioneer and town marshall in Beaufort. He eventually returned home to Hartford, Connecticut in 1869, where he offered at his gallery, an "exhibition of beautiful Stereopticon Views."[26]

"A Burial Party, Cold Harbor", by John Reekie - April 15, 1865

John Reekie[edit]

John Reekie (1829-?) was another little known Civil War photographer. Scotsman, Reekie was employed by Alexander Gardner. One of his most well-known images, A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, was included with six other of his negatives in "Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War", and depicts African American soldiers gathering remains for reburial at the site of the Battle of Cold Harbor almost a year after the battle.[27] This photograph is notable for being one of relatively few images depicting black soldiers' role in the war.[28] John Reekie was an officer of the St. Andrews Society, a Scottish relief organization in Washington D.C., as was Alexander Gardner.[29]

"13 inch mortar Dictator in front of Petersburg, Va.", by David Knox - Sept. 1, 1864

David Knox[edit]

Information on Alexander Gardner's photographer, David Knox (?-?) is extremely scant. Scotsman, Knox was first employed by Mathew Brady and later by Alexander Gardner. Knox is best known for "13 inch mortar Dictator, in front of Petersburg, Va." Four of Knox's negatives were included in "Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War."[30] David Knox was an officer of the St. Andrews Society, a Scottish relief organization in Washington D.C.[31]

David B. Woodbury[edit]

David B. Woodbury[32] (1839-1866) was arguably the best of the artists who stayed with Brady through the war.[33] In March 1862, Mathew Brady sent Woodbury and Edward Whitney out to photograph the 1st Bull Run battlefield, and in May, views of the Peninsula Campaign. In July 1863, Woodbury and Anthony Berger photographed the Gettysburg battlefield for Brady, returning on November 19 to take "pictures of the crowd and Procession" (Nov. 23, 1863 letter to sister Eliza). In the summer of 1864, Woodbury photographed Grant's Headquarters Command for Brady, who had replaced Alexander Gardner as official photographer.[34] Little of Woodbury's prolific work was attributed to him, but rather was ascribed to Brady's Gallery.

William R. Pywell[edit]

William Redish Pywell (1843-1887) worked for both Mathew Brady and later, for Alexander Gardner, and his photographs are an important and integral part of the historic photographic record of the American Civil War.[35] Pywell was busy in the Western Theatre as well as in the East, but is probably best remembered for his early photographs of the slave pens of Alexandria, Va.[36]

CDV, self portrait by Browne

William F. Browne[edit]

William Frank Browne (?-1867) After the end of his two year enlistment with the 15th Vermont in August 1863, Brown began working as camp photographer for the 5th Michigan Cavalry, part of George A. Custer's Michigan brigade. In 1864-65 Browne did contract work for Alexander Gardner. In May of 1865, Maj. General Henry H. Abbot assigned Browne to photograph the James River water batteries around Richmond, Va., thus "preserving an invaluable record of their wonderful completeness." After the war, Gardner published 120 of Browne's negatives as "View of Confederate Water Batteries on the James River."[37] Browne returned to his native Northfield, Vt., where he died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1867.

Isaac G. and Charles J. Tyson[edit]

Isaac Griffith (1833-1913)[38] and Charles John (1838-1906) Tyson.[39] Though residents of Gettysburg in July of 1863, the Tysons' "Tyson's Excelsior Photographic Gallery" wasn't as yet properly equipped to take photographs in the field, for which there was basically no demand at the time. The Tysons evacuated town, as did most of the residents, prior to the Rebel shelling and occupation on July 1. Soon after Gardner's and Brady's July visits, the Tyson brothers were making their own lucrative stereoviews of the battlefield. On November 19, the brothers would record their historic views of the procession to the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery, one of which captured President Lincoln on horseback.[40]

George Stacy[edit]

George Stacy (1831-1897) George Stacy was a Civil War, field photographer and later a prolific publisher of stereoviews, not necessisarily his own.[41] It is not known exactly where the Maine native learned his trade. The earliest confirmed Stacy, stereoviews are a series he took of the Prince of Whales' visit to Portland, ME. Oct. 20, 1860, and the renowned Fortress Monroe series in June 1861. An industry census shows that Stacy was still marketing his stereoviews in 1870. By 1880 he had taken up horticulture in Patterson N.J.[42]

Philadelphia photographer, Frederick Gutekunst

Frederick Gutekunst[edit]

Frederick Gutekunst (1831-1917) Pennsylvania photographer, Gutekunst opened two studios in Philadelphia in 1856. During the war, roughly three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, the "Dean of American Photographers" was taking exquisite photographs on the battlefield.[43] A portrait of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant stirred national interest and helped set Gutekunst apart from his contemporaries. By 1893 Gutekunst had been in business almost forty years and was residing in the upscale suburb of Germantown. Gutekunst suffered from Bright’s Disease, which may have precipitated a fall down some stairs eight weeks before his death.

E. T. Whitney[edit]

Edward Tompkins Whitney (1820-?) In 1844, Whitney quit the jewelry business to learn the daguerreotype process from M. M. Lawrence, and in 1846 moved to Rochester, N. Y. to open a gallery. In 1850 J. W. Black of Boston instructed Whitney in the "new art" of wet-plate (collodion) photography. In 1959, after recovering from the ill effects of cyanide gas, Whitney sold his Rochester business and moved to New York City, opening a gallery at 585 Broadway with A. W. Paradise, Mathew Brady's "right-hand man." Nevertheless, during the winter of 1861-62, Brady would commission Whitney to take "views of the fortifications around Washington and places of interest for the Government." These would include scenes in and around Arlington, Falls Church and Alexandria, VA. In March of 1862, Brady again dispatched Whitney and Brady operator, David Woodbury, to take photographs on the Bull Run battlefield. Whitney also relates that he took views at Yorktown, Williamsburg, White House, Gaines' Mill, and Westover and Berkeley Landings during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign.[44] While it is no doubt true that Whitney did take photographs for Mathew Brady (Whitney personally appears in an unusually large number of the period's photographs), which ones are a mystery, as none are specifically ascribed to him. Whitney's whereabouts after his documented presence at Berlin, MD. in October 1862 is unknown.[45]

"J. Gurney Esq. Photographist"
Skulls on the Wilderness battlefield, May 1864, by G.O. Brown (Miller's PHCW Vol.3 Pg.21)

Jeremiah Gurney[edit]

Jeremiah Gurney (1812-?) was born in Coeymans, N.Y. In 1839, Gurney, then a jeweler in Saratoga, N.Y. was one of the first, if not the first "student" in America to learn from Prof. Samuel B. Morse the art of photography. Gurney excelled in the art, opening "Gurney's Daguerreian Gallery" at 707 Broadway in the 1840s.[46] Mathew Brady made the cases for his daguerreotypes, and seeing the new medium's potential soon started a rival gallery on the corner of Fulton street and Broadway. In the 1850's Gurney pioneered mammoth daguerreotype plates, or double full plates, taking time off in 1852 to recover from mercury vapor poisoning. In 1857 Gurney was listed in the New York City Directory in partnership with C.D Fredericks, at 359 Broadway. In 1860, he was listed as a photographist at 707 Broadway, in business as J. Gurney and Son. The two advanced paper photography with the Chrystalotype process. In 1874 Gurney's partnership with his son Benjamin was dissolved.[47]

G. O. Brown[edit]

George Oscar Brown (1844-?) active 1866-1889.[48] Information on Brown is extremely scant. In April 1866, under the direction of Dr. Reed Bonteceau, Brown, at the time just a hospital steward at the Army Medical Museum in Washington D.C, was hired as an assistant cameraman by the museum's photographer, William Bell. The assignment was to photograph medical specimens (bones, skulls &c.) on the Wilderness and Spotsylvania battlefields of Virginia. Though new to the field of photography, Brown did respectable work, producing a number of stereo photographs that have aided in our comprehension of these terrible battles. In the 1868 census Brown was listed this time as a photographer at the Medical Museum. In 1870 Brown promoted and instructed others in the use of Egebert Guy Fowx's patented, "Porcelain Print" process. In 1873, the Baltimore census listed Brown as Secretary of The Maryland Photographic Association.

Haas & Peale[edit]

Lt. Philip Haas (?-?) and Washington Peale (?-?) were Northern photographers whose personal histories are for the most part unknown. The pair are credited with dozens of views of the activities of the Union Army in South Carolina during the American Civil War, including Folly Island, Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, Lighthouse Inlet and Morris Island. The bulk of the material depicts scenes of Gen. Quincy Gillmore's siege of Charleston, and particularly of Folly and Morris Islands depicting views of various artillery batteries and army buildings.[49] Of particular interest is "Unidentified camp", which may be the world's first photograph of actual combat. It depicts monitor-class ironclads and U.S.S. New Ironsides in action off Morris Island, South Carolina.[50] The September 8th date of New Ironsides' rescue of monitor Weehawken, grounded off Cummings Point, has been suggested for the photo, yet during that action New Ironsides was engaging Fort Moultrie at close range, less than half a mile, and could not have been photographed from the Union camps or batteries. An excellent opportunity to photograph the the the 17 gun frigate in action might have been afforded the artists on September 5-6, when the ironclads were heavily engaged in shelling Batteries Wagner and Gregg for 36 straight hours, prior to Wagner's evacuation on September 7, 1863.

Southern photographers[edit]

Many photographs were taken by Southerners, but most were lost to history. According to the Photographic History of the Civil War

The natural disappointment in the South at the end of the war was such that photographers were forced to destroy all negatives, just as owners destroyed all the objects that might serve as souvenirs or relics of the terrible struggle, thinking for the moment at least, that they could not bear the strain of brooding over the tragedy.

George Cook, half stereo of Federal ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, Sept 8, 1863 (Miller's PHCW Vol. 1 pg. 24)

George S. Cook[edit]

The most noted Southern photographer was George Smith Cook (1819-1902) was born in Stamford, Connecticut, where he was not successful in the mercantile business. He moved to New Orleans and became a painter, which proved ineffectual. In 1842 however, Cook began working with the "new art" of the daguerreotype, settling in Charleston, South Carolina, where he raised a family. Cook's status as one of the South's most renown photographers is due to a successful portrait business that survived the war, which included the systematic documentation of Union shelling of Charleston and in particular, Fort Sumter. Cook's visit to Sumter on Feb. 8, 1861 resulted in the first mass marketing of cartes-de-visite, that of the fort's commander, Maj. Robert Anderson. On Sept. 8, 1863 he and business partner James Osborn photographed the inside of the fort, and as luck would have it, the developing naval action in the harbor involving Federal ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie.[51] The historic images depict three ironclad monitors and U.S.S. New Ironsides firing on Fort Moultrie in defense of monitor U.S.S. Weehawken, grounded off Cummings Point. For unknown reasons, the historic stereoview was not marketed until 1880, when it was finally offered for sale by Cook's son, George LaGrange Cook.[52] Sadly, Cook's extensive collection, mainly consisting of portraits of notable Southern personalities, was lost on Feb. 17, 1865, when his Columbia, S.C. studio was destroyed during the firestorm that engulfed the capitol city. Cook moved his family to Richmond in 1880, and his older son, George LaGrange Cook, took charge of the studio in Charleston. In Richmond, Cook bought up the businesses of photographers who were retiring, or moving from the city. He thus amassed the most comprehensive collection of prints and negatives of the former Confederate capital known to exist. Cook remained an active photographer for the remainder of his life. His younger son, Huestis Cook, eventually went into business with his father. After his brother George's death on November 27, 1902, Huestis took over the Richmond studio.

Note: The famous "exploding shell" photo falsely attributed to Cook is in reality a painting by C.S.A. Lt. John R. Key, based on three half stereos taken by Cook inside Fort Sumter on Sept. 8, 1863. Experts had overlooked the fact that no camera of the time was capable of taking the wide angle depicted.[53][54]

Osborn & Durbec[edit]

In 1858, James M. Osborn (1811-1868), a 47 year old daguerreian, native of New York, living in Charleston, S.C., joined forces with 22 year old Charleston native, Frederick "Eugene" Durbec (1836-1894). Both were soon to become among the war's first photographers. By 1860, from their state-of-the-art, high-volume studio, they had reached a national audience with their advertised "largest and most varied assortment of steroscopic instuments and pictures ever offered in this country." By then, both had joined the Lafayette Artillery, Durbec having risen to the rank of colonel.[55] It was also at this time that O&D produced documentary photographs of the city and and its vicinity, including their singularly historic, antebellum scenes of plantations and slave life.[56] Following the Federal surrender of Fort Sumter on April 14, 1861, Osborn would visit the fort and its surrounds on at least two occasions, taking at least 43 stereo images of the battle's aftermath, in what is the largest known group of Confederate images of the war, and which is considered the most comprehensive photographic record of a Civil War engagement ever made. Today, thirty-nine are known to exist. Their friendship would outlast their Charleston business however, which the war and damaging fires had brought to an end by February 1862.[57] Then, in September of 1863, in response to Gen. Thomas Jordan's desire to document what "Southern troops could endure", Osborn and fellow artist George S. Cook volunteered to photograph the interior of Fort Sumter, which had been shelled by Union batteries into a shapeless mass. Little did the enterprising partners know that one result of this visit would be the first combat photographs in history.[58][59]

J.D. Edwards[edit]

Jay Dearborn Edwards (1831-1900), a New Hampshire native, was born Jay Dearborn Moody, on July 14, 1831. After the death of his father in 1842, young Jay was sent to St. Louis to live with an aunt, at which time his surname was changed to Edwards. By age 17, he was a lecturer on the pseudoscience phrenology, and apparently also began his photographic career, operating a daguerreian studio at 92-1/2 Fourth Street. In 1851, he and his aunt moved to New Orleans, and Jay quickly established himself at 19 Royal Street. He preferred working outdoors in his "queer-looking wagon." The new art of wet-plate photography enabled Edwards to distribute his stereoscopic views images throughout New Orleans. Because his stereo cards had a P.O. box number imprinted on the backs, historians have concluded he did not operate his own gallery in New Orleans. However, that changed when he and E. H. Newton Jr. formed a partnership and opened the Gallery of Photographic Art, located at 19 Royal Street. The gallery specialized in "stereoscopic views of any part of the world," and was assisted by New York publisher Edward Anthony and the London Stereoscopic Company.[60] Their diverse inventory included an array of photographic equipment, photographs, ambrotypes, melainotypes, portrait enlargements, pastel, oil, and watercolor prints. Edwards undertook one of the earliest wartime photo expeditions by venturing into the field in April 1861. He followed Confederate units from New Orleans to Pensacola, Fl., as they mobilized against Fort Pickens.[61] Edwards advertised 39 views at "$1 per copy." Two were reproduced as woodcuts in Harper's Weekly in June, though Edwards received no credit. Afterwards, Edward was apparently out of business.[62]

Robert M. Smith[edit]

Confederate Lieutenant Robert M. Smith was captured and imprisoned at Johnson's Island, Ohio.[63] He is unique in that he was able to secretly construct a wet-plate camera using a pine box, pocket knife, tin can, and spyglass lens. Smith acquired chemicals from the prison hospital to use for the photographic process. He used the camera clandestinely to photograph other prisoners at the gable end of the attic of cell block four.[64]

Itinerant Photographers[edit]

Itinerant (traveling) photographers received permission from a commanding general to establish themselves within an encampment, primarily for the lucrative purpose of making portraits for the soldiers, which could then be sent to loved ones as a memento.[65]


  • In August 1864, the "Sun Tax" on photographs was levied by the U.S. Congress as a means to help finance the war. The tax was either 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, or 5¢, depending on the price of the photo (1-10¢, 10-25¢, 25-50¢, 50-$1 respectively). Largely due to the lobbying efforts of Alexander Gardner, Mathew Brady, Jeremiah Gurney and Charles D. Fredericks , the tax was repealed in 1866.[66]


Widespread concern by most 19th century photographers over their lack of copyright protection, something the Philadelphia Photographer termed "piratical stealing', led in 1870 to bill H.R. 1714 being passed by the 41st Congress. The interpolations made in the new law were due primarily to Alexander Gardner's influence.[67]


The results of the efforts of all Civil War photographers can be seen in almost all of the history texts of the conflict. In terms of photography, the American Civil War is the best covered conflict of the 19th century. It presaged the development of the wartime photojournalism of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The number of Civil War photographs that are available contrasts sharply with the scarcity of pictures from subsequent conflicts such as the Russian wars in Central Asia, the Franco-Prussian War, and the various colonial wars before the Boer War.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White", Zeller, Bob, 2005 Introduction xvi
  2. ^ "CCWP". Center for Civil War Photography, John Richter's 3-D Anaglyph Photographs Exhibit. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Andrew J. Russell". Early Alexandria studies, Library of Congress P&P, LOT 9209. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Andrew J. Russell". United States Military Rail Road Photographic Album, A.J. Russell, Artist Library of Congress P&P, LOT 4336. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  5. ^ Richmond Again Taken - Reappraising the Brady Legend through Photographs by Andrew Joseph Russell, by Susan E. Williams, VHS Virginia Magazine of History VOL. 110 No. 4 2002 pp. 437-460
  6. ^ "Andrew J. Russell". ALL published work @ Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Mathew B. Brady (1822–1896)". Keya Morgan. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Brady". Dickinson College, Pennsylvania. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  9. ^ D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, pp. 14-15
  10. ^ "Mathew Brady, Portraits of a Nation", Robert Wilson, 2013 pg. 4
  11. ^ see "Mathew Brady, Portraits of a Nation", Robert Wilson, 2013
  12. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White, Zeller 2005, ch. 5
  13. ^ ""Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War" Volume 1". Washington:Philp & Solomons (1866) @ Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  14. ^ ""Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War" Volume 2". Washington:Philp & Solomons (1866) @ Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  15. ^ D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, pp. 215-29 & 262
  16. ^ D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, pg. 264
  17. ^ "George Barnard". National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Barnard". "Barnard's Photographic views of the Sherman Campaign", 1866. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  19. ^ "James F. Gibson". published work at the Library of Congress. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  20. ^ "The Blue & Gray In Black & White", Bob Zeller 2005, pg. 66.
  21. ^ "Brady's Civil War", Webb Garrison, 2008
  22. ^ "Jacob Coonley". "negatives at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Jacob Coonley". "Info, photos at Cambridge University Library 2003. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Sam Cooley". "self portrait (far right) @ the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White", Zeller, Bob, 2005 pg. 120
  26. ^ "Sam Cooley". "published work at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  27. ^ "John Reekie". "published work at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  28. ^ Harvey, Eleanor Jones; Smithsonian American Art Museum, N.Y., Metropolitan Museum of Art New York (2012). The Civil War and American art. ISBN 9780300187335. 
  29. ^ "Officers of the St Andrews Society", John Reekie (far right) illustrated in D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, p. 231
  30. ^ "David Knox". "negatives at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  31. ^ "Officers of the St Andrews Society", David Knox (second from right) illustrated in D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, p. 231
  32. ^ "David Woodbury". photo taken at Berlin, MD. Oct 1862 (kneeling at far right), courtesy National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  33. ^ "David Woodbury". "published works at the Library of Congress, P&P. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Blue and Gray in Black and White", Zeller, Bob, 2005, pg. 144
  35. ^ "William Pywell". published works at the Library of Congress, P&P. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Slave Pen". "Slave pen, Alexandria, Va." negative by William R. Pywell, Library of Congress. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  37. ^ "W.F. Browne's View of Confederate Water Batteries on James River". Civil War Richmond, an online research project by Michael D. Gorman. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  38. ^ "Isaac G. Tyson". at "Geni" - MyHeritage Ltd. 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  39. ^ "Early Photography at Gettysburg", William A. Frassanito, 1995, photos of Isaac & Charles Tyson, pg. 29
  40. ^ "Early Photography at Gettsburg", William A. Frassanito, 1995, pg. 131
  41. ^ "Stacy, George". published works at the Library of Congress. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  42. ^ Two photos of George Stacy in Keith Brady's article, "Stereo World", March/April 2015 VOL. 40 No. 5
  43. ^ "Frederick Gutekunst". "Scenes from the Battle-Field at Gettysburg, PA." Special Collections, Gettysburg College. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  44. ^ Whitney's "REMINISCENCES" published in the "Photographic Times and American Photographer" New York/London, March 1884:122-24 and June 1889:279–81
  45. ^ "Edward Whitney". photo of Whitney, Berlin, MD. (3rd from left, leaning on large box) courtesy National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  46. ^ "The Star" N.Y. Vol. 20, 11-6-1887; Craig's Daguerreian Registry 1997
  47. ^ excerpts from "The Memoirs of Jeremiah Gurney", begun in 1895, New-York Historical Society
  48. ^ "G.O. Brown". "published work at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  49. ^ "Haas & Peale". "published work at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  50. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White", Zeller, Bob, 2005 pp. 130-33
  51. ^ "George Cook". published works at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  52. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White", Zeller, Bob, 2005 pp. 125-28
  53. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White", Zeller, Bob, 2005 pp. 129-31
  54. ^ "George Cook". The "exploding shell painting" at the Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  55. ^ "Osborn and Durbec". in Battlefield Photographer, by Andy House, CCWP - Vol. 13 issue 1 pp. 3-11. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  56. ^ "Osborn & Durbec". published works at the Library of Congress P&P, including the recently (2015) acquired, Robin Stanford Collection. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  57. ^ "The Blue And Gray In Black And White", Zeller, Bob, 2005, pg. 44-46.
  58. ^ "Osborn and Durbec". in Battlefield Photographer, by Andy House, CCWP - Vol. 13 issue 1 pg. 14. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  59. ^ "Cook & Osborn combat photos". stereoview from the collection of Robin Stanford, Library of Congress P&P. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  60. ^ "The Works (Antebellum) of J.D. Edwards 1858-61" (PDF). The Historic New Orleans Collection vol. 25 No. 3. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  61. ^ "J.D. Edwards' photos of Confederate soldiers, Pensacola, Fl., c1861, book 2 page 2". Huntington Digital Library. Retrieved November 29, 2015. 
  62. ^ Blue & Gray in Black & White, Zeller 2005 pp. 49-50
  63. ^ "Johnson's Island Prison". Civil War 150, Ohio Historical Society. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  64. ^ Wes Cowan (August 21, 2006). "Civil War POW Photos". History Detectives. Season 4. Episode 9. Transcript (PDF). PBS. 
  65. ^ "Blue & Gray in Black & White", Zeller, Bob, 2005 Introduction xi
  66. ^ D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, pp. 260-61
  67. ^ D. Mark Katz, "Witness to an Era. The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner", Viking, New York, 1991, pg. 261

External Links[edit]

Civil War Photography[edit]

  • Center for Civil War Photography - the only clearinghouse for information about Civil War photography on the Internet.
  • Guide to Finding Civil War Photos: The Library of Congress, The National Archives, The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, Southern Methodist University, New York Historical Society, Chrysler Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Civil War Richmond, The Photographic History of the Civil War, The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Searching for photographs of Individual Civil War Soldiers

Mathew Brady[edit]

Alexander Gardner[edit]

George Barnard[edit]

Timothy O'Sullivan[edit]