What Are Some Famous Photographs of the American Civil War?


Quick Answer

Famous photographs of the American Civil War generally depict people and locations. Notably, photographs of Union leaders, such as president Abraham Lincoln and generals Ulysses S. Grant and Ambrose Burnside, as well as Confederate leaders like president Jefferson Davis and generals Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson, survived the conflict.

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Matthew Brady was one well-known photographer of the American Civil War. He, alongside 24 other men, used portable darkrooms to document the War between the States pictorially. The photographic technology of the time was relatively slow, requiring the subject to stand still during development. This precluded the capture of battle scenes, so instead Brady and his assistants took portraits of leaders, common soldiers and, controversially, corpses. Brady exhibited such photographs from the Battle of Antietam in his New York gallery in October 1862, titling the series "The Dead of Antietam."

Many Civil War-era photos, by Brady and his contemporaries, survived and are stored in the U.S. National Archives as well as the U.S. Library of Congress. The conflict was one of the first that was documented by the use of photography.

Two of the most well-known of Brady's photographs are a pair of portraits from a session with Lincoln on February 9, 1864. A frontal picture from the pictures appears on the $5 bill while a profile shot is depicted on the Lincoln cent.

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