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A dead man did not move. A photographer at the time required a portable darkroom near the subject where the photographer prepared his plates. He would carry this pane of glass coated with damp chemicals in a light-proof container to the place were it was to be exposed, expose it for the required amount of time in his camera, and then return to the darkroom. Photographers had tents and wagons for this purpose, but it was almost impossible for them to work on the battlefield while the battle raged. Furthermore, exposure times meant that many subjects were impossible or produced eerie effects.

If an American flag was blowing in the wind over a color guard at attention, it appeared as a kind of striped ghost hovering over the rigid men. The volume of the History devoted to cavalry is strangely devoid of horses except standing still with men on foot holding them. Horses in movement were too fast. Even on the brightest days, at attention on parade, there are blurred heads and tails.

Men engaged in combat, even if the photographer could have his equipment nearby, were impossible too. The horse stood quietly with its trooper. There is no way now, and probably there was not then, to be certain that that horse was ever anywhere near Gettysburg. Yet the book acknowledged no loss for this necessity of asking readers to make the jump from the quiet horse to a horse in action. Why should the editors have worried about that act of imagination when again and again quiet stood for battle and the glint in the eye of a studio posed portrait stood for martial determination?

The photograph was just a sign of the battle, that it contained a sign of a sign did it no harm. The photographs of the dead had a special place. A horse could be caparisoned for war even where there was no war; buildings can burn for many reasons that have nothing to do with bombardments; but a field or dell strewn or draped with the dead, especially the dead grotesquely swollen, days after the event, must be the terrible and unmistakable result of war.

In the summer of , Gardner was directing his own operation out of Washington, D. He understood very well the special relationship between photographs of bodies and an impression of the immediacy of battle. It was his pictures of the dead after the battle of Antietam that had received considerable publicity. Almost a year later, in the first days of July, , when he received the news of the battle in Pennsylvania between Robert E.

He needed strong light for his work, and so had to stop by five in the afternoon. That is where Gardner spent most of July 6, and that is where the picture above was taken. On the second day of the battle, southern officers had become aware of the importance of this topographic feature at the same time as their northern opponents.

Had the Union forces not been able to hold onto the position, and several times they were pushed off its summit, it is quite likely that they would have lost the battle, as from those heights their line to the east was exposed. A deadly duel ensued where northern soldiers sent exploding shells into the rocks and southern marksmen tried to pick off northern officers.

The photograph caught a victim of this important duel during the last battle in which the South might have demoralized the North to the point of threatening the northern cause politically.

American Civil War

Victory might also have helped the South obtain European recognition and aid. It was a most dangerous post to occupy, since the Federal batteries on the Round Top were constantly shelling it in an effort to dislodge the hardy riflemen, many of whom, met the fate of the one in the picture.

Their deadly work continued, however, and many a gallant officer of the Federals was picked off during the fighting on the afternoon of the second day. General Vincent was one of the first victims; General Weed fell likewise; and as Lieutenant Hazlett bent over him to catch his last words, a bullet through the head prostrated that officer lifeless on the body of his chief.

A relative would have recognized him easily. He too was exposed and paid for any damage he may have caused with his own life. The photographer always chooses the approach to a subject, after all, and in all the photographs of this man, and others on the Gettysburg battlefield, Gardner had most likely supplied the gun. According to William Frassanito, from whom much technical information for this article comes, no sharpshooter used the kind of gun in the photographs, and it is unlikely that two days after the battle, such an exposed souvenir would have remained.

The second pose, however, included an elaborate story that Gardner entirely invented.

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He had the sharpshooter await his death, stoically, with a knapsack under his head for a pillow. Instead they contented themselves with a moment extended over space in the narrative that maintained the balance and an emotional tie between the deaths of northerners and southerners. Was Lieutenant Hazlett as handsome and young as this soldier? Neither volume titles nor table of content entries mentioned black people directly. Of course the section title also frames as comedy the very real accomplishments and sacrifices of black soldiers in military actions mentioned there. One of the most convoluted paragraphs in American historiography, written as a caption vol.


The poem that appeared near the photographs expressed his willingness to have black Americans included in the army and killed in his place. The picture caption explained the verse, as well as the photographs of black people and white mansions:. Charles Graham Halpine comes to the rescue, in his poem that follows on page , with a saving sense of Irish humor. Certainly, the line above presents a firm and soldierly front. Many of the colored regiments came to be well-disciplined and serviceable.

Their bravery is attested by the loss of life at Battery Wagner and in the charges at Petersburg crater. Many photographs of destroyed and partially destroyed southern buildings decorated the pages of the History without captions drawing attention to their beauty. When the white northern army destroyed something, apparently, it could be part of that great test of shared valor and pain that the book created. When black people seemed to take possession, as in these pictures, images of that possession, or merely presence, were viewed by The History as a desecration.

North and South can now share this human weakness too. His work was popular or important enough to be reprinted in , and again in Hilton Head, one of the southern Sea Islands, was among the first southern territories taken by the Union forces.

General Hunter trained members of its large freed slave population into the first African American unit in the Army. Halpine must have been part of that training program. Presumably his dialect poetry was part of a propaganda effort to make black soldiers acceptable to New Yorkers, especially Irish New Yorkers, whose racism and resentment of participating in a war that would free black slaves, contributed to the New York draft riots of July, , in which black neighborhoods were destroyed.

The poems, that seem to us either cynical or racist or both and were presented in so equivocal a fashion in The History , were probably carefully calculated during the war to promote the cause of black fighting men. This author has seen one photograph of slaves among all those volumes. Work was the son of abolitionists in Connecticut and his dialect song this time African American dialect told of slaves taking possession of a plantation house when the master went off to fight. The former slaves lived in the parlor and drank up the wine and cider.

Southerners could simply laugh at the idea of African Americans taking possession of property, in this case, or having power over property, as in the photographs of former slaves in military formation at plantation houses. In the context of The History, northerners agreed with them. Those pictures show starving prisoners, unable to stand, some with their lower limbs literally rotting away. Man for man, the images show bodily harm as haunting as any picture from Nazi death camps, but with the important difference that they are evidence of inhumanity to a number of soldiers, and not evidence of mass extermination.

Neither the fate of African Americans, nor the extreme inhumanity demonstrated by those Andersonville images could be included in these volumes that sought reconciliation. Instead we have white heroes, dead and alive. The volumes of The Photographic History of the Civil War were intended to unite white Americans with a heroic past and a shared heritage, to use the words of the dedication, against the anxieties engendered by the possibility of someday changing the suppressed status of the former slaves and their descendants. Photographs of black soldiers with a caption that said clearly what they had accomplished, like the terrible photographs from Andersonville, might have proved destabilizing to an equality of suffering important to the birth of that unity.

The photographs were sold individually to put in albums and in stereoscopic pairs in great numbers during and after the war. So common were photographic portraits of individual soldiers that the United States Military History Institute at Carlisle, Pennsylvania numbers among its projects the collection of a photograph of every single military participant in the war.

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Conceivably they will succeed. George N. He died poor and forgotten, the victim of over-confidence in the appetite for Civil War photographs in the period just after the war.

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Using the photographs, the book expressed the linking of North to South and the celebration of that reunion made possible by a shared memory of pain and made possible by a shared forgetfulness of the reasons behind the wartime desire and necessity to destroy the army of the other Section. He concluded that Americans were peace loving and not military, and so he would give them a history of the war devoted to peace, notwithstanding the fact that the materials he had at hand had once served to rededicate populations to a military purpose of destruction. Oliver Wendell Holmes in his much-quoted article on photography in the Atlantic Monthly of July, the month of the battle of Gettysburg had tried to understand the photographs of the dead at Antietam.

His presence on the field almost certainly coincided with the visit of the photographers because bodies were buried as quickly as possible. His sensibilities and emotions were hugely strained by the experience, but he could yet face the necessity of winning the war even at the cost of what he saw. His audience was northern.

He spoke of the deeds of the northern soldiers. If anyone had cared to look, northern soldiers were being arranged in graves with markers on the battlefield.

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The task would be completed by the spring of Southern soldiers meanwhile, remained in the mass graves where northern soldiers had been quick to heave them right after the battle. Oliver Wendell Holmes, close to the time of battle and in the midst of war, like Lincoln, had seen and understood this at Antietam. The author, Hilary A. The Japanese victors at Lio-Yang lost a mere The Civil War had proved that Americans were ready to face the world.

The war has made the country unite in valor and the losses, the photographs of the dead along with memorials and ceremonies, were essential elements in bringing the birth of that union about. William Frassanito insisted in , that the photographs should bring history into the present and bring the past to life. In this his words were not unlike the prefaces to The History. He succeeded very well. But by studying the photographers he placed Alexander Gardner and his colleagues, their ambitions and needs, between readers and the events of the battle and made the photographs into documents in the history of photography and the biographies of a handful of men, more than documents in the history of the Civil War.

With the slight difference in titles, A Photographic History as against The Photographic History , it is easy to believe that author and his publisher were very aware of the similarities and the differences between the two enterprises. The comparison shows just how different the uses of photographs from the two wars could be.

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  • The Photographic History had multiple prefaces, introductions, articles and long titled captions written by a host of well-known or scholarly persons from both the North and the South. A Photographic History had but one author and editor who wrote laconic captions and introduced his volume with just a couple of double spaced pages of curt argument. For The History of the Civil War underlined the fact that the war was over by the theatrical arrangement of the themes in the many volumes and by the proscenium graphics and funereal flags that decorated so many pages.

    For A History , the war was not over. There was no rising action coming to a crisis and denouement and no proscenium barrier to push the horror of war back into the past or into a theatrical structure away from the spectators. The story has never been told so well and with such balance and inclusiveness. Louis and the Cultural Civil War. The focused nature of this study reveals the complexities of compromise and the tensions of competing loyalties…. Arenson produces a highly provocative thesis that captures and explains regional alliances through a cultural prism…Arenson has something new to add to the literature of the Civil War, and he does so with a wonderfully nuanced argument and deft pen.

    Sure to have an enduring impact, this book delivers. Valuable new insights. Louis and the nation apart during the middle of the nineteenth century. From the perspective of St. Louis, the Civil War was not simply a political struggle between North and South over the future of slavery in the territories.

    Instead, it involved the aspirations, prejudices, and tensions between rival ethnic, racial, and regional groups…. Louis Post-Dispatch , March 13, Louis as…, at times, exploiting the strain between the two [North and South] to advance western political objectives. His straightforward writing style pulls you along, immersing you in the political wrangling of the times and introducing you to information that explodes some of St. If understanding history is a way to help us avoid repeating it, the book offers more than just a new and intriguing prism through which to view St.