Through the Camera Lens: the American Civil War

Introduction

Burial Party

This sad scene represents the soldiers in the act of collecting the remains of their comrades, killed at the battles of Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor. It speaks ill of the residents of that part of Virginia, that they allowed even the remains of those they considered enemies, to decay unnoticed where they fell. The soldiers, to whom commonly falls the task of burying the dead, may possibly have been called away before the task was completed. At such times the native dwellers of the neighborhood would usually come forward and provide sepulture for such as had been left uncovered. Cold Harbor, however, was not the only place where Union men were left unburied. It was so upon the field of the first Bull Run battle, where the rebel army was encamped for six months afterwards. Perhaps like the people of Gettysburg, they wanted to know first “who was to pay them for it.” After that battle, the soldiers hastened in pursuit of the retiring columns of Lee, leaving a large number of the dead unburied. The Gettysburgers were loud in their complaints, and indignantly made the above quoted inquiry as to the remuneration, upon being told they must finish the burial rites themselves.

Among the unburied on the Bull Run field, a singular discovery was made, which might have led to the identification of the remains of a soldier. An orderly turning over a skull upon the ground, heard something within it rattle, and searching for the supposed bullet, found a glass eye.

Extracted from: Gardiner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War (Washington: Philp & Solomons, 1865–66)

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

STANDARD 2: The course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people. 

Standard 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war. 

7-12: Compare the human resources of the Union and the Confederacy at the beginning of the Civil War and assess the tactical advantages of each side.
5-12: Identify the innovations in military technology and explain their impact on humans, property, and the final outcome of the war. [Utilize visual and mathematical data] 

Standard 2B: The student understands the social experience of the war on the battlefield and homefront. 

5-12: Compare the human and material costs of the war in the North and South and assess the degree to which the war reunited the nation.

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: [Brady, the photographer, returned from Bull Run].
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1861 July 22.
    REPRODUCTIONSHow to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHTCopyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCESelected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

  2. DESCRIPTION: [Portrait of Pvt. William T. Carter (2nd from right in white collar) and group of 3rd Maryland Infantry].
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: [between 1860 and 1865, re-photographed 1961]
    REPRODUCTIONSHow to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHTCopyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCESelected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

  3. DESCRIPTION: Antietam, Maryland. Bodies in front of the Dunker church.
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Alexander Gardiner
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1862 Sept.
    REPRODUCTIONSHow to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHTCopyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCESelected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

  4. DESCRIPTION: Antietam, Maryland. Gathered together for burial after the battle of Antietam
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Alexander Gardiner
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1862 Sept.
    REPRODUCTIONSHow to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHTCopyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCESelected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

  5. DESCRIPTION: Camp of 31st Pennsylvania Infantry near Washington, D.C.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  [photographed 1862, printed later]
    REPRODUCTIONS:  How to obtain reproductions
    COPYRIGHT:  Copyright and other restrictions
    SOURCE:
     American Women: A Gateway to Library of Congress Resources for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

  6. DESCRIPTION: Camp scene, Fortress Monroe. [Stereograph]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: [between ca.1862-ca.1864]
    REPRODUCTIONS:  How to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT:  Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:
     Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society
    REPOSITORY: New-York Historical Society   

  7. DESCRIPTION: Pontoon across the Rappahannock River, VA, Cavalry column
    PHOTOGRAPHER: [Matthew Brady Studios]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1860 - ca. 1865
    SOURCE: Part of Series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, 1921 - 1940
    REPOSITORY: National Archives, Washington, DC

  8. DESCRIPTION: Wounded soldiers in hospital
    PHOTOGRAPHER: [Matthew Brady Studios]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1860 - ca. 1865
    SOURCE: Part of Series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, 1921 - 1940
    REPOSITORY: National Archives, Washington, DC

For additional images, see:  

Additional Media Resources

Does the Camera Ever Lie? From American Memory.

Photography and the Civil War

Cornell University's Seven Millionth Volume: Gardiner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War

Additional Instructional Resources

Teaching With Documents: The Civil War as Photographed by Mathew Brady

Secondary Resources

 Trachtenberg, Alan. "Albums of War: On Reading Civil War Photographs." Representations, No. 9, Special Issue: American Culture Between the Civil War and World War I. (Winter, 1985): 1-32.

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Nancy Bramucci.

 

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