The collection of 732 Civil War stereographs covers the entire period of the Civil War, from the first Battle of Bull Run through the surrender at Appomattox, and the triumphal parade of Union forces in Washington D.C.
|North wall of Fort Sumpter [sic]|
The collection of 732 Civil War stereographs covers the entire period of the Civil War, from the first Battle of Bull Run through the surrender at Appomattox, and the triumphal parade of Union forces in Washington D.C. Most of the images were made in the eastern theatre of the war, with a majority of scenes from Virginia. Views in northern states include naval shipyards in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, and a rally and parades in New York City. Compelling images of death on the battlefield and the destruction of cities, railroads and bridges show the devastating effects of the war. Individual and group portraits of participants are included, along with images of soldiers relaxing in camps, drilling in the field, and preparing for attack in trenches and other fortifications. There are images of African Americans fleeing slavery by crossing the Union lines, as well as African Americans on southern plantations and serving in the Army and the Navy. Damage sustained by the ironclad Monitor after her fight with the Merrimac is depicted, along with other ships on the James River. Civilians also appear in the photographs, including photographers, artists and journalists, a thief known for looting possessions from the dead on battlefields, and members of the United States Sanitary Commission.
|Bull Run Monuments|
Because of their journalistic style, stereographs offer an immediate and graphic look at the war. When seen with a stereograph viewer which creates a three-dimensional effect, the small views (which range in size from 3 1/8 x 6 3/4 inches to 4 x 7 inches) become even more vivid and detailed. While photographers did not usually depict actual battle scenes, they captured images of camp life before battles and of battlefields afterward. Significant Civil War sites are documented, including Fort Sumter and the house at Appomattox where Lee surrendered.
Important for their depiction of the events of the Civil War, these views are also significant because of the photographers who made them. Mathew Brady is represented in the collection, as well as his former employees Alexander Gardner, James Gibson, and Timothy O'Sullivan. Other photographers represented include George N. Barnard, who took photographs in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sam A. Cooley, who was the "Official Photographer" for the 10th Army Corps, and local photographers from Richmond, Gettysburg, and other locations.
Most of the views presented here were published during the war by the photographer who made them, or by publishers such as E. & H.T. Anthony. Anthony's file was later obtained by General Albert Ordway and published under successive imprints by John C. Taylor, and Taylor & Huntington to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the war and the reunions held at that time.