The Library of Congress Purchases 500 Rare Civil War Photos; Many Available Online


Photograph shows a street view Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois draped in mourning on the day of his funeral. A horse stands near a wooden plank from the street to the sidewalk. Credit: Robin Stanford collection/Courtesy of Library of Congress.

The unique addition was acquired from an 87-year-old Texas collector, Robin Stanford, who has been gathering civil war-era photos since the 1970s.

“They’re just tremendously significant,” said Bob Zeller, president of the Center for Civil War Photography, adding that “these are not post-war . . . or after Union occupation. These are actual scenes of slavery in America”.

The photos include Lincoln’s Springfield home covered in mourning cloth after his assassination, the first generation of African Americans born into freedom and a Confederate flag flying from a flagpole in Fort Sumter.

There are also images of life before the war, with one of the more noteworthy photos depicting South Carolina slaves worshiping in a plantation church. This may be the only prewar photo of its kind, according to the Washington Post.

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Documenting War: Matthew Brady on the American Battlefield

While the American Civil War was not the first armed conflict to be photographed, it was by far the most bloody and gruesome up to that point. Considered by many to be the father of photojournalism, Matthew Brady was a studio photographer in New York who began cashing in at the outbreak of the war by specifically marketing portraits to families whose sons were leaving with no guarantee of returning home.

"Havoc". Effect of a 32lb. shell from the 2nd. Mass. Heavy Artillery, Fredericksburg,Va.

“Havoc”. Effect of a 32lb. shell from the 2nd. Mass. Heavy Artillery, Fredericksburg,Va.

Eventually, Brady secured permission from President Lincoln himself to travel to the battlefields with the express purpose of documenting the conflict. Armed with a wet-plate camera and portable darkroom, he set out to immortalize the realities of a war that not only shaped the course of American history but, de facto, the course of modern history. Brady’s exhibits and galleries, often filled with graphic images of rotting corpses on the battlefield, brought the realities of war to the home front for the mostly-untouched North. [Read more…]