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Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War

Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War

Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War

This photograph by Timothy O’Sullivan shows a view of Union Army soldiers lined up in their morning guard mount in front of the camp. Behind the formation, soldiers are scattered among the tents and huts with the barrel chimneys, across the slope of the hill of the encampment. This photograph is titled Guard Mount, Head-Quarters Army of the Potomac and was one of the pictures in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War, Vol. II, American, 1865–1866.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (1840 – 1882) was a photographer known for his work related to the American Civil War and the Western United States. He joined Alexander Gardner’s studio, where he had forty-four photographs published in the first Civil War photographs collection, Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War.

Gardner published a two-volume work, Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War in 1866. Each volume contained 50 hand-mounted original prints. Included in the book were photographs of Abraham Lincoln, whom Gardner had photographed seven occasions while Lincoln was alive. Gardner also documented Lincoln’s funeral and was the only photographer allowed at the execution of the conspirators by hanging.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865) and its aftermath over 7,000 different photographic views and portraits made were made.  Many of the images are represented by their original glass plate negatives. Photographers documented battlefields, soldiers’ activities and the destructive effects that the conflict had on people, cities and landscapes. By the time of the Civil War, photography was increasingly becoming professionalised. Journals and organisations dedicated to the medium helped legitimise a field that had been notoriously disreputable. While photographs captured the realities of war, photographers sometimes manipulated the scenes. The biggest collection of Civil War photographs and negatives belongs to the US Library of Congress.

Quotes From The Civil War

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“The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”
– Ulysses S. Grant

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“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueller it is, the sooner it will be over.”
– William Tecumseh Sherman

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“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.”
– Ulysses S. Grant

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“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
– Abraham Lincoln

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“It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it.”
– Robert E. Lee

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“There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.”
– William Tecumseh Sherman

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“War means fighting, and fighting means killing.”
– Nathan Bedford Forrest

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“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
– Abraham Lincoln

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“The education of a man is never completed until he dies”.
– Robert E. Lee

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“I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumours and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all, there would be news from Hell before breakfast.”
– William Tecumseh Sherman

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“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
– Abraham Lincoln

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“The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations; before you lies the future, a future full of golden promise.”
– Jefferson Davis

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“If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.”
– Ulysses S. Grant

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“War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.”
– William Tecumseh Sherman

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“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
– Abraham Lincoln

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“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing.”
– Robert E. Lee

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Reflections

  • Why did Gardner’s Photographic book not sell well?
  • Has the photography of war made a difference in how we view wars?
  • Why do I find it surprising that we have photographs from the American Civil War?

Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War

  • Title:                 Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War
  • Date:                1863
  • Photographer:  Timothy H. O’Sullivan (1840 – 1882)
  • Medium:          Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
  • Dimensions:     Images: 17.4 × 22.5 cm (6 7/8 × 8 7/8 in.)
  • Museum:        Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

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” I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
– Diane Arbus

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Photo Credit: 1) Timothy H. O’Sullivan [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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