Capturing everything from battlefields to camp life, from enlisted men to generals, photographs from the Civil War document an era that continues to fascinate us 150 years later. The best known of the Civil War photographers was Mathew Brady, but although Brady is practically synonymous with Civil War photography, many of the photographs attributed to him were actually taken by his employees. In addition to Brady and his crew were other photographers, who—like Brady’s men—took their bulky cameras and equipment on the road to document many aspects of the war, making it the first conflict to be so widely photographed.
Fold3 has three collections of these invaluable glimpses into the past: the Brady Civil War Photos (courtesy of the National Archives), the U.S. Civil War Photos (through the Library of Congress), and the New York State Military Museum Photos—Fold3’s newest addition to its collection of Civil War images. These collections document a vast array of military and non-military subjects, including army and navy life, generals in the field, hospitals, battle sites, prisoners and prisons, railroads, cities, and military equipment. And of course there are multitudes of portraits: of groups and individuals, soldiers and civilians, officers and enlisted men, government officials and women, and many others.
Some Civil War photographs amuse, like this one of “a muss at headquarters” between a few jokesters in the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth, Virginia, in April 1863. Others educate, like this photograph of artifacts from Andersonville Prison or this image that captures the process of being drummed out of the army. Photos of graves, the newly dead, or those long awaiting burial may shock or sadden, while other images can inspire, such as this photograph of two prisoners of war who escaped twice and traveled nearly 600 miles to reach safety behind Union lines.
No matter the subject, Civil War photographs can provide a powerful connection with the past. Search Fold3’s collection of images for your Civil War ancestors and discover your own connections to this watershed era.