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Top 20 Great US Civil

War Photographs
20 General Grant and Officers- Lookout Mountain

This picture looks like it could be just an ordinary touristy snapshot. But it actually shows General
Grant (left) and five officers on Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, after Grant
whipped the Confederates in November 1863. Sticking out of Grant’s mouth is one of his ever-
present cigars (which would eventually give him the throat cancer that killed him).
Ruins of Charleston

A quartet of black children

wearing Army hats (at least
they look like children) sit in
the ruins of Circular Church
on Meeting Street in
Charleston, birthplace of
Battle of Nashville

If the dating of this photo is

correct, then it was taken
during the Battle of Nashville,
Dec. 15-16, 1864. It shows the
outer edge of the Union lines.
Black soldiers

Men and noncoms of Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, Washington D.C.
The bottom rail is on top, as these soldiers were among the 180,000 black men who served in
the Union army during the war—and helped deliver ultimate victory.
It looks like a scene from World War I, but this photograph
shows dead Confederates in the trenches at Petersburg, Va.,
Fugitive slaves crossing the
Freedom dash Rappahannock River toward the North,
August 1862.
Burned train

This photograph shows what happens when an ammunition train goes BOOM! George Bernard saw the
results when he photographed the remains of CSA General Hood’s 28-car ammunition train, which
Hood’s retreating army burned after loosing Atlanta to Sherman, September 1864.
This was the late Shelby Foote’s
favorite photograph because it
“shows three Confederate soldiers
who were captured at Gettysburg,
You can see exactly how the
Confederate soldier was dressed.
And one of them has his arms up—
like this—as if he knows he’s having
his picture taken but he’s
determined to remain the individual
that he is. There’s just something
about that photograph that strikes
me as an image of the war.” (This
remark appears during the episode
on Gettysburg in Ken Burns’ The
Civil War.)
Amputation being
Gettysburg, July 1863

At first, it seems like something of a happy scene, with many people standing around and what looks like garland
decorating the tent. But that’s a surgeon’s saw the man at center is holding, and the original caption says the
photo is showing an amputation.
Alexander Gardener photographed Lincoln and General McClellan on the Antietam battlefield,
October 1862. Notice how much taller Lincoln is compared to McClellan and his staff, and also
notice McClellan’s strutting pose. McClellan styled himself the savior of the nation, but a couple of
weeks after this picture was taken—and more than a month after the battle—Lincoln fired
McClellan for good.
Damaged Atlanta 1864 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, after Sherman captured that
city in 1864. Looks a far cry from the glorious Technicolor splendor of “Gone with
the Wind,” doesn’t it.
General William T. Sherman

Most pictures of generals are stuffy and stiffly formal because of the nature of photographic technology at
that time but George N. Bernard managed to capture this image of General William T. Sherman on his horse
at Fort No. 7 before Atlanta, August 1864.
General Grant and staff
May 21, 1864, at Massaponax
Church, Va.
Timothy O’Sullivan took this and several
similar pictures from the church, whose
pews the generals are sitting on. At left,
General Grant looks over the shoulder of
General George Meade, commander of the
Army of the Potomac. In other pictures in
the series, Grant is sitting on the pew facing
the photographer. Put these pictures
together and you have the closest thing to a
movie that came out of the Civil War.
Significant also because during this pause
in the campaign, General Lee was getting
ready to pull Grant into a trap at the North
Anna River. But Grant sensed the trap and
disengaged, sidestepping once more to the
Burned-out Richmond
May 1865

It looks like a European town destroyed by artillery or bombers during either of the world wars. But
this picture shows the devastating results from the fire that swept Richmond when the Confederate
government retreated.
Lincoln at Gettysburg
Nov. 19, 1863
Lincoln’s remarks were
very short, as the
photographer had barely
gotten ready when
Lincoln was finished.
Hence, the blurry nature
of this historic event.
Yankees- General John Sedgwick’s corps, early 1863
This remarkable photo of Union soldiers waiting to advance is usually misidentified as being
taken during the siege of Petersburg, 1864-1865. The Library of Congress has it labeled as
such. But according to James McPherson, it was actually taken a year earlier, before the
Chancellorsville campaign.

James Gibson took this photo of a field hospital at Savage’s Station, Va., during the
Seven Days campaign east of Richmond.
Confederate dead- Starke’s Brigade, battle of Antietam
Alexander Gardener photographed these dead rebels of Starke’s Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia
where they fell along the Haggerstown Turnpike. Gardner took this picture two days after the battle of
Antietam (Sharpsburg to the CSA). Gardener’s boss, Matthew Brady, took his photographs and made them
into a display for the public—one that shocked people who had never before seen war dead (which was
practically everyone).
Ulysses S. Grant
After 40 days of continuous combat

This picture was taken a few days after his

unfortunate assault at Cold Harbor. The
strain on his face is palpable. By the time
this photo was taken, Grant and Lee had lost
a combined 80,000 men (50K Union, 30K
Confederate) at the Wilderness,
Spotsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor.
Confederate troops on the march
Frederick, Maryland, Sept. 12, 1862

This is one of the most historically valuable photos ever taken of the war because it is the
only known photograph that shows Confederate soldiers on the march in enemy territory.
(Maryland was indeed enemy territory to them, because slave-holding Maryland elected to
remain in the Union.) What’s haunting about this photo is that, statistically speaking,
before the end of the month one-third of all the men in that picture would be dead,
wounded or missing. The photo is the property of the Historical Society of Frederick
County (Maryland), and no larger size is available.