Images of the American Civil War | Alexander Street
Images of the American Civil War

Images of the American Civil War

Images of the American Civil War: Photographs, Posters, and Ephemera contains 28,000 contemporaneous photographs, including wartime recruiting posters, envelopes, and ephemera. These dramatic images present a historical account of the war—and a view of nineteenth-century America more broadly—from social, military, and political perspectives.

Alexander Street’s extensive organization and indexing let you go directly to images covering casualties, home life, prisons, hospitals, posters, weaponry, transportation, political and military leaders, and other broad topics; easily move from one image to others associated with the same battle or campaign; find images by place, photographer, or publisher; or even locate pictures by setting (interior, exterior, or studio photographs). The descriptive narrative will expand each photo’s story—for example what officers were present and therefore involved in the planning of a battle, who associated with whom, the mood and demeanor revealed by body language—and other information that might remain hidden using written history alone.

Identifying and understanding the photographs is only the beginning. Each item resides at a permanent URL, so that you can embed the photo in a presentation, put it into a personal folder or course folder, place photos on electronic course reserve, and share the links. As part of Alexander Street’s The American Civil War Online, the photos can be searched together with letters, diaries, statistics, biographies, regimental information, and rare illustrated Civil War newspapers and periodicals—for the most complete understanding of people and events possible.

Search results appear as thumbnail photo displays, with one click to the larger image and rich bibliographic details. An interactive chronology lets you move along a timeline of historical events and click for a detailed description. Both portraiture and landscape styles are well represented, as well as action and posed photos.

Matthew Brady was already established as one of America’s most prestigious photographers when, from its outset, he felt the responsibility to document the war. Alexander Gardner, one of the few who rivaled Brady, became the official photographer of the Army of the Potomac early in the war. The photos of Timothy O’Sullivan, one of Brady’s field operators at the Battle of Gettysburg, were so influential (published in Harper's Weekly) that they inspired Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. George Barnard’s photographs of Harper’s Ferry, Bull Run, Yorktown, and Sherman’s March became part of the official record. Less recognizable figures, such as James Gibson, have given us critically important images of key battles. Events from the monumental to the everyday were captured in the burgeoning medium of nineteenth-century photography by both the famous and unknown. Optimistic civilians cheering their young to combat; U.S. Christian Commission delegates providing ministry for the enlisted; the extraordinary suffering and bloodshed at Antietam; soldiers sparring and playing poker during quiet moments; the aftermath of a lynching party... With these visual records and Alexander Street’s search tools, scholars and students can find new interpretations and understandings of how nineteenth-century society acted, how it saw itself, and how the American Civil War unfolded on the battlefields and the home front.

Publication details

Most of the photographs in Images of the American Civil War will be rare, previously unpublished, and never before available online; and all are deeply indexed, carefully represented in high resolution, and cross searchable for the first time. In addition to other sources, Alexander Street is in discussions with the American Antiquarian Society, the New York Historical Society, and the Virginia Historical Society.

Images of the American Civil War: Photographs, Posters, and Ephemera is available on the Web, through one-time purchase of perpetual rights or annual subscription, with prices scaled to library type and budget.