Between the States: Photographs of the American Civil War

September 18–October 20, 2015

Organized by the George Eastman House, this traveling exhibition presents visual memories of the American Civil War through facsimile photographs.

Coinciding with the 150 year anniversary of "Mr Lincoln's War," the George Eastman House draws from its distinguished photography collection to chronicle and document this searing conflict. Presenting photographs by Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, George Barnard and others, this exhibition displays haunting battle scenes, temporary fortifications, destroyed buildings, wounded and abandoned soldiers, as well as portraits of Civil War personalities and individual soldiers.

The exhibition is scheduled to coincide with Carleton courses on the American Civil War and the History of Photography.

Selected Themes in the Exhibition

Portraits of Civil War Personalities and Soldiers

Photography underwent rapid technical transformations during the 1860s, and rendered portrait likenesses affordable to all Americans.  In addition to providing visual souvenirs of loved ones during war, photography studios did a brisk business in portraits of political and military leaders as well as entertainers and others, printed as tiny cartes-de-visite, or slightly larger cabinet cards.


Monumental Photo Co.
Robert E. Lee, ca. 1863.
Albumen print (carte-de-visite).

Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army in Northern Virginia from 1862 until the 1865 surrender that ended the war between the states. 


Unidentified Photographer
The Apotheosis of Lincoln, ca. 1870
Albumen print (carte-de-visite).

Heaven-bound images of President Abraham Lincoln were popular after his assassination on April 14, 1865.

Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War

Combining the work of eleven photographers and published in 1865 and 1866 after the main events of the war, Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War presents images of battle encampments and fortifications, ravaged buildings and other sites, and posed portraits of officers and troops.


Wood & Gibson (American)
Battery No. 4, near Yorktown, Virginia, May 1862
Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War, vol. I, 1866


Wood & Gibson (American)
Inspection of Troops at Cumberlanding, Pamunkey, Virginia, May 1862
Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War
, vol. II, 1866 


Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, July 1863
Gardner's Photographic
Sketch Book of the War, Vol. I, 1866

Ruins of War – Human and Architectural

After fighting broke out in late 1861, Matthew B Brady, a New York studio photographer known for portraits, resolved to document the coming war. Setting up supply wagons as mobile darkrooms, he hired a fleet of photographers to follow the Union Army.  Wet plate negatives were developed in the field, and then brought back to studios in New York and Washington D.C for printing and dissemination.  Even though these images of war were often taken on active battlefields, the resulting photographs are static and eerily quiet. 

Ruins Old Brick church.jpg

Barnard & Gibson (American)
Ruins of Old Brick Church, Hampton, Virginia (The Oldest Church in America), 1862
Albumen print 


Gardner & Gibson (American)
View on the Battlefield of Antietam, 1862
Albumen print

Over 620,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War along with countless civilians. Photography played an important role in bringing this sobering reality to the public.   

A Confederate Prison

A Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia was taken over by the Union late in the war.  IN the 1880s, the building was disassembled and moved to Chicago to become a war museum; Libby Prison was eventually disassembled and the pieces sold as souvenirs.

Libby Prison

Charles Herman Loeber (American, 1852-1914)
Libby Prison, Interior. Chicamauga Room (lower), ca. 1868
Albumen print

Lantern Slide Art

During the Civil War, artists were employed to render battlefield action.  The watercolor and pencil images, photographed and produced as lantern slides, captured the action of war in ways photography could not.  Magic Lantern Shows were a popular form of entertainment following the Civil War. 

Lantern Slide

C.W. Briggs Company (American)
Capture of Fort Fisher, from the series American History, ca.1865
Facsimile from original watercolor, gouache, and graphite drawing