|North wall of Fort Sumpter
The collection of Civil War stereographs from the New-York Historical
Society's Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
covers the entire period of the Civil War, from the first Battle of Bull
Run through the surrender at Appomattox, and the triumphal parade of Union
forces in Washington D.C. Most of the images were made in the eastern
theatre of the war, with a majority of scenes from Virginia. Views in
northern states include naval shipyards in Massachusetts and Philadelphia,
and a rally and parades in New York City. Compelling images of death on
the battlefield and the destruction of cities, railroads and bridges show
the devastating effects of the war. Individual and group portraits of
participants are included, along with images of soldiers relaxing in
camps, drilling in the field, and preparing for attack in trenches and
other fortifications. There are images of African Americans fleeing
slavery by crossing the Union lines, as well as African Americans on
southern plantations and serving in the Army and the Navy. Damage
sustained by the ironclad Monitor after her fight with the Merrimac is
depicted, along with other ships on the James River. Civilians also
appear in the photographs, including photographers, artists
and journalists, a thief known for looting possessions from the dead on
battlefields, and members of the United States Sanitary Commission.
|Bull Run Monuments
Because of their journalistic style, stereographs offer an immediate
and graphic look at the war. When seen with a stereograph viewer which
creates a three-dimensional effect, the small views (which range in size
from 3 1/8 x 6 3/4 inches to 4 x 7 inches) become even more vivid and
While photographers did not
depict actual battle scenes, they captured images of camp life
before battles and of battlefields afterward. Significant Civil War sites
are documented, including Fort Sumter and the house at Appomattox where
Important for their depiction of the events of the Civil War, these
views are also significant because of the photographers who made them.
Mathew Brady is represented in the collection, as well as his former
employees Alexander Gardner, James Gibson, and Timothy O'Sullivan.
Other photographers represented include
George N. Barnard, who took photographs in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sam
A. Cooley, who was the "Official Photographer" for the 10th Army Corps,
and local photographers from Richmond, Gettysburg, and other locations.
Most of the views presented here were published during the war by the
photographer who made them, or by publishers such as E. & H.T. Anthony.
Anthony's file was later obtained by General Albert Ordway and published
under successive imprints by John C. Taylor, and Taylor & Huntington to
coincide with the 25th anniversary of the war and the reunions held at
that time. Ordway also collaborated with Arnold A. Rand in
publishing albums drawn from their collection of Civil War negatives, an
example of which is a series of albums called Photographs of the War of
the Rebellion. Album No. 20 of that series has also
been digitized for this American Memory collection and is described below.
The 732 stereographs presented here
came to the Society from various sources,
although most were acquired in 1960 and 1961 from George T. Bagoe
(1886?-1948), who specialized in collecting Civil War stereographs, among
other subjects. Other significant groups of views were acquired in 1922,
1923 and 1936.
1. Some images found in Selected
Civil War Photographs on the Library of Congress's American Memory
site are presented here in stereoscopic format.
2. For more information on
About Stereoscopic Views, prepared by the New York Public Library to
accompany the American Memory collection Small-Town
America: Stereoscopic Views from
the Robert Dennis Collection, 1850-1920.