Mathew B. Brady is heralded by many as one of the most well known and popular photographers of his time.  His work with the Daguerreotype during its earliest years was noticed by many all over the country, and he was soon hailed as one of the leading pioneers of American Photography.  Immediately Brady began to win medals and recognition for both his photographs and studios, which he established once he noticed the continued interest in his work.  Along with the fame came the fortune, and during the 1840's and 50's, Brady made quite a financially successful living selling and displaying his talents.
    However things weren't always grand for Brady, who throughout his entire life was plagued with a serious eye condition, hindering his eyesight substantially.  But his determination would overcome that obstacle, and with a serious talent for still imaging, Brady managed to work his way to the top of his field aside from his illness.  What many claim to have hindered Brady to the utmost however, was his risking business venture to cover the American Civil War of 1860-65.  At the zenith of Brady's successful career, he risked his wealth, fame, and ultimately health, to photograph the popular war.  His friends and family urged him not to leave his prior ventures, because they had been so successful, but he ignored them, saying that "A spirit in my feet said 'Go', and I went."1
    Brady would leave, and in doing so he would accomplish more than he possibly ever imagined.  Besides the many lasting memories in which he left to speak for the War, Brady made his mark as one of the leading photographic historians to ever live, and his talents for doing so have lived on in many of his works and pictures.  For all his efforts, Brady is a legend in his field.  The following is a representation of those efforts, a detailed analysis of what, through them, Brady was trying to illustrate about the war, and what how he wanted them to be seen by all historians to follow.  It's how Brady remembered the Civil War.

Part I

Mathew Brady, at McPherson's Woods, Gettysburg. 1863

    Very little is known about Brady's earlier years growing up, aside from his eye condition.  His fame came through his profession, and while many who observed the Civil War sought to write about it in text, Brady does not do this due to his inability to simply write.  So he turned to the camera, allowing the film do the talking for him.  Brady got his start in New York City, where he met another individual who had similar interests in the art of the Daguerreotype, Samuel Morse.  Morse introduced Brady to the new form of still imaging, and right away Brady fell in love with it.  All he needed to make himself an instant success was a camera. With the help of Morse, and other prominent photographers of the time, including John Draper, Edward Anthony, and Alexander Wolcott, Brady worked his way to his first success in 1844, when the first Brady Gallery was opened.  Brady's Daguerrean Miniature Gallery was an instant hit, and many famous and influential people came to view and buy his work due to its rising popularity.2 Brady gained his early accolades here, and began to image many famous Americans due to the popularity he was receiving.  Almost everyone who could afford the new process came to one of his studios, and soon Brady was winning achievement honors for his works in the field.
    The demand to be photographed by Brady became so apparent, that in 1850 he published another famous work, entitled the Gallery of Illustrious AmericansIn that gallery, Brady published 12 images of famous Americans including Zachary Taylor, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, John James Audubon, Millard Filmore, Winfield Scott, and John C. Frémont, after commissioning Francis D'Avignon to make from his daguerreotype's a series of new lithographs.3  These images were what further helped along Brady's galleries, as well as his fortunes. His images of famous people were popular to all classes; from the elite's' among him to the lower classes who could hang a picture of their president or senator upon their wall.  They worked well for Brady financially, who benefited from their profits, and it worked well for his subject, who gained significant amounts of popularity by having their images frozen by this new, and innovative science called photography.  Either way, Brady was painting history by imaging history's most famous people.

    This book was extremely popular in with his legions, but Brady might have hindered his success with his galleries.  Ironically, people were rejecting the notion of buying his Illustrious Americans work in favor of simply visiting one of his galleries, which were growing in both size and popularity as well.  In order for the expensive book to sell, Brady knew that he needed to promote it, or advertise it in a fashion that would gain it nationwide support.  So he turned to the editor's of certain publications, who were more than willing to advertise and publish many of his images.
    Soon his images began to be published in local papers, including Harper's Weekly.  It was here that word of Brady's Daguerreotypes became popular among his followers throughout the country.  Here Brady gained a tactical advantage that he would use during the war, for he was able to gain the respect of future Union and rebel generals alike, and had poised the neutrality that was necessary to picture both during their years of conflict.  He would gain support throughout the process, but real fame came in 1851, when he won one of the largest awards of his career in London, England.  During that year, Queen Victoria called for the first World's Fair, to be held in England with the height of the Daguerrean era to be a primary exhibit.   Many daguerrean artists from all over the world, including the United States, came to witness the event, and to promote and compare their own images with other daguerreotypists of the same field.  Brady stood out amongst the rest, capturing top prize in 1851 at the Crystal Palace Exhibition.  Here his popularity and reputation as a master photographer went full-scale, and he gained both national and world-wide fame as a daguerreotypist.4 It is here, and in the few years that would follow leading up to the start of the war, that I believe Brady's career was at it's peak.
Early Daguerrean image, taken by Brady. (1844?)

For larger image, click  picture

James Buchanan, three-quarter length.

    Many of Brady's earliest photographs were of prominent Americans, plus many individuals who may have not held similar positions of respectability, whom ultimately helped to add a certain element of reality within his work.  He would take single image lithographs of ordinary people as well, concentrating on their positioning within the frame, and their motions relative to their function and stature.  For example, images of generals would have hands placed inside their coats, to illustrate their status. (Sherman) With the Illustrious American's, Brady concentrated on capturing the grandeur which was attached to those individuals.  Many of their images are shown in a clear, standing fashion, with the image representing wealth and power in what they are wearing, and facial expressions.  Many of his images, such as that of Tom Thumb and The Hinckley Family represent simple, honest images.5  Their quality is undoubtedly less advanced than many of his later images, including the ones of the war, but the art form had been mastered well enough before they had been taken.  (They had been taken in the early to mid-1940's, only five years after the entire process was invented). Brady photographed these images early on to gain experience in the field, as well as to create a portfolio of images and collages to submit to investors who would eventually help him create his galleries and studios.
    With these early images, It is essential to believe that here Brady gained a particular eye for both reality and naturalism, which can be attributed to many of his images depicting the war.  Along with an image of an individual who holds no status, Brady had to include his own vision of how that individual was to be seen.  that is, the art of taking the picture had already been 'perfected.' He was no longer imaging just to image.  Like many others of the era, he had moved into the realm of the visual art form, and how he wanted his pictures to be seen.  This can be accredited to his success as a photographer and his talents in the field.  When the war broke out, he saw the opportunity not to just take pictures of what was going on, but to produce a natural image of reality.  This relates his earlier images to the pictures of the war, and separates them from his advanced collections, like Illustrious Americans.
    After Brady's success abroad, he returned home with a new outlook on the photographic world.  Alexander Gardener, a Scottish born photographer who held similar interests in the art, helped introduce and 'modernize' Brady's collections.  The new wet-plate style of producing images was now taking over the Daguerrean Era, and many of the old picture taking practices were now being left behind in favor of this new and unique process.
    "The wet-plate process was revolutionary in that it could produce a good glass-plate negative from which an unlimited number of paper prints could be made.  the process had been made possible by the discovery of a new compound called collodion.....The plate had to be exposed in the camera and then developed in less than an hour while still wet or damp or else its sensitivity was lost (hence the name wet-plate, which is given to the collodion process)."6

    Click Here to See Wet-Plate Process

    The wet-plate process would prove to be the 'wave of the future,' one that Brady might have fell behind in if it had not been for such companions as Gardener and others.
    1851 was also a good year for Brady outside of his career.  His marriage to Juliette Handy Brady would take place presumably prior to his success at the Crystal Palace, and would last for forty, long years.  Along with that marriage would come one of his most memorable photographs. The image shows Brady, Juliette, and another woman identified as Mrs. Haggerty, presumably Juliette's sister.  This image shows much of what made many of Brady's earliest photographs so popular among his followers; specific lighting, a balanced effect between the the positioning of the three individuals, and the naturalism shown in their faces.7  These attributes were placed upon many of his works as well, especially throughout the war.  While many of the era were content with simply making the images appear, Brady was concerned with using the photograph as a form of art, and a way of expressing ones thoughts.  His images were his stories, his thoughts, and ultimately his view on history.

Part II
Walt Whitman

    "Being unwilling to abandon any artistic ground to the process of inferior work, I have no fear in appealing to an enlightened public as to their choice....I wish to vindicate true art, and leave the community to decide whether it is best to encourage real excellence or its opposite; to preserve and perfect an art, or permit it to degenerate by inferiority of materials which must correspond with the meanness of the price."

Mathew Brady, c. 1863?

    In the years leading up to the start of the Civil War, Mathew Brady would find himself amidst some unsuspecting difficulties.  Along with the advent of the newer technological advances in the art of photography, such as the wet-plate process, and the Carte-de-Viste, Brady also encountered strong levels of competition due to the newfound popularity in the field.  Small-scale dealers were beginning to sell their own daguerreotypes and pictures at half the price as Brady's own collection, and he was losing both capital and potential buyers.  The collodian wet-plate process was now the new wave of the photographic future, because of its cheap accessibility and superiority over the earlier daguerreotype processes.  For the first time in his career, Brady was finding competition in the field so many believed him to have perfected. But was he in serious trouble?  Roy Meredith, author of The World of Mathew Brady,  says that Brady's fame was actually rising:
    "Returning to America with Alexander Gardener, a Scottish chemist and photographer, Brady introduced the new [wet-plate] process into his galleries, which increased his output enormously.  Before long his galleries would be turning out more than thirty thousand portraits yearly, ranging in price from about $5 to $150.  Brady was by now a comparatively wealthy man; he had become a fad."8
    Meredith argues here that many of Brady's imperial prints were helping to bring in the most money, both for their popularity and rarity as wellPeople were willing to buy, if the could afford to do so, a framed image of a national leader, or famous American individual, and because of this, Brady survived the sudden interest explosion in the field.  His innate talents behind the camera allowed him to quickly master and conform to the new processes, and along with help from other influential photographers, Brady would make an even larger name for himself  in the very last stages of the pre Civil War era.
    Alexander Gardener was a key instrument in Brady's success after the daguerrean era came to a close.  In 1858, Brady establish another gallery in Washington, DC, and he put Gardener as its manager.  There, the two of them would establish one of Brady's more popular galleries, and perfect the Carte-de-Viste process as well.  This process was the newest and more favorable way of imaging, because it called for the usage of four lenses instead of one, which ultimately produced four images on one sheet of glass.  How did this process benefit Brady?  Well, when the accessibility to use the Carte-de-Viste was found, he was able to produce many copies of one image which helped to spread his popularity. More than one person could own a single image.  This process would be used throughout the war, and into the years following.
    One of Brady's most famous images that utilizes the Carte-de-Viste is that of Edwin Booth and his daughter, Edwina. (image) Booth, whose name was tragically popularized by his infamous brother John Wilkes, was a famous actor of the stage and had earned the reputation as one of the leading actors of the era, winning accolades as

one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day.  This image, taken by Brady around 1864, utilizes the Carte-de-Viste process, but more importantly tells the relationship between the estranged actor and his only child, daughter Edwina. A year prior to the taking of this image, Booth's wife dies leaving Edwina behind with only her father to care for her.9  Brady images this relationship quite well in this picture, with she leaning into her father, and he showing an expressionless look, but one that shows intelligence and character.  Brady may have been trying to capture the stern qualities of a father, as well as the motherly attributes Edwin might have needed in order to raise his daughter on his own.  She clings to him like a young child to her mother, and he  understandably accepts her.*
    Booth's life after the death of his wife, was, like many of the plays' he starred in, a tragic one.  On April 14, 1865, his older brother would assassinate President Lincoln at Ford's theater, driving him into retirement.  Years later, he would re-enter the theater life at Winter Garden in New York under great distress thanks to many death threats, but that stint would also be short lived when a severe fire brought the curtain down once again on Booth.  Finally, on June 7, 1893, Edwin booth died of a brain ailment.  During his funeral it is said, Ford's Theater collapsed and fell killing twenty people.10
    Other famous Brady Carte-de-Viste images include Stephen Douglas, Anne Dickinson, Jefferson Davis, and Adele Cutts Douglas.

 Image of Brady with remote (presumably) remote in hand 

       Brady would become more famous every day as each year passed by.  But it was in 1860, that much of how history sees Brady would change.  The Civil War not only changed Brady's camera angle, but the subject as well.  His reputation as a master photographer would change as well, for he would now and forever more be seen as a master of photographic journalism.  His pictures would no longer show, but now tell.  They would tell us all about the American Civil War, 1860-1865, and they would form the way in which we remember it still today.


Part III

The War

"A Spirit in my feet said 'GO' and I went."

    In 1860, The American Civil War became one of the first wars ever documented by the camera.  The stories that were being told of how gruesome the fighting was between the Union and Confederate Armies were now being told not by only by word of mouth, but by the photograph as well.   Much of what America learned, and continues to learn today, about the war, is aided by the many pictures taken of it.   Many of the images that have been left behind for historians to interpret were taken by Mathew Brady, who risked great fortune to document the war.  Many of his closest relatives and friends advised the blinding photographer not to go, but he saw the need to turn his lens to a different subject.  With the help of a traveling unit, which included many photographers and aides such as Gardener and Timothy O'Sullivan, Brady set out to copy onto film what many had been previously only hearing about.  His intention to capture the war on film brought it to the home front very powerfully, and many of the pictures illustrated the horrors, truths and realities of the entire war.
    I think that Brady attempted to capture these realities in many ways.  He remained loyal to individual imaging, yet turned his attentions and subjects to military leaders, and individuals involved within the war.  He photographed many different people, ranging from Confederate General R. E. Lee, to abolitionist Frederick Douglas.  His efforts were entirely concentrated on individuals who were either inspired by or involved with the war.  Brady took pictures of the dead at all battlefields, to illustrate what the killing looked like to those who have not had the displeasure of seeing such a sight.  These pictures hit home the hardest, for both their graphic nature and extreme content.

Battalions, Troops, and Casual Life

(Click on all pictures for larger images)

James River, Va. Officers of the U.S.S. Monitor grouped by the turret

Fort Pulaski, Ga. The "Beauregard" gun


Portrait of Lt. John Chanite, Maine regiment
Brandy Station, Va. Troopers of Co. D, 3d Pennsylvania Cavalry (2d Division, Cavalry Corps District of Columbia. Officers and men of Company F, 3d Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, in Fort Stevens
Fort Brady, Va. Three officers of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery


    Brady was a complete photographer.  He didn't let his own emotions enter into his subjects, created a biased image, nor did he concentrate on one aspect of the war over certain others.  That is to say, he felt that capturing every aspect of the war was essential in bringing the real story home.  Books and films surrounding the war show pictures ranging from scenes of death to scenes of beauty.  He captured it all, focusing on telling the entire story, rather than an individual one.
    The three images in the above table illustrate well how Brady kept all these aspects as a part of a higher whole.  The hundreds of pictures we see of ordered battalions and units show more than just a group of men.  Brady would shoot these groups because they embraced the human element.  The pictures of the ranks shows the pride in the men's faces: the lengths they would go for one another.  Brady captures faces extremely well, in these pictures of unit battalions.  There are hundreds of different images of random battalion cavalries, but the one thing they all have in common as can be seen is the stoicism in the faces of each soldier.  Directed by Brady or other photographers, the possibility of each to dictate to each group the same exact details on how to stand and show themselves is almost impossible.  It might be hard to conclude that all these men felt the same passions about war, but it is easy to see the way in which they look at us.  Brady's pictures show this as well, but we get the notion that much of what is seen is seen through Brady's eyes.

    Brady's group portraits show us more than just the group itself.  It's as if he's trying to give us an idea of who these men were, and why they were there.  Their order and discipline in the image tells us that Brady wanted them to look like true American heroes, who fight because they want to defend their beliefs.    How can this be deduced?  The images of Union regiments compared to those of Confederate are not all that different.  In what they are wearing, there is a difference, but in what they are doing there isn't any.  Both groups are fighters.  Both groups are willing to die for their cause, representing an equality in his process.  That is, he took pictures of both sides, and in doing so he showed that the two sides had more in common than might be actually recognized.
    Brady was able to capture the human element as well in many images which showed soldiers outside of a formal setting, either relaxing, eating or other daily activities which might not have been considered important.  To Brady however, they illustrated reality.

This image is a very famous one, of three confederate soldiers, captured by union forces at Gettysburg, 1863.  What makes this image so real is the positions held by the three men.  Presumably, Brady instructed them to gather so he could photo them, and in doing so the prisoners 'posed' in a way that gives us a good idea of how they wanted us to see them.  Brady captures this.  The soldier on the far right has his hands up against his chest, exhibiting himself in a manner that makes him look like a captured, but proud Confederate supporter.   I think it tells us a lot about the mentality of the Confederate soldier as well as Brady's ability to recognize a story and capture it in film.  There are many other images like this as well, taken to presumably capture pure reality, s well as the soldier's innocence.

The above images all depict life outside of the actual battle, but show scenes of the war that we might not necessarily have seen before.  They are simply pictures of the men eating, resting, building a bridge, etc.  These pictures help to give further reference for historians as to what actually took place.  As stated before, they are images of reality.

Bull Run

"Brady has shown more pluck than many of the officers and soldiers...he went...with his sleeves tucked up and his big camera directed upon every point of interest on the field...this collection is the most curious and interesting we have ever seen.  The groupings of entire regiments and divisions, within a space of a couple of feet square, present some...considering the circumstances under which they were taken, amidst the excitement, the rapid movements...there is nothing to compare with them."
-Excerpt from Humphrey's Journal-

    Brady's first taste of the actual battle came on July 21, 1861 at Manassas, Virginia at the First Battle of Bull Run.  There Brady saw the first scenes of the war; the first of the actual fighting; and the first of many deaths.  Many of the images taken of this battle depict mainly the area known as Bull Run, as well as scenes of destroyed houses and churches which fell during the actual fighting. (image)
    The outcome of the battle was a harrowing defeat of the Union Army, and proved to Union Generals that laying claim to the Confederate stronghold Richmond would not be as easy as they previously may have thought, including Brady.  To his surprise, the Union failed to reach Richmond, where he had hoped to photograph to possibly illustrate the sights of an overwhelming Union victory.  Brady says of the experience:
    "I went to the first battle of Bull Run with two wagons. . . We stayed all night at Centreville; we got as far as Blackbourne's Ford; we made pictures and expected to be in Richmond the next day, but it was not so, and so our apparatus was a good deal damaged on the way back to Washington."11
    30,000 Union men were either killed or wounded at Bull Run, and along with the fortunate few who were left to flee for their lives back to Washington D.C. was Brady, who had with him the only recorded photographic account of the battle.  His first of many 'war-scenes' made it back to D.C. and to his studios to tell the story of the battle, and to help cement upon Brady the label 'photojournalist.'  Dorothy Kunhardt, author of Mathew Brady and His World, says this of Brady and his images of Bull Run;
    "Along with the wounded and fleeing, Brady made his dusty way back to the capital, bringing with him enough photographic evidence of the broken bridges and pock-marked forests to astound the people of Washington."12
    Humphrey's Journal, one of the few newspapers to ever get close enough to interview Brady, also documented Brady's resourcefulness at Bull Run:
    "The public are indebted to Brady of Broadway, for numerous excellent views of 'grim-visaged war.'  He has been in Virginia with his camera, and many spirited are the pictures he has taken.  His are the only reliable records of the fight at Bull Run."13
Brady, Photographed at Bull Run.  Many of the images we see of him, particularly ones found at Battlefield sights, have his back or side facing to the camera.  Rarely was he imaged facing forwards.

    What exactly did Brady learn at Bull Run?  Well I think it is imperative to state here that Bull Run was a critical point in Brady's career.  It was here that he, as well as the rest of the Union Army, saw not only the seriousness of the Confederates, but of the war itself.  It wasn't going to simply be a small skirmish.  Brady knew that after Bull Run, the opportunity to photograph a large-scale war had arrived, because everyone realized that the confederates were serious.  So he began to hire at great expenses other photographers and studio hands to visit each battlefield and take images.  His hired hands demanded to be paid quite substantially for the conditions under which they were working, and Brady agreed to meet their costs.  These costs would eventually help lead to Brady's financial demise after the war, sending him into a debt that he would never overcome.
    However, pictures of the war began to show up all over because of Brady's distribution, and little 'whatsit' wagons were now following the troops onto the battlefields.  Union soldiers coined this term to describe the portable darkrooms which were the only means of complimenting a 'mobile' wet-plate process.  Hobart gives this description:
    "[Union soldiers] curiosity soon grew to respect for the men who risked life and limb to follow them into battle."14
    Brady's reputation as a master photographer, as well as the art of war photography, grew tremendously after Bull Run.  They gained respect from both the soldiers and the American people for their efforts to depict the war in images and their attempts to bring the realities of it to the home front.  Brady and his men went under fire to capture a still image, proving how brave and courageous they were willing to be in order to take a picture.  The conditions were as equally as bad off the battlefield as well.  Once Brady returned from Bull Run, he knew that in order to get the images taken and developed on sight he would need his 'whatsit' wagons to travel everywhere.  They traveled over rough terrain's at times carrying many glass-plates and valuable negatives which could have easily been damaged in the moving process.  It's hard not to say Brady's efforts fall short of being miraculous.
    Since Brady could not be at every battle, his hired hands traveled far lengths to reach certain battles, but yet under Brady's guise.  From him, they knew what types of images to take, and they knew what type of picture Brady wanted them to bring home.  Prior to Bull Run, Brady wasn't aware that he needed to move his studio's to the battlefields, but once he stated to do so, he eventually brought the battlefields to his studios.  He was one of the first 'on-sight' photojournalists.  Men like O'Sullivan and Gardener helped to create many of Brady's images, but Brady helped to create men like O'Sullivan and Gardener as well.
    I think Bull Run was the key moment in Brady's illustrious photographic career.  It did a number of things for him and his profession, and eventually showed him what he would show the world in his images to come.  Bull Run opened him up to the war, and it opened him up to the death that was inevitable through the war, and inescapable from his lens.  After Bull Run, Brady was encouraged to expand his practice, and to open up studios surrounding the war as well as to hire other photographers to create his own type of army.  It equally discouraged him from returning home as well, for once he knew the magnitude of what was to come, he saw great opportunity in traveling to cover the war.  To his wife Julia's dismay, he spent little time back home concentrating on the studio life that once dominated him in the years prior to the war.
    "My wife and most conservative friends had looked unfavorably upon this departure from commercial business to pictorial war correspondence; and I can only describe the destiny that overruled me by saying that, like Euphorion, I felt like I had to go. A spirit in my feet said 'GO' and I went."15
    Bull Run and war costs would eventually send Brady into heavy debt after the war,  but between that time Brady would produce and supervise some of the most memorable images of the Civil War.

The President
"Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm"
 --Abraham Lincoln

Brady Gallery
352 Penna Ave & Wash.
Mr. Pres-
         Dear sir-
I have repeated calls every hour in the day for your photograph and would regard it as a great favour if you could give me a sitting to day so that I may be able to exhibit a large picture on the 4th.  If you cannot, call today.   Please call at your earliest convenience
Yours Truly,
             M. B. Brady

    There have been many pictures taken of Abraham Lincoln, and in most of them we see one recurring feature in the linear motion of his lips.  He's neither smiling, nor is he frowning.  He shows us a picture of a true leader, one who literally has the weight of a nation upon his shoulders, and the state of the union depends upon his every move.  He is seen as the most admirable of men, almost mythical when we relate him to his achievements.  Brady captures Lincoln very well, at a variety of times, each time he seems to look eerily the same.  Even in images taken after the war.  On February 23rd, 1861, Lincoln came to Brady's studio on Pennsylvania Avenue to have his inauguration portrait taken.  George Story, an artist who shared residence in the same building as Brady who often helped him with 'great' individuals, was asked by Brady to come help him with the imaging of Lincoln.  His words regarding Lincoln after the event relate a great deal to what we can see in most of the photos taken of Lincoln:
    "He did not utter a word, and he seemed absolutely indifferent to all that was going on about him; and he gave the impression that he was a man overwhelmed with anxiety, fatigue and care."16

   Lincoln has been hailed as one of the greatest Presidents of this nation's history, and in many of the pictures we see of him, it's hard not to detect a sense of leadership in both his look and posture.  They relate to the way he handled this country during the war in that we can assume that the same type of temperament he shows in a still image is the same type of way he handled policies.  Brady and Gardener capture him well, and it's hard to say that they were in competition to produce the 'better' image of Lincoln because of the distinct similarities in all of the shots taken.  Even in a 'casual' setting, if there was such a thing for the President, he shows the same types of emotions.  These images were taken by Gardener, but they help to show the many similarities in all Lincoln snapshots.  He is forever motionless in these images, and this is a quality which we can see in the Lincoln Monument today.  Photographers must be credited with giving Lincoln this type of recognition, as well as with immortalizing him through the images they took of him, almost frozen in time.  Brady's portraits helped make Lincoln President.

The Dead

"The pictures most heart rendering to make yet technically the easiest were those of the dead; for such battlefield coverage, motion was not a factor. "
-Dorothy Kunhardt-

    Following the Union defeat at Bull Run, Brady ventured down to a small river source in Maryland called Antietam Creek.  There Brady would witness one of the deadliest battles of the Civil War, as well as one of the worst battles to ever take place on American soil.  Here many Americans, both of Union and confederate blood would meet there demise.  Brady and his men took many images at Antietam, and they were so widely acclaimed that he opened up an exhibit in one of his New York Studios entitles "The Dead of Antietam."17  Here he displayed his many  photos of the war, and gave to his viewers their first taste of what images of the deceased actually looked like.  In a way, it was like a 'photographic culture shock' for the public, because they showed mixed reviews once the exhibit went on display.
The images of the dead further beat the reality of the war into the minds of the people, and it showed what was happening to the men who left home to fight for their country. Brady's exhibits and the pictures were a painful reminder of what was happening on the battlefields.
    Capturing war in images is mostly about combat.  And how we view those images of combat, the images of the dead, is how we interpret it.  It's also how the photographer interprets it.
    "Combat, no matter how peripheral, how Pyrrhic, how purposeless, is the heart of war.  It is what young boys glamorize, old men remember, poets celebrate, governments rally around, women cry about, and soldiers die in.  It is also what photographers take pictures of."18
    Pictures of the dead, no matter how chilling, or vivid in content, tell of the grim realities that war brings.  Brady, when capturing the dead on the battlefields, not only captured this reality, but historically left a foundation for all historians to base their research and studies on how powerful of a war the Civil War was.  His images of the dead were so personal, so frighteningly real, that he actually scared many people, and after the war was over, hardly anyone wanted to ever look at a Brady war image again, because it reminded them of what had happened to their sons, brothers, neighbors, etc.

Cold Harbor
    Brady, after having produced his images of the dead, changed in many ways.  First, many of his 'fans' somewhat turned against him at the end of the war, after he continued to display his pictures of the dead, from Antietam, to Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, and Fredericksburg, to name a few places.   He went from a somewhat conservative still imagery, to taking on this larger role of picturing the sudden cataclysmic event which changed the faces of many of the images which were being produced.  When the picture began to change, so too did the profession of photography.  When Brady and other photographers saw what they were taking pictures of, it was such a serious change from individual portraits that people were now being affected personally by what they were seeing.  It took the image of war, and the art of photography to a higher level.  Moeller offers us this:
    "Concurrent with the interest of capturing war in photography grew the desire to circulate those images...The Brady studio pictures of Antietam, 'literally stunned the American People' because of the photographs' relentless portrayal of the dead."19
    These pictures of Antietam not only showed the realities, but also gave the viewing public an image of the human element, and to how this war was affecting those who fought in it.  They were very graphic, and received much attention from the public and the media for that.
    "For the people back home, photographs were the newsreels of the day---the only visual connections between the comparatively normal lives of most Americans during the war and the horrors of the battlefields.  Of all the pictures taken, it was those of the dead and wounded that had the most effect, that made people realize the price of keeping the country whole."20
    In a review of Brady's gallery, which showed the images of the Antietam fallen, gave this assertion in their review of his exhibit:
    "Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war.  If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along our streets, he has done something very like it."21
    Again, we see the respect that Brady gets, and we see the attention to the war that his images of the dead were demanding.  It was one of the first instances where "the public's long nurtured belief that death on the battlefield was glorious and heroic."22
    There should be a great deal said about how Brady changed the face of photography after entering the war.   His coverage of the war stood as the first real account of war photojournalism, and set a standard for the coverage future wars would receive in images to come.   The pictures that we have from the Civil War became a basis for which other wars would be photographed.  The soldiers, the battlefields, the dead, all of these 'groups' were focal points in war photography to come.  These images gained a substantial amount of popularity here, and gave photographers to follow an advantage in knowing what types of pictures to take.   Credit for this should be given to Mathew Brady, and his many field hands who visually saw the type of image they wanted to create, and knew how the image would speak about the battle.  Especially the images of the dead.
    This image of a young, dead soldier at Petersburg is very telling.  From it, we see the soldier's innocence, as well as the pain in which he felt as he fell to the bottom of the trench to meet his final moments of life.  It's also a sad image in how close is it to the viewer.  We can see the pain in his facial expressions, and to those viewing this in one of Brady's galleries, the impact it had must have been quite powerful because of the seriousness of battle that the picture shows.  his weapon is presumably propped up against his body, to illustrate the possible heroism that this soldier displayed by not giving up and setting his weapon down.
    Many photographers, it is said, would position the bodies in the fashion that they saw would fit the need of capturing the realistic qualities of death.  Alex Gardener is said to have carried a dead soldier over a course of 40 yards so he could prop his body against a specific spot at the Devil's Den, presumably to capture the essence of a single, dead sharpshooter.   In response to the allegation that Gardener had manipulated the scene to help portray the sadness, he responded; "The artist, in passing over the scene of the previous days' engagements, found in a lonely place the covert of a rebel sharpshooter, and photographed the scene presented..."23
    Whether or not this is true, many photographers not only saw the opportunity to cover the war in pictures, but they gained the knowledge of how powerful a certain scene 'might' be, so they would change it around to fit their own personal belief of how it should be seen.  They were art historians themselves in this respect, because they knew what type of image to capture, even if the original scene had to be rearranged in order to do so. The scenes of the dead were key in capturing the public eye, and Brady and others took many images, simply because there were so many scenes of death itself.
    There is only one 'motion' picture left behind, which captures the actual fighting.  It was supposedly taken by Gardener, who captured the fighting at Antietam, September 17, 1862.24  The single bloodiest day of the war up until that day.  It's the closest the camera ever came during the war in capturing actual combat.
Click for larger image.
    The man seated is an assistant, watching the fighting to the right of the shot, while caissons and horse battalions wait on the left.  Most of the fighting is smothered by the gun smoke, hiding the men firing at each other, but the battle rage can be felt.  "Motion was the essence of the look of 19th century warfare: charging troops, rearing horses, flailing swords, thrusting bayonets, bursting shells, falling men, recoiling cannon, flashing rifles, writhing wounded.  However, as pictures will attest, the look and feel and smell of real war was captured. Not at its peaks, but its valleys, just before an action or just after."25

  During days between the fighting, officials would agree on truce days, so the dead could be buried.  Photographers used these days to roam the battlefields and image the scenes of the dead while not being under constant fire.  They would take pictures of the relatively 'new' dead, and what a tribute it is to their abilities to take images of what must have been possibly the most gruesome images that they had ever witnessed.

The End


    The result of Brady's dead, and the weight that they carried with the American people would eventually carry Brady to his demise.  The pictures of Antietam and Little Round Top were very graphic, and after Appomattox no one wanted to see them anymore.  The American public no longer wanted to be reminded of the war that split the nation in half, and no longer did they want to see images of the young dead sprawled across battlefields, lifeless and innocent.  The images proved that, and no matter how powerful they are today in alluding to the real Civil War, they were rejected by those who once demanded them from Brady and others when the war started.  What started out as a 'photographic fad' became a national nightmare, and no one wanted to be reminded of the war.
"Let him who wishes to know what the war is look at this series of illustrations.  These wrecks of manhood thrown together in careless heaps or ranged in ghastly rows for burial were but alive yesterday.... Many people would not look through this series.  Many, having seen it and dreamed of its horrors, would lock it up in some secret drawer."26
    Since no one wished to be reminded of the war after its close, Brady's galleries began to fail.  With no one to buy his prints, he began to accumulate a large debt.  He also had to pay the men he had hired to help him image the war, as well as to pay the companies whom he purchased his equipment from prior to leaving, most of which was on credit.  He was out of money.  The war and its images had hit home in a way that was too much for the public, and after its close Brady received no help from them or the government, who was busy now with an assassination and reconstruction.  Brady's collection was soon forgotten, and so too was he, the man who had captured a war.
    His later years in life are quite tragic, for he fell into a deep state of despair when he was forced to sell his negatives to help pay off debts, and in 1887 when his wife Julia passed.  He would live for almost another decade, poor and blind, with no real friends or family to help him through his post-war conditions.   He died on April 15th, alone, broke and blind  in the alms ward of New York Presbyterian Hospital, just fifteen days prior to an exhibit in his honor at Carnegie Hall, which would display his many war images and plate negatives.26
    In an ironic end, the event which had made Brady famous as a war historian, had driven him into the depths of bankruptcy and destitution.  Many argue that the war had made him, and that it had also killed him as well.  I would agree with half of this assertion, because its Brady's talents behind the camera which made him, the war was simply a contribution to his abilities.  He was 'made' well before a shot was ever fired.  His talents in still imaging were captured in the earlier years leading up to the war, and his reputation as a master photographer was well established before the one of 'photojournalist'.  Yet the war was his fame.  It's where his efforts will be remembered, it's where we will think of Brady as achieving greatness.  Maybe that's what war does.   Its impact is stronger than its theme, and what we remember can be related to what we are seeing.  If that's the case, then much of what we are 'seeing' of the Civil War should be attributed to Brady, and the way he helps us remember it.

"I would willingly exchange every single painting of Christ for one Snapshot"  That's what photography has got going for it.
-George Bernard Shaw, quoted by Phil Griffiths-



(*Note- All Interpretations of images are presumed and collaborated by said author, PLW III)
(*Note- Images either borrowed from Library of Congress, Online version of Brady's Miniature Gallery, or in works from authors cited below.)

1.   Hobart, George. Masters of Photography: Mathew Brady. (London: Macdonald & Co.) 1984.
2.   ibid., 2
4.   Hobart, 2.
5.   Library of Congress URL:
6.   Hobart, 6.
8.   Meredith, Roy. The World of Mathew Brady. (Los Angeles: Brooke House.) 1976. p. 5-6
10. Meredith, 41.
11. Hobart, 5.
12. Dorothy Kunhardt, Mathew Brady and His World.  (Time-Life: Canada.) 1977. p. 200.
13. ibid. 60.
14. Hobart, 6.
15. Kunhardt, 58.
16. Meredith, 83.
17. Ken Burns. The Civil War 1994.
18. Moeller, Susan. Shooting War. (New York: Basic Books.) 1989.
19. ibid., 24.
20. Kunhardt, 248.
21. Moeller, Susan. Excerpt from The New York Times Can be found on Civil War Documentary, film 3.
22. Moeller, 25.
23. Kunhardt, 248.
25. Kunhardt, 225.
26. Excerpt taken from Oliver Wendell Holmes, after searching through the the dead of Antietam for his son.  Hobart, 7.
26. Hobart, 8.