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April 24, 2015

45 Vintage Photographs of the Civil War Providing a Glimpse of a United States 150 Years Ago

The American Civil War is the central event in America's historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be. The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government; and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.

This September 1862 photo provided by the Library of Congress shows Allan Pinkerton on horseback during the Battle of Antietam, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Before the outbreak of war, he had founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. In 1861, he famously foiled an alleged plot to assassinate president-elect Lincoln, and later served as the head of the Union Intelligence Service -- the forerunner of the U.S. Secret Service. AP Photo/Library of Congress, Alexander Gardner

Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April, 1861, under the Confederate flag. The first shots of the Civil War took place here, on April 12, 1861, as Confederate batteries opened fire on the Union fort, bombarding it for 34 straight hours. On April 13, Union forces surrendered and evacuated the fort. Union forces made many attempts to retake the fort throughout the war, but only took possession on February 22, 1865, after Confederate forces had evacuated Charleston. NARA

Yorktown, Virginia, Embarkation for White House Landing, Virginia, Photograph from the main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. LOC

A captured Confederate encampment near Petersburg, Virginia, in June of 1864. Timothy H. O'Sullivan/LOC

A view of Washington, District of Columbia, from the intersection of 3rd and Indiana Avenue, ca. 1863. In the foreground is Trinity Episcopal Church, in the background, the unfinished Capitol building. Construction on the capitol was briefly suspended early in the war, but continued through the later years. LOC

Fortifications at Yorktown, Virginia, during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. James F. Gibson/LOC

A March, 1863 photo of the USS Essex. The 1000-ton ironclad river gunboat, originally a steam-powered ferry, was acquired during the American Civil War by the US Army in 1861 for the Western Gunboat Flotilla. She was transferred to the US Navy in 1862 and participated in several operations on the Mississippi River, including the capture of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson in 1863. LOC

The 150th Pennsylvania Infantry camp on Belle Plain, Virginia, is pictured in March 1862, three weeks before the Battle of Chancellorsville. AP Photo/Library of Congress

Morris Island, South Carolina. The shattered muzzle of a 300-pounder Parrott Rifle after it had burst, photographed in July or August of 1863. Haas & Peale/LOC

On the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee, with covered guns (lower right) set up nearby, in 1864. George N. Barnard/LOC

Inflation of the Intrepid, a hydrogen gas balloon used by the Union Army Balloon Corps for aerial reconnaissance. The the Balloon Corps operated a total of seven balloons, with the Intrepid being favored by Chief Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe. Mathew Brady/NARA

A scene in Alexandria, Virginia, in August of 1863. The storefront of 283 Duke St. reads "Price, Birch & Co., dealers in slaves" LOC

Stacked cannon balls, possibly a view of an arsenal yard in Washington, District of Columbia. NARA

Rebel prisoners waiting at Belle Plain, Virginia, for transportation. Mathew Brady/NARA

Wounded soldiers at rest near Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Virginia. After the battle of Spotsylvania, in 1864. Mathew Brady/NARA

The CSS Stonewall was a 1,390-ton ironclad built in Bordeaux, France, for the Confederate Navy in 1864. After she crossed the Atlantic, reaching Havana, Cuba, it was already May, 1865, and the war had ended. Spanish Authorities took possession, soon handing it over to the U.S. government. Bell & Bro. Photographers/LOC

A view of Andersonville Prison, Georgia, on August 17, 1864. Andersonville was an infamous Confederate Prisoner-of-war camp, where nearly 13,000 of its approximately 45,000 Union prisoners died in brutal conditions, suffering from starvation, disease, and abuse from their captors. LOC

Union prisoners draw their rations in this view from main gate of Andersonville Prison, Georgia, on August 17, 1864. NARA

Dead horses surround the damaged Trostle House, results of the Battle of Gettysburg, in July of 1863. Union general Major General Daniel Sickles used the farmhouse as a headquarters and Union and Confederate troops fought among the farm buildings during the fierce battle. LOC

An execution in Washington, District of Columbia, on November 10, 1865. Henry Wirz, former commander of the Confederate prisoner of war camp near Andersonville, Georgia, was tried and hung after the war for conspiracy and murder related to his command of the notorious camp. LOC

African Americans prepare cotton for a cotton gin on Smith's plantation, Port Royal Island, South Carolina, in 1862. AP Photo/Library of Congress/Timothy H. O'Sullivan

Officers of the 69th Infantry New York, at Fort Corcoran, Virginia, with Col. Michael Corcoran. Mathew Brady/NARA

A Federal encampment on the Pamunkey River, Cumberland Landing, Virginia, in May of 1862 Alexander Gardner/LOC

Federal cavalry at Sudley Ford, Virginia, following the battle of First Bull Run, in March of 1862. George N. Barnard/LOC

Petersburg, Virginia, the first Federal army wagon train entering the town in April of 1865. John Reekie/LOC

Union forces of Benson's Battery in the Battle of Seven Pines stand guard in the fighting against Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's Confederate troops at Fair Oaks, near Richmond, Virginia. The battle, also called Fair Oaks, took place on May 31 and June 1, 1862. AP Photo/Mathew B. Brady

Confederate dead lie among rifles and other gear, behind a stone wall at the foot of Marye's Heights near Fredericksburg, Virginia on May 3, 1863. Union forces penetrated the Confederate lines at this point, during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg. Mathew Brady/NARA

The Federal Ironclad Galena, after recent action with Confederate batteries at Drewry's Bluff, on Virginia's James River, ca. 1862. James F. Gibson/LOC

Interior of a ward of Washington D.C.'s Harewood General Hospital in 1864. Harewood opened in September 1862 and closed in May 1866, after the end of the war. LOC

White House Landing, on the Pamunkey river, Virginia. The site was a major Union Army Supply Base in 1862 ,during the Peninsula Campaign. LOC

A black Union soldier sits, posted in front of a slave auction house on Whitehall Street in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1864. The sign reads "Auction & Negro Sales". George N. Barnard/LOC

Rebel fortifications in front of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1863 or 1864. George N.Barnard/LOC

African Americans collect the remains of soldiers killed in battle near Cold Harbor, Virginia, in April of 1865. LOC

In Atlanta, Georgia, soldiers sit atop boxcars at a railroad depot. At right is the office of Atlanta's Daily Intelligencer newspaper. Panorama made from two photographs taken by George N. Barnard in 1864. George N. Barnard/LOC

The deck and turret of the ironclad U.S.S. Monitor on the James River, Virginia, on July 9, 1862. The Monitor was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and famously fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (built from the remnants of the USS Merrimack) in the Battle of Hampton Roads -- the first meeting in combat of ironclad warships -- on March 8-9, 1862. James F. Gibson/LOC

A Pontoon bridge near Petersburg, Virginia, in April of 1865. LOC

The camp of the Tennessee Colored Battery, pictured during the Siege of Vicksburg at Johnsonville, Tennessee, in 1864. View a closeup detail of this image here. AP Photo/Library of Congress

Serving as a soldier in uniform and getting regular army pay, a former slave (center, with hands in pockets) stands with other Federal soldiers at the Army of the Potomac winter headquarters near Fredericksburg, Virginia, The log hut served as a mess house for the regiment. AP Photo/Mathew B. Brady

A party of the 50th New York Engineers builds a road on the south bank of the North Anna River, near Jericho Mills, Virginia, on May 24, 1864. Timothy H. O'Sullivan/LOC

A view of the burned district of Richmond, Virginia, and the Capitol across the Canal Basin, in 1865. The city was assaulted by Union forces for more than nine months during the Siege of Petersburg, after which Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's army abandoned the battered city in April, 1865. LOC

The Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, photographed from the backyard of the Sanitary Commission depot on May 20, 1864, after the city had been damaged in two different major battles of the war. James Gardner/LOC

The ruins of an extensively damaged Roundhouse in Atlanta, Georgia after the Atlanta Campaign in the summer of 1864. After Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman captured the city, he began his destructive March to the Sea, finally taking the port of Savannah on December 21. Mathew Brady/NARA

A view of Columbia, South Carolina, seen from the Capitol, following the occupation of the Union Army in 1865 -- during which much of the city was destroyed. Mathew Brady/NARA

Grounds of the destroyed Arsenal with scattered shot and shell in Richmond, Virginia, in 1865. LOC

Residents walk through the ruins of Richmond, Virginia, in April of 1865. Alexander Gardner/LOC

(via The Atlantic)


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