Civil War Treasures | Archival Collections
Archival Collections: Photographs
Select other categories: Manuscripts | Drawings | Prints and Posters List all Photographs

Civil War Stereographs List items

Image: Caption Following
North wall of Fort Sumpter [sic]

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.
Image: Caption Following
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 detailed. While photographers did not usually 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 Lee surrendered.

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.
Image: Caption Following
Libby Prison

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 stereographs see 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.

Photographs of the War of the Rebellion, Album No. 20 List items
Image: Caption Following
Copl. L. L. Langdon, 1st U.S. Art. Lieut Gibbs, 1st U.S. Art. Beaufort, S.C.

Album No. 20 of the 31-volume set of Photographs of the War of the Rebellion is entitled U.S. Navy. Edisto Island. Morris and Folly Islands. Fort Warren, Mass. Andersonville Prison, Miscellaneous. It contains about 80 albumen photographs, of which over 40 images are by the photographer Henry P. Moore, a native of New Hampshire who traveled to South Carolina in 1862-63. Moore worked with a large format camera, producing 5.25 x 7.25 glass plate negatives that were contact-printed on albumen papers. Moore chose to focus on the domestic lives of soldiers in their camps, on Navy ships, and on the seized South Carolina island plantations, an approach intended to satisfy the sensibilities of his Yankee clientele in New Hampshire. Album No. 20 is of particular interest because it includes images representing African American slaves during the Civil War.
Image: Caption Following
U.S.S. "Wabash." After pivot gun.

The U.S. Navy section of Album No. 20 represents a variety of unique deck scenes from the U.S.S. Wabash, including images of Admiral Dupont and his staff, a forward pivot gun, and a group of playing minstrels. Moore photographed the U.S.S. Pocahontas and the U.S.S. Vermont where a "group of contraband" is posed on the deck. General Benjamin Butler had adopted the term "contraband of war" for African American slaves based on the guidelines of international law, as such terminology provided a loophole in the nation's pre-Emancipation Proclamation laws.
Image: Caption Following
John E. Seabrook's House.

Album No. 20 also presents Edisto Island, and other islands off the coast of South Carolina, where the Union Army and Navy captured opulent cotton plantations. Union forces arrived to find that the plantation owners had abandoned their homes, their property, and their slaves. The album includes five images of John E. Seabrook's estate, including Seabrook's house, library, wharf, flower garden, and park. Moore posed Union soldiers and African-American slaves at various locations on the Seabrook estate. The James Hopkinson plantation is represented by four photographs which include African Americans engaged in such tasks as sorting laundry or preparing to go to the fields. In one remarkable image African Americans who are wearing military uniforms work together with African American slaves to plant sweet potatoes in the field.

The set of thirty-one photograph albums, Photographs of the War of the Rebellion, is
Image: Caption Following
James Hopkinson's Plantation.
held in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections at the New-York Historical Society. The albums were a 1926 gift from the Library of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Commandery of the State of New York. Arnold A. Rand and Albert Ordway, who were both Massachusetts Civil War veterans and avid Civil War collectors, compiled a number of such sets during the 1880s and into the twentieth century. Their personal collection of approximately 4,000 photographic negatives was the source used for the albums. Consistent with the times, Ordway and Rand did not identify the photographers represented in these albums.

Manuscripts | Drawings | Photographs | Prints and Posters

Return to Civil War Treasures