Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Looking Closely at Old Photos

Posted in Media, Memory by Andy Hall on March 19, 2011

One of the (many) things to love about the online collections at the Library of Congress is that many of the images there are made available in high- or very-high resolution, in TIFF format. The glass plate negatives used at the time often captured far more detail that is apparent when the image is reproduced in a book, or at a size that fits conveniently on a computer monitor.

Not long ago I used a Library of Congress image of the ferry connecting Mason’s Island (now Theodore Roosevelt Island) to Georgetown. But looking more closely at that image, I keep coming back to one of the privates at the landing, standing guard while his colleagues check the passes of people coming off the ferry. There’s nothing particular about his pose; he’s standing in profile, facing to the left, seemingly oblivious to the photographer capturing his likeness. But even though I know next to nothing about period firearms, his weapon strikes me as unusual. Is that a patch box on the stock? What sort of bayonet is that? Do these details provide clues as to his unit?

And what’s up with the cut of those trousers?

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Civil War Portraits from the Library of Congress

Posted in Media, Memory by Andy Hall on December 7, 2010

The Library of Congress has put online a collection of almost 700 Civil War era photographic portraits, donated by the Liljenquist Family. Most of the images are of soldiers, and most are unidentified. But the Library of Congress is seeking the public’s help in identifying both the subjects and the photographers:

Most of the people and photographers are unidentified, and we’d love to learn more about them. Please let us know if you recognize a face from your family, a regiment, or a photographer’s painted studio backdrop! You can read some of the personal stories that did survive in notes found with the photo cases.

The images are remarkable, and often haunting. One wonders what happened to these men and boys, all trying to look so brave.

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Image: Unidentified young soldier in Confederate shell jacket, Hardee hat with Mounted Rifles insignia and plume with canteen and cup, Library of Congress.

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