Photograhic Tradition

Gardner Photoviews Click here to view

This modern-day view shows the spot where Alexander Gardner photographed the 'Dead In the Slaughter Pen Pond' (Pano 47) > More

Confederate Currency

It is thought that the first photographs of post-battle Gettysburg were taken some time in the afternoon on July 6, 1863, three days after the battle and two days after Lee's retreat to Virginia. The fact that it took so long to begin the documentation of this catastrophic event is almost incomprehensible to someone with 21st Century sensibilities. Even harder to believe is that certain parts of the battlefield, such as the famed Peach Orchard, escaped the camera's view until the eighteen-hundreds, - some twenty years after the battle!

Many people believe that the first photographer of the battlefield was Mathew B. Brady. Actually, Alexander Gardner and his assistants, Timothy O'Sullivan and James Gibson, got there first and produced what have come to be known as "the death studies". Many a Civil War fan can trace their fascination with the battle to a youthful, forbidden glance at the ghastly bloated bodies that Gardner and his team captured on film.

Brady arrived on the battlefield days after the bodies had been buried. His interest was in the most famous landmarks and panoramic scenes. All in all, before the end of 1866, Gardner, O'Sullivan, Gibson, Brady, and lesser-known photographers Isaac and Charles Tyson, Peter and Hanson Weaver, and Frederick Gutekunst took approximately 230 photographs.

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Additional Resources

  • Early Photography at Gettysburg
    All of William A. Frassanito's books are filled with wonderful Gettysburg photographs, expertly annotated. This book is the most comprehensive. It is the benchmark by which any other study of historical photographs will be compared.
  • US Army Military History Institute
    USAMHI collects, organizes, preserves, and makes available source materials on American military history to the defense community, academic researchers, and the public. It is one of the best sources for photographs of individual soldiers.
  • Horse Soldier
    This Gettysburg shop is best described as a museum with price tags. They always have an outstanding selection of Gettysburg battlefield photographs, especially old Tipton monument views. They have a catalog that they can send you.
  • eBay
    There are always lots of Gettysburg photographs available on eBay. I have had lots of good luck with the sellers there. If I were going to be buying a really expensive view, I might try a dealer I know, but for getting started or doing research, it's wonderful.
  • Library of Congress
    The American Memory section of the Library of Congress has a great section of Civll War photographs, many from Gettysburg, mostly taken under Brady's supervision. There is also a nice collection from Wadsworth's papers.
  • Abraham Lincoln Book Shop
    If you are looking for high quality reproductions of famous Civil War photographs, this is the place. They also have remarkable original photos for sale, and a series of videos about Civil War photography. There are few stores with their reputation for quality.
  • Fields of Glory
    This store, also in Gettysburg, is the best dusty relic shop left in town. They always seem to have some really special Gettysburg photographs, some of the best I have ever seen. They also have a new print catalog.
  • Catalog of Tipton's Photographic Views
    ...of the Battlefield of Gettysburg with a Supplemental List of other Photographs of General Interest. This book is a great resource for any Gettysburg view collector. I've never seen an original 1894 edition, but the reprint is a must-have for collectors.

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