Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Picturing the Civil War

Most of us have, at some point or another, encountered the stunning and terrible images of Civil War battlefields created by Mathew Brady. While visually arresting, these images are almost devoid of humans, other than the rows and piles of dead bodies. Brady made some portraits and posed groups, but no candid imagery. This is because the collodion wet plate process used by photographers at the time demanded long exposures, sometimes several minutes long, even on a bright day. Thus anyone moving about would become at best a blur and at worse invisible. Because of this we must turn to other sources for visual documentation of the last war fought on American soil.

One source of visual documentation in Rauner's collection, is the diary of Newton T. Hartshorn. Hartshorn enlisted as a private in U.S. Engineer Corps in 1861. His dairy provides a wonderful written account of his life in the services, but also includes a number of sketches depicting the daily life of a soldier. His sketches include camp life, scenic views, patriotic imagery and the advance to Bull Run.

Hartshorn was eventually promoted to Captain in the War Department Rifles where he was assigned to the White House, as part of president Lincoln's guard.

Ask for MS-19 the Hartshorn Family papers, box 1

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