The four-year period from 1861 to 1865 was, arguably, the most challenging time for the United States. The country split in half with 11 seceded Southern states on one side, and the remaining 20 Northern states on the other, causing a deadly civil war. The war would result in the deaths of about 800,000 soldiers on both sides.
The Civil War remains one of the most significant points in American history. It has had long-lasting effects, transforming the social and political landscape of the United States.
Perhaps surprisingly, the conflict is very well documented. There are hundreds of Civil War photos that depict different occasions and those affected by the war. Back in the 1800s, the world was starting to become obsessed with photography since it was one of the latest technological achievements.
Thanks to the development of the different photography techniques in the late 1850s and early 1860s, the Civil War photos that have been well-preserved help bring the events that took place during the war back to life.
Below, you can find a list of fascinating Civil War photos along with short backstories that further underline their significance.
This haunting photo of the battlefield depicts the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. Often referred to as the most critical battle of the Civil War, it took place in July 1863 near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle is considered momentous because it turned the tides of the war, swinging the momentum in favor of the Northern (Union) states.
Before Gettysburg, the Confederates had seen success throughout the war and saw their chance to further improve their position by attacking the Union army stationed in Pennsylvania. Under the command of General Robert Lee, they fought the Northerners under George Meade for three days but were eventually defeated and retreated.
In one of the most disturbing Civil War photos, dead troops can be seen lying on the battlefield as the survivors on the horses recover their bodies. Despite the already horrifying nature of the photo, it only partially captures the massacre at Gettysburg that cost the lives of more than 50,000 soldiers.
Out of the Civil War photos that exist, about half of them are of the major participants that took part in the war in one way or another. General of the Union Ulysses S. Grant was undoubtedly one of the most influential. Under his command, the Union forces would see victories on different occasions.
Eventually, Grant earned himself a name that was respected on both sides during and after the war. So much so, in fact, that he became the 19th President of the U.S. in 1869. This was four years after the end of the war, and his popularity was compelled by his military achievements.
This photo was taken in August of 1964, near the end of the war in City Point, Virginia. City Point was Grant's base of operations during the later stages of the campaign. Leaning on a tree in front of his headquarters, the General is resting from hours of planning, producing one of the best Civil War photos.
Popular to contrary belief, the wars back in the day did not just consist of relentless fighting between the forces. Instead, trench warfare was the most common from the late 18th to early 20th century. Soldiers would often dig in, organizing a defensive position that was very difficult to take by attacking it head-first.
Trenches stretched for miles, with the forces often waiting for the other to make the first move. This method dragged out conflict for much longer and saved resources.
Many Civil War photos depict soldiers in trenches. The top one shows the Union soldiers sitting in a trench near Petersburg, Virginia. They are doing what they were ordered to do the most - wait. From time to time, some forces would never see any action. It caused them to focus on something else, like improving their trenches (since they lived there) and getting to know their fellows better.
All in all, out of the many Civil War Photos that show trench warfare, not a lot of them are this calm. They mostly depict the negative side of the trenches, displaying the harsh conditions the soldiers had to ensure. However, in this photo, the soldiers can be seen smiling and chatting in the most challenging times.
It truly shows that maintaining a high spirit is just as important as being successful in battle.
The Remains Of Richmond
Richmond, Virginia, was the capital of the Confederate states throughout the war. It was a pretty sizable town that mostly focused on agriculture - just like the rest of the Southern states. However, after the secession of the Southern states from the Union, it quickly improved to become the most powerful city in the South.
Many Civil War photos have shown the might of Richmond, from its crowded streets to interesting architecture. However, these haunting photos depict the aftermath of the war and its effects on the city.
In 1865, after the Confederates started losing, they started retreating from the town, ordering the soldiers to burn any military supplies that might have been used by the Union army after they would take the city. Unfortunately, the fire was not kept in check. It spread, destroying a large part of the city. Eventually, the situation got so bad that the Confederates were forced to surrender Richmond to the Union forces to avoid complete destruction.
The Union forces stabilized the situation and dealt with the fire. President Abraham Lincoln even visited the city shortly after the Union's victory. He was warmly received by the citizens of Richmond, marking the start of a new era for them.
Lincoln started the effort of reuniting the American people, starting from rebuilding the former Confederate capital - a sign that the war was over.
The destroyed Richmond, with the Union soldiers standing in front of tonnes of rubble, is undoubtedly one of the fascinating Civil War photos.
Final Goodbyes To Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, undeniably, was one of the most influential presidents of the U.S. Not only was he a great politician, but he was also a visionary that changed the country for good. By the end of the war, Lincoln was respected throughout the country for his ambitious, brave policies and exemplary personality and manners.
However, he was still primarily despised by extremely-minded Confederates, one of whom - John Wilkes Booth, would assassinate Lincoln in Washington D.C. just ten days after the Union's victory.
Here, you can see one of the most meaningful, heartfelt Civil War photos depicting the funeral procession for Abraham Lincoln. The President was mourned by millions of people throughout the country, many of whom came out to the capital's streets to say the last goodbye to somebody they believed personally was a hero.
The funeral procession of Lincoln consisted of hundreds of soldiers and state officials, as well as members of the family. They followed the carriage that transported the body of the President to the tomb. President Lincoln is now buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.
Lincoln's funeral remains among the most precious Civil War photos and memories.