Civil War Photography Essay

2348 Words10 Pages
The America Civil War took place in the United States from 1861 to 1865 after seven Southern slave states announced their secession from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. The Civil War is considered the bloodiest war in American history, responsible for the death of over 620,000 soldier deaths (Civil War Preservation Trust, 2013). One thing that differentiates the Civil War with all of the other major conflicts that came before it is the use of photography throughout the war. The advance of photography during the time of the war forever changed the way the public perceived war and the military. Although the Mexican-American War was actually the first photographed war, there were very few photos taken and most of them never reached the public (Covkin, 2012). In contrast, the Civil War was the first major conflict to be extensively photographed. Prior to the Civil War, there had only been a combined 5,000 photographs ever taken in the United States. However, the four years of the Civil War resulted in over 1 million photographs being taken. This was also the first time that photographs of the actual battlefield were taken, and technological advances in photography allowed for these images to be widely distributed and sold nationwide as they circulated in magazines, newspapers and galleries. For the first time in history, citizens on the home front could view the actual carnage and destruction of far away battlefields.
Prior to the technological advances made in photography right before the Civil War, photographs took up to 8 hours to develop. However, with the development of wet-plate photography, a process in which an image is captured on chemically coated pieces of plate glass, the time it took to process a...

... middle of paper ...

...ople they capture continue to exist through the images. Photos provide visual evidence of past events. The development of photography and the wide distribution of photographs during the Civil War opened the public’s eyes to the savage nature of warfare, but also the tremendous sacrifices made by their soldiers, for the first time. As the demand for photographs increased, a great industry was born that dramatically increased the presence and effectiveness of the media for every war or conflict that followed. Today’s American public has been able to collect and study Civil War photographs, learning an important lesson in what the photographs say about the nature of warfare and also how the media sometimes conceals parts of the truth. Civil War photography forever changed the public’s perception of war, and showed that war-related media must be approached with caution.
Open Document