Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY HISTORY

11 rarely seen photos from the Civil War

Photography's growing influence in the world during the Civil War allowed the conflict to be documented in a whole new way. There are hundreds of images that have become a lasting and well-known part of the historical record, but there are thousands of photos in archives around the country that have remained in relative obscurity.

Here are 11 from the National Archives and Records Administration:


1. A battery of soldiers from Ringgold, Georgia, drill during the war.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

2. Union soldiers inflate an observation balloon during the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia in May 1862. These observation balloons allowed soldiers to collect intelligence and represent some of the earliest predecessors to the modern Air Force.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

3. A 13-inch mortar named "Dictator" was mounted to a railroad flatcar. This photo was taken before a battle at Petersburg, Virginia in October 1864.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

4. Wounded soldiers receive care after the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863. Medicine was limited during the Civil War, and a lack of understanding about infection led to tens of thousands of otherwise unnecessary deaths.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

5. A chaplain conducts mass for members of the 69th New York State Militia at Fort Corcoran near Washington, D.C. in 1861.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

6. A lithograph depicts a baseball game between Union prisoners at Salisbury, North Carolina in 1863. Prisoner of war camps on both sides of the conflict were known for brutal shortages and terrible conditions, especially after a breakdown of prisoner exchanges caused a massive overcrowding problem. But there were still some chances for recreation.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

7. Soldiers stand outside of a log hut housing the company's kitchen in 1864. Civil War soldiers often received uncooked rations that were essentially ingredients in larger meals. They could come together to cook their rations at unit kitchens or around communal campfires.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

8. ​A black family crosses into Union lines at an unspecified date in the Civil War. Black families could often find freedom in Union Army units, though freedom in Union lines wasn't guaranteed until after the Emancipation Proclamation was released in January 1864.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

9. Soldiers sit in a hospital ward in the Carver General Hospital in Washington, D.C. Approximately 620,000 men were killed in the fighting, and another 476,000 were wounded. Medical breakthroughs improved care throughout the war, but there was still a severe lack of understanding when it came to germs, anesthesia, and other fields.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

10.  Troops bury the dead near Fredericksburg, Virginia, after the Wilderness campaign in May 1864. The campaign was Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's first as supreme commander, and he enacted a strategy of beating the South down without retreating, using his greater manpower to win. This resulted in massive casualties.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

11.  ​A pontoon bridge stretches across the James River at Richmond, Virginia, in 1865. Army engineers built infrastructure to move men and supplies that would go on to serve the civilian population after the war.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)