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The Photographic History of The Civil War

In Ten Volumes, Francis Trevelyan Miller - Editor-in-Chief and Robert S. Lanier, Managing Editor. Thousands of Scenes Photographed 1861-65, with Text by many Special Authorities (1911) (pdf)


We have reached a point In this country when we can look back, not without love, not without intense pride, but without partisan passion, to the events of the Civil Ľar. We have reached a point, I am glad to say, when the North can admire to the full the heroes of the South, and the South admire to the full the heroes of the North, There is a monument in Quebec that always commended itself to me - a monument to commemorate the battle of the Plains of Abraham. On one face of that beautiful structure is the name of Montcalm, and on the opposite side the name of Wolfe. That always seemed to me to be the acme of what we ought to reach in this country; and I am glad to say that in my own alma mater, Yale, we have established an association for the purpose of erecting within her academic precincts a memorial not to the Northern Yale men who died, nor to the Southern Yale men who died; but to the Yale men who died in the Civil War.

President Taft


ON this semi-centennial of the American Civil War—the war of the modern Roses in the Western World—these volumes are dedicated to the American people in tribute to the courage and the valor with which they met. one of the greatest crises that a nation has ever known—a crisis that changed the course of civilization. We look back at Napoleon through the glamor of time, without fully realizing that here on our own continent arc battle-grounds more noble in their purport than all the wars of the ancient regimes. The decades have shrouded the first American Revolution in romance, but the time has now come when this second American revolution, at the turning point of its first half century, is to become an American epic in which nearly three and a half million men gathered on the battle-line to offer their lives for principles that were dear to them.

It is as an American “Battle Abbey” that these pages are opened on this anniversary, so that the eyes of the generations may look upon the actual scenes—not upon the tarnished muskets, the silenced cannon, nor the battle-stained flag, but upon the warriors themselves standing on the firing-line in the heroic struggle when the hosts of the North and the legions of the South met on the battle-grounds of a nation’s ideals, with the destiny of a continent hanging in the balance. And what a tribute it is to American character to be able to gather about these pages in peace and brotherhood, without malice and without dissension, within a generation from the greatest fratricidal tragedy in the annals of mankind. The vision is no longer blinded by heart wounds, but as Americans we can see only the heroic self-sacrifice of these men who battled for the decision of one of the world’s greatest problems.

In this first volume, standing literally before the open door to the “Battle Abbey,” in which the vision of war is to be revealed in all its reality, I take this privilege to refer briefly to a few of the intimate desires that have led to this revelation of The Photographic History of the Civil War. As one stands in the library of the War Department at Washington, or before the archives of the American libraries, he feels that the last word of evidence must have been recorded. Nearly seven thousand treatises, containing varying viewpoints relating to this epoch in our national development, have been written —so Dr. Herbert Putnam, Librarian at the Congressional Library at Washington, tells me; while in my home city of Hartford, which is a typical American community, I find nearly two thousand works similar to those that are within the reach of all the American people in every part of the country.

With this great inheritance before us, military writers have informed me that they cannot understand why the American people have been so little interested in this remarkable war. Great generals have told how they led their magnificent armies in battle; military tacticians have mapped and recorded the movements of regiments and corps with technical accuracy, and historians have faithfully discussed the causes and the effects of this strange crisis in civilization—all of which is a permanent tribute to American scholarship. I have come to the conclusion that the lack of popular interest is because this is not a military nation. The great heart of American citizenship knows little of military maneuver, which is a science that requires either life-study or tradition to cultivate an interest in it.

The Americans are a peace-loving people, but when once aroused they are a mighty moral and physical fighting force. It is not their love for the art of war that has caused them to take up arms. It is the impulse of justice that permeates the Western World. The American people feel the pulse of life itself; they love the greater emotions that cause men to meet danger face to face. Their hearts beat to the martial strain of the national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” and they feel the melody in that old Marseillaise of the Confederacy, “Dixie,” for in them they catch mental visions of the sweeping lines under floating banners at the battle-front; they hear the roar of the guns and the elatter of cavalry; but more than that—they feel again the spirit that leads men to throw themselves into the cannon’s flame.

The Photographic History of the Civil War conies on this anniversary to witness a people’s valor; to testify in photograph to the true story of how a devoted people whose fathers had stood shoulder to shoulder for the ideal of liberty in the American Revolution, who had issued to the world the declaration that all men are created politically free and equal, who had formulated the Constitution that dethroned mediaeval monarchy and founded a new republic to bring new hope to the races of the earth—parted at the dividing line of a great economic problem and stood arrayed against each other in the greatest fratricidal tragedy that the world has ever witnessed, only to be reunited and to stand, fifty years later, hand in hand for the betterment of mankind, pledging themselves to universal peaee and brotherhood.

This is the American epic that is told in these time-stained photographs—an epic which in romance and chivalry is more inspiring than that of the olden knighthood; brother against brother, father against son, men speaking the same language, living under the same flag, offering their lives for that which they believed to be right. No Grecian phalanx or Roman legion ever knew truer manhood than in those days on the American continent when the Anglo-Saxon met Anglo-Saxon in the decision of a constitutional principle that beset their beloved nation. It was more than Napoleonic, for its warriors battled for principle rather than conquest, for right rather than power.

This is the spirit of these volumes, and it seems to me that it must be the spirit of every true American. It is the sacred heritage of Anglo-Saxon freedom won at Runnymede. I recall General Gordon, an American who turned the defeat of war into the victory of citizenship in peace, once saying: “What else could be expected of a people in whose veins commingled the blood of the proud cavaliers of England, the blood of those devout and resolute men who protested against the grinding exactions of the Stuarts; the blood of the stalwart Dissenters and of the heroic Highlanders of Scotland, and of the sturdy Presbyterians of Ireland; the blood of those defenders of freedom who came from the mountain battlements of Switzerland, whose signal lights summoned her people to gather to their breasts the armfuls of spears to make way for liberty.” It was a great battle-line of Puritan, of Huguenot, of Protestant, of Catholic, of Teuton, and Celt—every nation and every religion throwing its sacrifice on the altar of civilization.

The causes of the American Civil War will always be subject to academic controversy, eaeli side arguing conscientiously from its own viewpoint. It is unnecessary to linger in these pages over the centuries of economic growth that came to a crisis in the American nation. In the light of modern historical understanding it was the inevitable result of a sociological system that had come down through the ages before there was a republic on the Western continent, and which finally came to a focus through the conflicting interests that developed in the upbuilding of American civilization. When Jefferson and Madison construed our constitution in one way, and Washington and Hamilton in another, surely it is not strange that their descendants should have differed. There is glory enough for all—for North, for South, for East, for West, on these battle-grounds of a people’s traditions—a grander empire than Casar's legions won for Rome.

To feel the impulse of both the North and the South is the desire of these volumes. When, some years ago, I left the portals of Trinity College, in the old abolition town of Hartford, Conn., to enter the halls of Washington and Lee University in historic Lexington in the hills of Virginia, I felt for the first time as a Northerner, indigenous to the soil, what it means to be a Southerner. I, who had bowed my head from childhood to the greatness of Grant, looked upon my friends bowing their heads before the mausoleum of Lee. I stood with them as they laid the April flowers on the graves of their dead, and I felt the heart-beat of the Confederacy. When I returned to my New England home it was to lay the laurel and the May flowers on the graves of my dead, and I felt the heart-beat of the Republic—more than that, I felt the impulse of humanity and the greatness of all men.

When I now turn these pages I realize what a magnificent thing it is to have lived; how wonderful is man and his power to blaze the path for progress ! I am proud that my heritage runs back through nearly three hundred years to the men who planted the seed of liberty in the New World into which is flowing the blood of the great races of the earth; a nation whose sinews are built from the strong men of the ages, and in whose hearts beat the impulses that have inspired the centuries—a composite of the courage, the perseverance, and the fortitude of the world’s oldest races, commingled into one great throbbing body. It is a young race, but its exploits have equalled those of the heroic age in the Grecian legends and surpass Leonidas and his three hundred at Thermopylae.

In full recognition of the masterly works of military authorities that now exist as invaluable historical evidence, these volumes present the American Civil War from an entirely original viewpoint. The collection of photographs is in itself a sufficient contribution to military and historical record, and the text is designed to present the mental pictures of the inspiring pageantry in the war between the Red and the White Roses in America, its human impulses, and the ideals that it represents in the heart of humanity.

The military movements of the armies have been exhaustively studied properly to stage the great scenes that are herein enacted, but the routine that may burden the memory or detract from the broader, martial picture that lies before the reader has been purposely avoided. It is the desire to leave impressions rather than statistics; mental visions and human inspiration rather than military knowledge, especially as the latter is now so abundant in American literature. In every detail the contradictory evidence of the many authorities has been weighed carefully to present the narrative fairly and impartially. It is so conflicting regarding numbers in battle and killed and wounded that the Government records have been followed, as closely as possible.

The hand of the historian may falter, or his judgment may fail, but the final record of the American Civil War is told in these time-dimmed negatives. The reader may conscientiously disagree with the text, but we must all be of one and the same mind when we look upon the photographic evidence. It is in these photographs that all Americans can meet on the common ground of their beloved traditions. Here we are all united at the shrine where our fathers fought—Northerners or Southerners—and here the generations may look upon the undying record of the valor of those who fought to maintain the Union and those who fought for independence from it—each according to his own interpretation of the Constitution that bound them into a great republic of states.

These photographs are appeals to peace; they are the most convincing evidence of the tragedy of war. They bring it before the generations so impressively that one begins to understand the meaning of the great movement for universal brotherhood that is now passing through the civilized world. Mr. William Short, the secretary of the New York Peace Society, in speaking of them, truly says that they are the greatest arguments for peace that the world has ever seen. Their mission is more than to record history; it is to make history—to mould the thought of the generations as everlasting witnesses of the price of war.

As the founder of this memorial library, and its editor-in-chief, it is my pleasure to give historical record to Mr. Edward Bailey Eaton, Mr. Herbert Myrick, and Mr. J. Frank Drake, of the Patriot Publishing Company, of Springfield, Mass., owners of the largest private collection of original Brady-Gardner Civil War negatives in existence, by whom this work was inaugurated, and to Mr. Egbert Gilliss Handy, president of The Search-Light Library of New York, through whom it was organized for its present development by the Review of Reviews Company. These institutions have all co-operated to realize the national and impartial conception of this work. The result, we hope, is a more friendly, fair, and intimate picture of America’s greatest sorrow and greatest glory than has perhaps been possible under the conditions that preceded this semi-centennial anniversary.

To President William Howard Taft, who has extended his autographed message to the North and the South, the editors take pleasure in recording their deep appreciation; also to Generals Sickles and Buckner, the oldest surviving generals in the Federal and Confederate armies, respectively, on this anniversary; to General Frederick Dent Grant and General G. W. Custis Lee, the sons of the great warriors who led the armies through the American Crisis! to the Honorable Robert Todd Lincoln, former Secretary of War; to James W. Cheney, Librarian in the War Department at Washington; to Dr. Edward S. Holden, Librarian at the United States Military Academy at West Point, for their consideration and advice, and to the officers of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, the United Confederate Veterans, the Daughters of the Confederacy, and the other memorial organizations that have shown an appreciation of the intent of this work. We are especially indebted to Mr. John McElroy, editor of the National Tribune; General Bennett II. Young, the historian of the United Confederate Veterans; General Grenville M. Dodge; Colonel S. A. Cunningham, founder and editor of the Confederate Veteran, General Irvine Walker, General William E. Mickle, and to the many others who, in their understanding and appreciation have rendered valuable assistance in the realization of its special mission to the American people on this semi-centennial.

This preface should not close without a final word as to the difficulty of the problems that confronted the military, historical, and other authorities whose contributions have made the text of The Photographic History of the Civil War, whose names are signed to their historical contributions throughout these volumes, and the spirit in which, working with the editorial staff of the Review of Reviews, they have met these problems. The impossibility of deciding finally the difference of opinion in the movements of the Civil War has been generously recognized. With all personal and partisan arguments have been set aside in the universal and hearty effort of all concerned to fulfil the obligations of this work. I ask further privilege to extend my gratitude to my personal assistants, Mr. Walter R. Bickford, Mr. Arthur Forrest Burns, and Mr. Wallace H. Miller.

And now, as we stand to-day, fellowmen in the great republic that is carrying the torch in the foreranks of the world’s civilization, let us clasp hands across the long-gone years as reunited Americans. I can close these introductory words with no nobler tribute than those of the mighty warriors who led the great armies to battle. It was General Robert E. Lee who, after the war, gave this advice to a Virginia mother, “Abandon all these animosities and make your sons Americans,’’ and General Ulysses S. Grant, whose appeal to his countrymen must always be an admonition against war: “Let us have peace.”

Hartford, Connecticut, Fiftieth Anniversary Lincoln’s Inauguration.

Volume 1  The Opening Battles
Volume 2  Two Years of Grim War
Volume 3  The Decisive Battles
Volume 4  The Cavalry
Volume 5  Forts and Artillery
Volume 6  The Navies
Volume 7  Prisons and Hospitals
Volume 8  Soldier Life and Secret Service
Volume 9  Poetry and Eloquence of Blue and Gray
Volume 10  Armies and Leaders

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