Civil War Brought To Life

My camera takes me back in time. Mathew Brady, a well known photographer from the 1860’s left a visual legacy of the Civil War in the United States.  When asked why he photographed the Civil War he said ,”A spirit in my feet said “go” and I went.”  His brand of photography showed all what war really looked like. Up till then paintings usually portrayed heroism, bravery, and glory.

This year I am fortunate to be a spectator  in a 15 year tradition held at Gibsen Ranch to reenact the Civil War battle at Appomattox. Every year the National Civil War Association puts on a Civil War reenactment locally. It took my camera connection, a meetup, and my good friend Anne to get me to this event.

I wanted to photograph this event in the style of Matthew Brady. In speaking with the participants it becomes apparent that much preparation, and interest in authenticity is central to the success of the day.

Brady visited the encampment with a team of photographers and a wagon filled with darkroom supplies. He would develop prints in the field. Before the war he photographed celebrities using clamps to keep the subject still. Formality is gone in the field.

Union Soldier poses

Union Soldier poses

Hardtack (cracker) eaten during the Civil War. Usually lasts indefinitely, but poorly stored cracker attact bugs.

Hardtack (cracker) eaten during the Civil War. Usually lasts indefinitely, but poorly stored cracker attact bugs.

During the reenactment authentic meals are prepared

During the reenactment authentic meals are prepared

Little is known about medicine, and disease at this time. Close combat lead to lethal wounds. Amputations were common, and done quickly without anesthetics. Ouch! Many deaths occur not from original wound, but from infections afterward.

Primitive knowledge of medicine existed during the Civil War

Primitive knowledge of medicine existed during the Civil War

Union Soldiers ready for battle

Union Soldiers ready for battle

Young boy watches soldiers marching off to war

Young boy watches soldiers marching off to war

Those left at home still think of war.

Those left at home still think of war.

Union soldiers display discipline

Union soldiers display discipline

Unlike Civil War photographers I had to try and avoid modern day from spoiling the historic picture I was after.

Marching formation

Marching formation

Soldiers often brought a musical instrument with them to remind them of home. Both sides realized that music could be used to help lift spirits.

Music played many roles both on and off the battlefield

Music played many roles both on and off the battlefield

Some instruments served a purpose to signal troops often blinded by the smoke on the battlefield. This position was replaced in later wars. The bugler also got the troops up in the morning, and played taps at night. My father-in-law played the bugle during WWII.

Bugler assigned to the cavelry or infantry to signal troop action during battle. Often smoke blinded the troops.

Bugler assigned to the cavelry or infantry 

Those participating in the reenactment take time to educate the young.

Those participating in the reenactment take time to educate the young.

This Union soldier shared some current photographic information with me.

This Union soldier shared some current photographic information with me.

Horses played an important part in this war. Rescued horses are used in these reenactments.

This Union Soldier works with the horses. Rescued horses are used in the reenactments. Horses played an important part in this war.

This Union Soldier works with the horses.

Field Artillery Caisson carried 2 ammunition chests weighing 500 pounds each and a spare wheel

Field Artillery Caisson carried 2 ammunition chests weighing 500 pounds each, and a spare wheel

This is the 10th annual reenactment held at Gibson Ranch.

This is the 10th annual reenactment held at Gibson Ranch.

Confederate encampment appears less organized. This reenactment was the last major battle of the Civil War.

Confederate encampment appears less organized. This reenactment was the last major battle of the Civil War.

Confederate Soldier

Confederate Soldier

Confederate troops at the very end of the Civil War.

Confederate troops come together in all kinds of uniforms.

Did people from the town witness the battle? This reenactment certainly draws a crowd.

Did people from the town witness the battle? This reenactment certainly draws a crowd.

Readying for battle.

Readying for battle.

The strength of the armies are visibly unequal.

Union Soldiers march on to the battle field.

Union Soldiers march on to the battle field.

Canon fires. Loud and smokey.

Canon fires. Loud and smokey.

Confederate cavelry enters.

Confederate Cavelry enters.

Union Cavelry

Union Cavelry

Watching through the smoke.

Watching through the smoke.

Field Artillery Caisson arrives

Field Artillery Caisson arrives

Union Soldiers outnumber the Confederate Army.

Union Soldiers outnumber the Confederate Army.

The battle is over. Lee surrenders at the courthouse at Appomattox. The Civil War would soon be over.

I learned much from attending this event, and more while preparing this blog.

Sources used:

Civil War Trust – http://www.civilwar.org/

Mathew Brady – http;//www.mathewbrady.com

 

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