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.
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.
Unlike Civil War photographers I had to try and avoid modern day from spoiling the historic picture I was after.
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.
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.
Horses played an important part in this war. Rescued horses are used in these reenactments.
The strength of the armies are visibly unequal.
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.
Civil War Trust – http://www.civilwar.org/
Mathew Brady – http;//www.mathewbrady.com