About this Collection
Provides access to about 7,000 different views and portraits made during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and its immediate aftermath. The images represent the original glass plate negatives made under the supervision of Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner as well as the photographic prints in the Civil War photographs file in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room. These negatives and prints are sometimes referred to as the Anthony-Taylor-Rand-Ordway-Eaton Collection to indicate the previous owners. The Library purchased the negatives in 1943.
Search tip for this collection: Try putting in very few search terms, particularly when searching for people (for example, try just the person's last name). For more information, see the Arrangement & Access section.
Many additional Civil War images are in other collections, including drawings, prints, and photograph albums to name a few.
Other Civil War Holdings in the Prints & Photographs Division
Andrew J. Russell photographs - Captain Andrew. J. Russell, of the 141st New York Infantry, was the first U.S. Army photographer. He documented railroad maintenance and construction in Washington, D.C. and Virginia and military facilities in and around Washington, D.C., Maryland, and in Virginia. View descriptions and images: LOT 4336, LOT 9209, and LOT 11486.
Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War - 100 photographs presented chronologically showing the major sites of conflict in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
More Civil War pictures -- see the Related Resources page.
Background and Scope
The online Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints provide access to about 7,000 different images made during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and in its immediate aftermath. The images were scanned from the Prints and Photographs Division's collection of original glass plate negatives. In addition, this online offering includes copy negatives made from many of the photographic prints the Division holds. The images were acquired from various sources.
The bulk of the collection consists of original glass plate negatives. Through high resolution scans, researchers now have access to all of the original Civil War negatives in the Library of Congress collections. Some images lack corresponding prints in the collection and have not been seen widely before. Of special interest are the stereo negatives, including the full plate stereo negatives and both sides of the cut plates. The high resolution scans allow researchers to examine the negatives for details such as facial expressions, buttons on uniforms, and building signs. The scans are of such superb quality that they will be suitable for publication purposes, making it no longer necessary to handle the fragile original glass plates.
The online Civil War Photographs collection includes material from several sources, as outlined below.
The largest proportion of the online Civil War Photographs are from the Anthony-Taylor-Rand-Ordway-Eaton Collection. It contains negatives taken during the war under the supervision of Mathew B. Brady and Alexander Gardner and passed through many owners.
During the war, Brady transferred many negatives to the photographic supply firm of E. & H. T. Anthony & Company to pay for his debts. Anthony & Co. published these images in its "War Views" series.
In 1879 the negatives were purchased by Colonel Arnold A. Rand and General Albert Ordway, veterans of the war, and collectors of war memorabilia. Their collection also included approximately 2,000 negatives by Alexander Gardner and his team of photographers. Gardner had originally managed Brady's Washington studio, but he left Brady's employment in November 1862 to set up his own business.
Rand and Ordway sold the entire collection to Civil War veteran John C. Taylor, who published lantern slides and stereo views during the 1880s and early 1890s under the imprints Taylor & Huntington and the War Photograph & Exhibition Company.
In 1907 Edward B. Eaton bought the negatives. He used them in several books he published on the Civil War. The most notable of these was the ten-volume work, The Photographic History of the Civil War.
In 1916 the collection was placed in storage, where it remained until the Library purchased it in 1943. The Library's acquisition included 7,500 original glass plate negatives and about 2,500 glass and film copy negatives, providing a total of about 3,750 different views and about 2,650 different portraits.
The Library of Congress selected 1,047 of these images for publication as a microfilm in 1961. The introduction to the microfilm includes a table of contents that indicates how this portion of the collection was organized into five major sections and numerous subsections. The catalog records for these 1,047 negatives contain more information and subject headings than the catalog records for the remainder of the negatives. (See Describing the Collection for further details; see the Search Tip for information about strategies for searching the records effectively.)
The Library grouped the negatives into series by size and broad subject area. Each negative series has a distinct numerical prefix. The general content of each of the negative series is outlined in the section, The Civil War Negatives: Arrangement and Online Access.
Brady-Handy Collection - Three Negative Series
Some negatives from the studio of Mathew B. Brady came into the hands of his nephew, Levin C. Handy, who operated a photographic studio in Washington, D.C. The Library of Congress purchased the L.C. Handy Studio negatives in 1954. Negatives from this source are distinguished by the prefix LC-BH8. Three Brady Handy negative series have been incorporated into the Civil War Photographs because of their close connection to the other items in this pool of records and images. The content of the three negative series is outlined in the section, The Civil War Negatives: Arrangement and Online Access. (The remainder of the Brady Handy negatives, which deal primarily with post-Civil War subjects, are available separately as the Brady Handy Collection.)
Civil War Photograph LOTs - Some Copy Negatives
The Civil War Photograph LOTs consist of photographic prints arranged by subject matter into LOTs (groups). The Library acquired the prints from three main sources:
- In 1905 the Library purchased gelatin silver prints from John C. Taylor.
- In 1948 the Library purchased a large group of mounted albumen prints from General Ordway’s son.
- In the 1950s and 1960s, the Library's Photoduplication Service made prints from the glass plate negatives.
As requests for reproductions have been made over time, copy negatives have been made from some of these prints.
Civil War Stereograph Collection - Some Copy Negatives
The Civil War Stereograph Collection consists of stereographs published by a variety of firms including E. & H. T. Anthony & Co. and The War Photograph & Exhibition Company acquired through various means. The Library has made copy negatives from some of these stereographs to respond to requests for reproductions.
Glass negatives of Union soldiers at Folly and Morris Islands during the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, photographed by Haas & Peale.
Philip Haas of Company A, 1st New York Engineers, and Washington Peale photographed General Quincy A. Gillmore's efforts to capture Charleston, South Carolina, in 1863. This small batch of negatives show Union troops patrolling the islands off the Carolina coast. The Library acquired Haas and Peale's original glass plate negatives in 1966.
Images of Enlisted Men
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Library copied approximately 50 images of enlisted men from daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes in private collections. (The resulting negatives are in the B8184 series.) The original photographs were returned to their owners, but the Library did not retain a record of the collector's names and addresses. Any information on the provenance of these original photographs would be welcomed. Please write to the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4730 or contact us through our Ask-a-Librarian form. For information on both known and unidentified enlisted men images in other collections, see the reference aid Portraits of Named Civil War Enlisted Men.
What is Not in the Civil War Negatives and Related Prints Pool of Online Records and Images?
Many additional Civil War photographs are housed in the Prints & Photographs Division. These include:
- Photographic prints in the Civil War Photograph LOTs that either do not have a corresponding original negative or do not have a corresponding copy negative that has been made available online. The division plans to add these to the online collection.
- Original prints by George Barnard and Andrew J. Russell (see Related Resources for a list of these and other groups of Civil War photographs).
- Ambrotypes, tintypes, and other photographs from the Civil War era. For more information, see Related Resources.
- The Division has a few original portrait photographs of Abraham Lincoln, but most of its Lincoln portraits are copy prints. Online catalog records are available for some daguerreotypes and other portrait photographs relating to Lincoln (see a sampling).