Civil war images, both drawings and photographs, were the topic of the Museum Moments program Nov. 15 at the Union County Heritage Museum.
Historian Rebekah Rinehart’s presentation included a slide show of the work artists and photographers produced 150 years ago.
Line drawings were reproduced in periodic publications such as Harper’s Weekly, which was founded in 1857. Prominent sketch artists of the period included Theodore Davis, Alfred Waud and Winslow Homer.
Photography was in its infancy and required both skill and labor. Photographers typically transported their bulky wooden cameras, dark room equipment and a variety of hazardous chemicals in horse-drawn wagons. Pieces of clear glass, typically 4 x 5 inches in size, were used as negatives and the negatives had to be processed almost immediately makeshift darkrooms in order to capture the image.
The cameras and tripods were made of wood, typically maple, and the lenses themselves were quite heavy. A camera with its lens and tripod could weigh the better part of 100 pounds, so physical strength and stamina were part of the skill set. Setting up for a photograph was time consuming and the subjects needed to be very still.
Actual combat photographs were not possible because the lens might have to remain open for several seconds to capture a still image.
However, more than 3,000 photographs were made during the Civil War. Pictures of people (who had to hold very still) and shocking, grisly photos of dead soldiers were plentiful. The Civil War photographers were able to capture highly detailed images showing the destruction and carnage of battles.
Mathew Brady was the best known photographer of the era. George Barnard and Alexander Gardner were among the other Civil War photographers whose work was displayed and discussed by Rinehart.
Among the photos displayed was one of the three Blackwell Brothers, who were soldiers of the New Albany Grays. The New Albany Grays were organized at New Albany on May 18, 1861.