The Civil War is one of the most important wars in the history of the world. As the deadliest war in United States history, the Civil War divided the nation in a way that would leave a rippling effect ushering through the rest of the developing world. 5,000 battles would take place during a four-year period, across twenty states. While this war was instrumental in the formation of America as it is today, it was woefully under-documented. Today, we are going to guide you through 38 incredibly rare and stunning photos from the Civil War.
This image shows a Union soldier stumbling across a Confederate soldier in the remnants of a burnt-out camp. The wounded soldier appears to have been left behind by his compatriots, likely due to the fact that he was too injured to travel. This image shows a close-up and personal view of the terrors that existed throughout the Civil War. When we stop and look at the war from a personal level, rather than a broad historical one, the consequences become alarmingly clear.
Ulysses S. Grant is one of the most famous men to have served during the Civil War. This rare image shows Grant standing before a tent in Cold Harbor, VA, in June of 1864. Grant was a pivotal leader during the war and his efforts would help to turn the tide, thus preserving the Union that we cherish to this day.
This haunting image shows a string of burnt out buildings, known collectively as Haxall's Mills. These buildings were razed by Confederate soldiers after working their way through Richmond, Virginia. At the time of this photo, Haxall's Mills was the largest flour mill in the world, or at the least very near to the top. Bolling Haxall was the owner of the mill, and he was one of the wealthiest men in the country at the time.
The decorated figure sitting before the tree is General John Sedgewick. General Sedgewick earned the honor of being the highest-ranked Union soldier to be killed in the Civil War. Sedgewick's final words were haunting, as well. Sedgewick had been commanding his soldiers to stand up and return fire during a skirmish. Sedgewick's last words were, "Stand up! They couldn't shoot an elephant from this distance."
On July 21, 1861, the battle of Sudley Springs would begin. This horrific image shows the first real battle of the Civil War and the impact that it would have on the land and the people fighting within it. Throughout the broader Battle of Bull Run, more than 4,500 soldiers lost their lives, were grievously wounded, or simply vanished.
You are looking at a 200-pound gun that was placed in defense of Fort Wagner, located on the Charleston Harbor. There were 13 total guns of this size defending the fort, making Fort Wagner difficult to approach, to say the least. These guns were set in place at Fort Wagner until 1863 when Confederate forces managed to overrun the Union fort.
While President Lincoln was the face of the North during the Civil War, finding pictures of the President during the war can be difficult. Here we see Lincoln speaking with soldiers at a battlefield in Antietam, Maryland. Antietam was one of the defining battles during the Civil War as it succeeded in preventing Northern Virginia's Confederate soldiers from invading the North. This battle would serve to inspire Lincoln during his writing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Fort Sumter was one of the first places to be bombarded during the Civil War. Fort Sumter saw action on April 12, 1861, from Confederate forces who were angered by President Lincoln's decision to reinforce the fort. The bombardment of Fort Sumter would help to kickstart the war. Nobody was killed during the bombardment as Union forces were quick to surrender.
This haunting photo captures Dunker Church, located around Sharpsburg, MD. This church was involved in the Battle of Antietam as it served as a battlefield between the two forces. The Battle of Antietam was, of course, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the United States. The church was blown down by a storm before promptly being rebuilt.
Have you ever seen a cannon in action? The loud booming noises must have scared soldiers to their core. Now, let your eyes trace the ground of this battlefield. All of those round items on the ground are massive cannonballs that served to tear men apart. This image was captured in Richmond, Virginia.
This wooden hut may not look like much, but during the winter it would serve to keep soldiers warm. This building was known as Pine Cottage and it served as one of the few decently insulated buildings in the area. As a result, soldiers would gather at the building in order to stay warm when the weather started to turn.
During the Battle of Wilderness in 1864, a Union and Confederate soldier would both seek to take cover in the same gully. The two began arguing in order to try to convince the other to surrender. Eventually, they began a brawl that would cause the entire battle to pause. The entire battlefield watched the two men during their fistfight. Once the Confederate soldier won, the Union fighter agreed to surrender.
This astonishing picture was captured in Ringgold, Georgia. In the middle of the picture, you will find General George Thomas. These war councils were instrumental in deciding how the Civil War would progress. Both the Union and the Confederacy would rely on impromptu war councils in order to advise their various commanders.
The Albemarle was an ironclad ram used by the Confederacy. What you see here is all that remained of the ship after it was destroyed by Union forces. While the Albemarle was literally reduced to rubble, it still succeeded in taking out two Union ships while aiding in the death of Captain Fusser of the Miami.
While the Civil War consisted of the United States fighting itself, it still spawned interest from foreign nations. This image shows a collection of foreign diplomats from all of the world. Take in New York State in 1863, this image reveals foreign ministers from Great Britain, France, Italy, Sweden, Russia, and Nicaragua.
While hydrogen air balloons had already been a thing by the time of the Civil War, they had not made their way to North America. In this image, you see an inventor and Union soldier named Thaddeus Lowe standing by his hydrogen air balloon. Lowe believed that the balloons could be used for military advantage but, instead, he ended up being blown off course before landing in enemy territory.
That horrifying looking cannon was known as the Dictator. This photo was captured in 1864 in Petersburg, Virginia. The Dictator weighed an astonishing 17,120 pounds and it would be used to shoot 218-pound shells over a span of 2.5 miles. To say that the Dictator had an impact during the war would be an understatement.
During the civil war, resource management was incredibly important. Leaving steel behind could lead to Union soldiers seizing it for use on their railroad. As a result, confederate soldiers began burning steel in this formation. Union General William Sherman loved the idea and appropriated it for use, himself, thus claiming the name of the method.
We already briefly talked about the importance of the railroad, so it is only fitting that we discuss Deveraux Station. This image shows the U.S. military feverishly working in order to develop the U.S. Military Railroad. These rails allowed Union soldiers to create a supply line across the nation as they continued pushing forward during the war.
Did you know that Washington D.C. was only one hundred miles away from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia? The two capitals were so close together that soldiers from both sides would visit the other. Here, we see Union soldiers looking down on Richmond. It would take the Union three years before they could overcome Richmond.
This astonishing image shows the impact that war can have on industrial development. We are looking at the Firefly Train Engine as it uses the Orange and Alexandria Railway. This railway was absolutely pivotal to supplying soldiers of both sides with life-saving resources and supplies. Owning the railway was an important point of contention between the North and South.
The man seated in the middle of this photograph is Matthew Harrison Brady. Brady is widely considered to be the original creator of photojournalism. Due to his work and expertise, we get to enjoy all of the photographs that you have been looking at. Without Brady and his work, who knows what we would have forgotten about the war? Unfortunately, Brady would die in debt after selling his photo collection for a fraction of its value.
Religion obviously played a huge cultural role during the Civil War. In this image, we see the United States Christian Commission (USCC) in Germantown, MD. The USCC provided soldiers with supplies, medical resources, social assistance, and religious aid. The USCC isn't widely known about, but it certainly made an impact during the war.
While we tend to think of the Civil War as a land-based battle, it was anything but. This image shows the crew of the USS Monitor as it arrives at a battlefield in support of Union soldiers. The Monitor was a pivotal ship in the development of naval warfare and its battle with the Merrimack would go down in history.
As we've discussed several times, religious services were instrumental morale during the war. We've seen what the United States Christian Commission did for soldiers, now we see more soldiers attending to a religious service being held aboard the U.S. Passaic. The U.S. Passaic was a slow warship that carried larger weaponry during transportation.
This image shows a large pontoon bridge. While fairly harmless in and of itself, this bridge would be employed by General Grant for one of the most impressive flanking maneuvers of the war. Grant sent his soldiers across the bridge in formation so that they could capture the Confederate advanced guard by surprise.
Did you know that New Orleans was the largest slave center in the U.S. during the Civil War? It's true! However, Alexandria, VA, was right behind New Orleans. Here we see a slave auction house located on Duke Street, located in Alexandria. Nowadays, the building is used as the location of the Freedom House Museum.
General Sheridan earned a reputation for himself that will live on forever down South. Most notably tied to the burning that he ordered in the Shenandoah Valley, General Sheridan was also considered to be one of the finest military minds of the war. Sheridan would become one of the greatest nemesis of General Robert E. Lee during the war.
Adequate medical care was almost impossible to find during the Civil War, so soldiers had to make do where they could. Here we are looking at the Brompton Oak plantation in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg. This area was used as a pop-up hospital for soldiers who were wounded in the battle of Spotsylvania. You can still tour the area in order to find buildings that are riddled with bullet holes.
The Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most famous battles in the world, as well as the most important battle of the Civil War. Now known for being a popular tourist destination, the Battlefield of Gettysburg is filled with areas that were pivotal to the outcome of the battle. One such place is Devil's Den, a curious collection of rocks and boulders.
While we are still in Gettysburg, let's head on over to the Evergreen Cemetery. This cemetery was built roughly a decade before the Battle of Gettysburg. Of course, you might also recognize the Evergreen Cemetery for being featured during the Gettysburg Address. During Lincoln's speech, you can see the cemetery in the background of several photographs.
General Ambrose Burnside probably had the most impressive facial features of the Civil War. Unfortunately, Burnside's sideburns couldn't protect him from making a rather terrible string of military decisions. Burnside replaced General McClellan before heading off on several reckless charges against General Lee. Burnside would only have the job for three months before resigning.
This fascinating image shows the Arlington House. The Arlington House belonged to General Robert E. Lee, the face of the Confederate army. Once used as his home, this building is now a memorial to the work that Lee did while serving the Confederacy. While General Lee was staunchly against confederate memorials, we wonder what he'd think of his own memorial?
George Armstrong Custer is famous for the Battle of Little Big Horn. Most notably, people conflate Custer's name with being a poor military leader. However, Custer was once one of the most decorated soldiers in the Union army. The man next to Custer is John W. Lea, a confederate soldier that Custer had trained with while at West Point. Custer would save a wounded Lea during the Battle of Williamsburg, carrying him to a hospital where he would be saved.
This image shows the U.S. Capitol's iron dome, looming over the surrounding area. The Capitol building was erected during the Civil War. Below the dome, you can see the stocks where a confederate captain named Henry Wirz would be executed. This powerful image also shows several men standing in the trees so that they could get a better view of the execution.
Here you can see an image of Little Round Top. This image shows the area where the Union army almost got completely derailed. Little Round Top ended up being a rallying cry for the Union army and it would be instrumental in General Lee's downfall as it motivated Pickett's Charge. Many heroic men died on the land in this image.
For a different view of the Civil War era, we are showing you the President's Box at the Ford Theater. You will remember the Ford Theater, of course, as the place where President Lincoln was assassinated. The theater would be closed for over 100 years following the murder of Lincoln before opening once again in the 1960s.
This image shows the largest artillery barrage ever performed in North America. Led by Confederate general George Pickett, this barrage would lead to Pickett charging his 12,000 men toward the Union army. The barrage did little damage but Pickett didn't know this, due to the accidental explosion of a Union ammunition store. Thinking that he was winning the battle, Pickett would charge headlong into defeat, losing half of his men along the way.
© Sherry Rucherman