Faces of the Civil War: 57 Amazing Portrait Photos From the American Civil War

The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865) (also known by other names) was a civil war in the United States fought between the Union (states that remained loyal to the federal union, or “the North”) and the Confederacy (states that voted to secede, or “the South”). The central cause of the war was the status of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into territories acquired as a result of the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican–American War. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, four million of the 32 million Americans (~13%) were enslaved black people, almost all in the South.

The practice of slavery in the United States was one of the key political issues of the 19th century. Decades of political unrest over slavery led up to the Civil War. Disunion came after Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 United States presidential election on an anti-slavery expansion platform. An initial seven southern slave states declared their secession from the country to form the Confederacy. Confederate forces seized federal forts within territory they claimed. The last minute Crittenden Compromise tried to avert conflict but failed; both sides prepared for war. Fighting broke out in April 1861 when the Confederate army began the Battle of Fort Sumter in South Carolina, just over a month after the first inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. The Confederacy grew to control at least a majority of territory in eleven states (out of the 34 U.S. states in February 1861), and asserted claims to two more. Both sides raised large volunteer and conscription armies. Four years of intense combat, mostly in the South, ensued.

During 1861–1862 in the war’s Western Theater, the Union made significant permanent gains—though in the war’s Eastern Theater the conflict was inconclusive. In late 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal. Effective January 1, 1863 the proclamation also freed slaves in Union-held Confederate territory. To the west, the Union destroyed the Confederate river navy by the summer of 1862, then much of its western armies, and seized New Orleans. The successful 1863 Union siege of Vicksburg split the Confederacy in two at the Mississippi River. In 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s incursion north ended at the Battle of Gettysburg. Western successes led to General Ulysses S. Grant’s command of all Union armies in 1864. Inflicting an ever-tightening naval blockade of Confederate ports, the Union marshaled resources and manpower to attack the Confederacy from all directions. This led to the fall of Atlanta in 1864 to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and his march to the sea. The last significant battles raged around the ten-month Siege of Petersburg, gateway to the Confederate capital of Richmond.

The Civil War effectively ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Lee surrendered to Union General Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House, after Lee had abandoned Petersburg and Richmond. Confederate generals throughout the Confederate army followed suit. The conclusion of the American Civil War lacks a clean end date: land forces continued surrendering until June 23. By the end of the war, much of the South’s infrastructure was destroyed, especially its railroads. The Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and four million enslaved black people were freed. The war-torn nation then entered the Reconstruction era in a partially successful attempt to rebuild the country and grant civil rights to freed slaves.

The Civil War is one of the most studied and written about episodes in the history of the United States. It remains the subject of cultural and historiographical debate. Of particular interest is the persisting myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The American Civil War was among the earliest to use industrial warfare. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, the ironclad warship, and mass-produced weapons saw wide use. In total the war left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead, along with an undetermined number of civilian casualties. President Lincoln was assassinated just five days after Lee’s surrender. The Civil War remains the deadliest military conflict in American history. The technology and brutality of the Civil War foreshadowed the coming World Wars. (Wikipedia)

Shown is a fantastic photo collection from The Library of Congress that shows portraits of Americans from the Civil War.

Two unidentified soldiers in Union uniforms holding cigars in each others’ mouths
Three unidentified soldiers in forage caps with musket
Brothers Private Hiram J. and Private William H. Gripman of Company I, 3rd Minnesota Infantry Regiment, one with his arm around the other.
Corporal Alvin B. Williams of Company F, 11th Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers, with musket and a bayonet in scabbard; dog tag in case.
Edwin Chamberlain of Company G, 11th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in sergeant’s uniform with guitar.
Five unidentified soldiers in Union uniform of the 6th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia outfitted with Enfield muskets in front of encampment.
John E. Cummins of the 50th, 99th, and 185th Ohio Infantry regiments in Union uniform next to a horse.
Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in uniform, shoulder scales, and Hardee hat with Model 1841 Mississippi rifle, sword bayonet, knapsack with bedroll, canteen, and haversack.
Private David M. Thatcher of Company B, Berkeley Troop, 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment, in uniform and Virginia sword belt plate with Adams revolver and cavalry sword.
Private Edward A. Cary of Company I, 44th Virginia Infantry Regiment, in uniform and his sister, Emma J. Garland née Cary.
Private Henry Augustus Moore of Co. F, 15th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, with artillery short sword and sign reading Jeff Davis and the South!
Private Silas A. Shirley of Co. H, 16th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, with books and sign reading Victory or Death!
Private Simeon J. Crews of Co. F, 7th Texas Cavalry Regiment, with cut down saber and revolver.
Samuel W. Doble of Company D, 12th Maine Infantry Regiment, with drum.
Seven unidentified officers and soldiers in Union uniforms and one officer identified as Major Charles S. Cotter of 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment, with telescope, at Point Lookout, Tennessee.
Three unidentified soldiers in front of painted backdrop showing 34-star American flag.
Two unidentified soldiers in Union cavalry uniforms with sword share a drink in front of painted backdrop showing camp.
Two unidentified soldiers in Union uniforms drinking whiskey and playing cards.
Unidentified African American sailor in Union uniform sitting with arm resting on table.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union cavalry uniform with cavalry saber in front of painted backdrop showing landscape.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters.
Unidentified African American Union soldier with a rifle and revolver in front of painted backdrop showing weapons and American flag at Benton Barracks, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Unidentified boy holding cased photograph of soldier in Confederate uniform atop a Bible.
Unidentified girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father as a cavalryman with sword and Hardee hat.
Unidentified infantry sergeant in Union uniform with five young infantry soldiers with American flag at side.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate cavalry uniform with saber.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate frock coat and slouch hat with Bowie knife and Colt Army Model 1860 revolver.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate infantry uniform with model 1842 musket and two Colt revolvers.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate infantry uniform with musket and Bowie knife.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform of Co. E, “Lynchburg Rifles,” 11th Virginia Infantry Volunteers holding 1841 “Mississippi” rifle, Sheffield-type Bowie knife, canteen, box knapsack, blanket roll, and cartridge box.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with 1855 Springfield pistol carbine and pistols.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with Berdan’s Sharps rifle and Colt 1862 Police Model pistol.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with Colt Revolving rifle and D-Guard Bowie knife.
Unidentified soldier in Confederate Virginia volunteer uniform with bayoneted musket.
Unidentified soldier in first lieutenant’s uniform, red sash, leather gauntlets, and spurs with cavalry sword.
Unidentified soldier in Union cavalry uniform with banjo, sword, and pipe.
Unidentified soldier in Union cavalry uniform with stocked Colt pistol, Remington, and cavalry saber.
Unidentified soldier in Union officer’s uniform at Point Lookout, Tennessee, sitting with cavalry saber in hand and slouch hat resting beside him on a rock.
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform and fez with Model 1855 rifle musket and pepperbox revolver
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform holding a U.S. Model 1855 pistol-carbine with attached shoulder stock and a saber.
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with Colt Revolving Rifle Model 1855.
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with fife.
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with rifle, revolver, and sword.
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with two revolvers and picking his teeth with a Bowie knife.
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with wife and daughters holding saxhorn.
Unidentified soldier in Union zouave uniform with bayoneted musket
Unidentified soldier of 1st Mississippi Cavalry Battalion in uniform and Confederate wishbone frame buckle, with 1st model Maynard carbine.
Unidentified young drummer boy in Union uniform.
Unidentified young sailor in uniform with American flag in front of backdrop showing naval scene.
Unidentified young soldier in 5th New Hampshire Infantry uniform and Whipple hat with bayoneted musket.
Unidentified young soldier in Confederate shell jacket, Hardee hat with Mounted Rifles insignia and plume with canteen and cup.
Unidentified young soldier in Confederate uniform and Hardee hat with holstered revolver and artillery saber.
Unidentified young soldier in Confederate uniform.
Unidentified young soldier in Union uniform and forage cap with revolver.
Unidentified young soldier in Union uniform and Hardee hat sitting with musket, cartridge box, and cap box.
Unidentified young soldier in Union uniform with musket and bayonet in scabbard.
Unidentified young vivandière in Union uniform with barrel canteen and cup.

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