Historical shocker -- Was Matthew Brady a fraud?!
Shocker: Matthew Brady stole the credit for work he didn't do.
Most Civil War buffs will say that the iconic images of battlefield dead from the Civil War are the work of Matthew Brady, the preeminent American photographer who photographed Lincoln in his Washington DC studio. They'd also be arguably wrong.
According to Keith Steiner, the author of "In the Footsteps of Alexander Gardner at Antietam and Gettysburg" he wanted to correct an injustice, explaining, "Most of the photos you see of the American Civil War were taken either by Gardner or his Scottish contemporaries but he (Gardner) was the greatest of them all. He was never given the credit."
Did you know there's a patron saint for photographers?
Instead, credit went to Matthew Brady, who knew Abraham Lincoln. Yet, it was Gardner, not Brady, who most often photographed Lincoln, including the president's final portrait taken just a week before his assassination.
Gardner's work, according to Steiner, includes most of the famous images of the dead.
Horses were common casualties of the Civil War, millions were killed in fighting and made horses a rare commodity until some time following the war. Most horses were drafted into service.
Images during the time were difficult to capture, and required that plates be developed in toxic chemicals for an extended period of time. The dead made for excellent subjects not only because of the dramatic effect, but also because the exposures needed to make the images were long, and the dead do not move.
Gardner, or whoever took many of the pictures, has been accused of moving the dead to take better pictures. At that time, there were no journalistic standards or ethics for photographers, since their work was considered artistic as opposed to journalistic. Photographs still did not appear in newspapers during that time.
Alexander Gardner, the man who took most of the photos that Matthew Brady gets credit for.
Regardless of who gets the credit, the lesson is primarily twofold. First, history is not a story about the "Truth" with a capital "T." History is surprisingly dynamic and the story changes based on what questions are asked, where they are asked, and who is answering them, and so on. History is fluid, not a constant as many people assume. The story of history can change as new primary sources and evidence is uncovered.
Second, the images of the dead still bring home the reality of war unlike anything else. In many images, bloating corpses with their jackets unbuttoned -presumably because soldiers were checking to see where they were hit -a hit in the chest or torso was generally considered fatal, are haunting. Their faces retain an expression of painful surprise, and their mouths betray a final, tragic resignation to their fate on the field. During the Civil War, the wounded were generally left where they lay until a battle had moved on or ended. There was no urgency to clearing the field or to bring home the dead as there is today.
War was horrific during Brady and Gardner's time, and the images, no matter who took them, still resonate with that solemn warning.
Lincoln at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. The AOP was tasked with protecting Washington, capturing Richmond, and destroying the Army of Northern Virginia --a daunting task as the ANV was possibly one of the greatest armies to ever march.
Alexander Gardner captured most of the portraits of Lincoln.
The execution of those who plotted to assassinate Lincoln and his cabinet. On the left is Mary Surratt. History has exonerated her, she was not involved but had the misfortune of the assassins meeting in her establishment; guilt by loose association. Exceptionally tragic, she was terrified by her pending execution.
A union battery likely formed for drill or possibly battle. The numbers of horses needed to draw the guns and their limbers, as well as the ammunition trains was staggering. Maneuvering these teams effectively under fire required near-constant rehearsal of a complex ballet. An experienced team could limber and move a gun in under a minute, under ideal circumstances. Such circumstances were rare in combat.
Confederate dead at Antietam. Antietam is often considered a draw, but more properly, was the first defeat for the ANV. The Union victory there stopped Lee's planned invasion of the North. It was the bloodiest day ever in American history with over 19,000 killed in a single day of fighting.
A Confederate sharpshooter killed at Antietam. Crack shots occasionally brought down opposing generals. Gen. Reynolds at Gettysburg was one such victim, as was Gen. Sedgewick, whose last words were, "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--"
The same sharpshooter as the previous image, but this time his body has been moved by Gardner. Controversial today, there were no journalistic ethics regarding photography at the time to discourage such staging.
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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