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The Dead of Antietam

Originally published by America's Civil War magazine. Published Online: August 17, 2012 
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In 1862 Matthew Brady exhibited a series of photographs taken by Alexander Gardner and James Gibson immediately after the Battle of Antietam. Gardner and Gibson, two of the many photographers Brady hired to document the war, produced at least 95 images at Antietam. Their images were the first to show dead bodies on the field.

 

1. Confederate dead on the Miller Farm, possibly from Starke's Louisiana Brigade, with the North Woods in the distance and the Hagerstown Pike to the right
1. Confederate dead on the Miller Farm, possibly from Starke's Louisiana Brigade, with the North Woods in the distance and the Hagerstown Pike to the right
2. At the center of the Rebel line at Bloody Lane, a burial detail—likely from the 130th Pennsylvania—pauses for a moment from burying enemy dead
2. At the center of the Rebel line at Bloody Lane, a burial detail—likely from the 130th Pennsylvania—pauses for a moment from burying enemy dead
3. Bloody Lane victims, probably from the 14th North Carolina, beyond the Roulette Farm lane
3. Bloody Lane victims, probably from the 14th North Carolina, beyond the Roulette Farm lane
 
4. An unidentified Confederate, and the fresh grave of Lieutenant John A. Clark, 7th Michigan, near the West Woods
4. An unidentified Confederate, and the fresh grave of Lieutenant John A. Clark, 7th Michigan, near the West Woods
5. Dozens of soldiers lie gathered for interment on the Miller Farm
5. Dozens of soldiers lie gathered for interment on the Miller Farm
6. Louisianians, members of Starke's Brigade await burial. "The contest at this point had been very severe," photographer Alexander Gardner wrote
6. Louisianians, members of Starke's Brigade await burial. "The contest at this point had been very severe," photographer Alexander Gardner wrote
7. Victims along the Hagerstown Pike, with the East Woods in the distance
7. Victims along the Hagerstown Pike, with the East Woods in the distance
8. Confederates near Burnside Bridge, with pockets turned inside-out by pillagers
8. Confederates near Burnside Bridge, with pockets turned inside-out by pillagers
9. A Union burial detail on the Miller Farm prepares to inter Federal dead
9. A Union burial detail on the Miller Farm prepares to inter Federal dead
10. A lone Confederate, found "on a hill-side"
10. A lone Confederate, found "on a hill-side"
11. One of the best known of Alexander Gardner's Antietam photograph shows Confederate victims at the Dunker Church
11. One of the best known of Alexander Gardner's Antietam photograph shows Confederate victims at the Dunker Church
12. A Rebel colonel's horse (possibly belonging to Colonel Henry B. Strong, 6th Louisiana, who died in fighting near the Cornfield), killed near the East Woods
12. A Rebel colonel's horse (possibly belonging to Colonel Henry B. Strong, 6th Louisiana, who died in fighting near the Cornfield), killed near the East Woods
13.  Confederate dead on the Sherrick Farm, near Burnside Bridge on the southern portion of the battlefield
13. Confederate dead on the Sherrick Farm, near Burnside Bridge on the southern portion of the battlefield
14.  Dead Confederates, most likely Louisianians from Starke's Brigade, on the north end of the battlefield
14. Dead Confederates, most likely Louisianians from Starke's Brigade, on the north end of the battlefield

 

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5 Responses to “The Dead of Antietam”


  1. 1
    Jes Lewis says:

    So where are the Yankee dead ??
    It is common knowledge that Brady and his crews drug corpses around & often arranged them for maximum effect, for his photos.

    • 1.1
      Tamela Baker says:

      You're right, Jes — Brady's photographers sometimes rearranged their subjects. Early on, they also attempted to avoid photographing the corpses of Federal troop, fearing the effect of the public response on Northern morale — a problem journalists still grapple over with the government when reporting on war casualties.

      –Tamela Baker
      Editor, America's Civil War

  2. 2
    Nickuru says:

    Antietam was a close battle. Had not General Lee's battle plans been handed to the Union Army, Remember the the three cigars? Lee would have won.

    It was bloodiest battle of the civil war since Shiloh, the Union knew the battle plans of Lee, they could figure out where to place there troops for best effect. Yet the Confederates fought amazing well against an enemy who knew their entire battle plan.

    That said the campaign to Antietam was doomed to fail because of supples. As Napoleon said: an army marches on its stomach.

  3. 3
    Dale Curless says:

    I have been a photographer for decades. I formed my earliest impressions by studying the photos in Life and Look magazines ans pestered my mother to take me to the library so I could look through books on history and photography.
    I feel a profound sadness when I look at these photographs today. Lives cut short in support of a common cause. No matter which side they were on war rarely ended well for those who were doing the fighting.

  4. 4
    karl ferron says:

    so why would alexander gardner do a flip-flop and, contrary to taking only pictures to keep the war sentiments positive, now suddenly start dragging bodies about to give a photo a more heart-wrenching feeling? i've been working on a piece on antietam and what i've learned so far, is that the confederates left their dead and union troops were busy burying their own. i've not come across anything that suggests gardner (who shot the most graphic images at antietam) took time to pull about bloating corpses.



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