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Remembering the Battle of Gettysburg Through Photos

Artists, photographers and printmakers all documented the battle using their own unique talents.

History By

The Battle of Gettysburg is widely thought of as one of the most important battles of the Civil War. There were an estimated 50,000 Confederate and Union soldiers casualties between July 1-3, 1863, in a small town in Pennsylvania. After a major victor over Union forces at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. There, the army clashed with the Union’s Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade in Gettysburg. Lee was eventually forced to withdraw his soldiers on July 4.

Artists, photographers and printmakers all documented the battle, using their unique mediums to help people then and now understand the bloody battle. The Library of Congress has put together a collection of prints, photos and pieces of art depicting the battlefield, including images from the events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the battle. Check out some of the images below.

During the battle, special artists sketched action scenes for publication in illustrated newspapers that reached a wide audience. Alfred Waud, shown here, was one of the best and drew the next two pictures while working for “Harper’s Weekly.” (O’Sullivan, Timothy H. 1840-1882)
On the first day, Alfred Waud showed how Union General John F. Reynolds was killed. “Mounted upon a superb black horse, with his head thrown back he was everywhere upon the field, seeing all things and giving commands in person.” (Waud, Alfred R., 1828-1891. artist.)
On the second day of battle, news artist Alfred Waud portrayed a major Confederate attack by the Louisiana Tigers at Cemetery Hill.
(Waud, Alfred R., 1828-1891)
A photograph shows the area of the Confederate assault on Cemetery Hill not long after the Union battery repulsed the fierce attack by the Louisiana Tigers. (Photographed 1863 July)
The barn at Trostle’s farm still stands where a Union battery held its ground at a great cost to men and horses. Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan emphasized the dead artillery horses when he reached this site on July 6th. (O’Sullivan, Timothy H., 1840-1882)
“A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep.” (Gardner, Alexander, 1821-1882)
After the battle ended, 20,000 wounded soldiers were cared for in a tent hospital at Camp Letterman. The Tyson Brothers photographed this hospital in August 1863.
Three “Johnnie Reb” Prisoners. Photographed by Mathew Brady’s team on Seminary Ridge in mid-July, 1863, after the Battle of Gettysburg.
On the third day of fighting, the tide turned in the Union favor when Pickett’s Charge failed. The Confederate infantry assault is shown here in a print published in 1896, based on a large cyclorama painting made by Paul Philippoteaux in 1883.
Gen. Sickles & Mrs. Wilmerding [at the 50th reunion for the Battle of Gettysburg]. Bain News Service.
Union veterans and supporters at the 50th Reunion of the battle, held in Gettysburg in 1913. The National Photo Company news service posed a striking Grand Army of the Republic group from Indiana.
Confederate veterans at the 50th Reunion of the battle, held in Gettysburg in 1913. The National Photo Company news service posed a group from North Carolina with their Tar Heel banner.
Read full story at Library of Congress