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Photographer: Alexander Gardner (1821 - 82)

'A sharpshooter’s last sleep, Gettysburg, July 1864'

Gardner’s photograph, taken after the Battle of Gettysburg, has become one of the defining images of the American Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863), fought in and around the town in Pennsylvania, was the battle with the largest number of casualties and is often described as the War's turning point.

It is clear that Gardner was not reluctant to orchestrate a scene for his own purposes. The body seen here was later moved to another location and arranged for further photographs to be made, accompanied in the book by a detailed but clearly fabricated description. 

The weapon lying beside the corpse is not a sharpshooter’s rifle and may well have been a prop used by Gardner on several occasions. It also appears more likely that the soldier was an infantryman rather than a sniper.

Gardner was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1821. Visiting The Great Exhibition in 1851 in Hyde Park, London, he saw the photography of American Mathew Brady, and became interested in the subject.

Albumen print

From Alexander Gardner, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War (2 vols., Washington, [1865])

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