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Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery, in Action

Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery, in Action

Publisher: Alexander Gardner

Medium: Photographic print

Shelfmark: 1784.a.13.1_f064r

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photographer: Timothy H. O'Sullivan

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The American Civil War was one of the first conflicts to be photographed to a significant extent and many images survive of battlefields, soldiers, the home–front and the devastation wrought by years of fighting. The photographs displayed here were taken during the Civil War by various official war photographers. All the negatives were published by Alexander Gardner in a two volume collection entitled Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War in 1865.

Gardner, who originated from Scotland, was an expert in the wet collodion process. He became one of the first photographers in the U.S.A. to commercially exploit photographs in a published form. The selected images highlight interesting and varied aspects of the war. The books also contain contemporary contextual descriptions about the photographic scenes.

Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery, in Action was taken by Timothy H. O’Sullivan at Fredericksburg in 1863. According to the information provided in Gardner’s book for this image, it was taken 'as the guns were engaging the enemy'. Fredericksburg, Virginia, witnessed numerous engagements during the Civil War due to the fact that was placed strategically  between the two capitals, Washington, D.C. and Richmond. The Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 had ended with significant Union loses after the army attempted to attack Confederate troops on the heights around the city. A second battle, which the Union Army won, took place around the same location in May 1863.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan is one of the best known Civil War photographers, capturing numerous images throughout the conflict. Originally from Ireland, he enlisted in the Union Army, although historians have suggested that he undertook survey work instead of fighting. He belonged to Alexander Gardner’s photography studio, and the sketchbook contains over forty of O’Sullivan’s images.

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