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Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the American Civil War 1861-1865 Hardcover – January 1, 2002
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About the Author
ALEXANDER GARDNER 1821-1882 immigrated to the US from Scotland in 1855 with an invitation from the well-known photographer Matthew Brady. Gardner then worked in Brady's New York studio and later became the manager of Brady's Washingon studio. In 1862, he left Bradys's studio taking his own negatives because Brady refused to give Gardner and the other photographers emloyed by him individual credit for their Civil War photographs. Gardner susequently became the official photographer of the Union's Army of the Potomac serving until the end of the Civil War. He published the original editon of this book, Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War in 1866. The book was edited and written by Gardner and it included photograplhs by other photogrpahers as Timothy O'Sulliven, George Barnard, Wood & Gibson as well as by Gardner himself.
As a photographer, Gardner is known for photographs of the dead soldiers after the battle of Gettysburg and his memorable portraits of President Lincoln. He coninued to be a successful portrait photographer in Washington DC until his heath in 1882
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I have read extensively about the Civil War for over 40 years. Many parts of the war that occurred between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia have always been confusing to me. Words just cannot fully capture for me the topography, the practices, and the grimness of the confrontations.
As someone who loves books of fine photography, Mr. Gardner's images immediately drew my attention. Although done over 135 years ago, they are masterpieces of the photographic art. What a nice surprise it was to find that each image came with a mini-essay that explained the significance of the place, explained more about the details of what was portrayed, and extended the observations to other situations and circumstances in the Civil War. As much as I liked the photographs, I found the mini-essays even better. The combination was incomparable!
One of the great challenges in this geographic area (northern Virginia, southern Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania) was brought by the many rivers that had to be crossed. Mr. Gardner did a fine job of showing what the bridges and fords looked like in normal times, what the same crossings looked like without their normal structures in place, and how engineers used pontoon boats, pontoon bridges, and built temporary structures to fill in for exploded gaps. A lot of the infrastructure of war is captured, from barricades and cannons to sniping positions to wagon camps. There are even examples of "Quaker guns" which were not really guns at all, but simulated guns to keep the enemy away from positions where no troops could be spared to defend them.
Although almost all of the images are of peaceful activities to support the battlefields, the images that show dead soldiers become all the more powerful in the context of the normalcy. You will never forget the photographs from Gettysburg. They could be an advertisement for opposing war.
For modern viewers, the casualness with which the images mix African-Americans and Caucasians on the Union side belies the racism that partially led to the war itself.
Mr. Gardner was the official photographer of the Army of the Potomac during most of the Civil War. He had come to the United States from Scotland at the invitation of famed Civil War photographer, Mr. Matthew Brady, in 1855 but left Mr. Brady's employ when Mr. Brady denied Mr. Gardner publication credit for his work. The very difficult photographic conditions are well described in the book, which will make you appreciate the accomplished results all the more.
A version of this book was originally published in 1866. The current edition has digitally reproduced the images in a smaller size than the original. That is a shame because in many cases Mr. Gardner has captured sweeping panoramas and depth of field that would reward being seen in larger size. However, the details are not obscured in most cases. The details simply seem too small. Naturally, the purchaser gets a benefit from this because it means that the book is less costly than it would otherwise have been. My judgment is that publishers should use the size that the photographer intended the images to be published in. I graded the book down one star for this flaw.
Where would people in the future benefit from photographs and detailed notes about you and your family . . . and you and your work? When can you start preparing the photographs and notes?
His work is a very vital element to telling the hidden, horrid truths of the Civil War although this book offers very little in providing pictures not typically shown. I would have loved to see different work instead of these classic photos commonly used in history books. The book is of great quality and each photograph offers an explanation of the reasons the photo was taken or done. I recommend the book to people who really do not have an understanding of Civil War photography or common knowledge of the war itself. For the veteran enthusiast, it may seem very redundant and a perfect coffee table book. I can't recommend it to the advanced historian as this book may bore you after the initial curiosity fades.