In July of 1863 the photographs A Harvest of Death, Field Where General Reynolds Fell, A Sharpshooter's Last Sleep, and The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter were taken after the battle at Gettysburg by a team of photographers led by Alexander Gardner. In the decades that followed these images of the dead of the battlefield became some of the most iconic representations of the American Civil War. Today, Gardner's Gettysburg photographs can be found in almost every contemporary history text, documentary, or collection of images from the war, yet their journey to this iconic status has been little discussed. The goal of this thesis is to expand the general understanding of these Civil War photographs and their legacy by considering their use beyond the early 1860s. Although part of a larger scope of influence, the discussion of the photographs presented here will focus particularly on the years between 1894 and 1911. Between those years they were made available to the public through large photographic histories and other history texts as well. The aim of these texts, which framed and manipulated Gardner's images, were to disseminate a propagandistic history of the war in a way that outlined it as a nationally unifying experience, rather than one of division. These texts mark the beginning of the influence the Gettysburg photographs would have on American memory of the war. Within these books the four photographs became part of a larger effort to reconnect with the past and shape the war into a source for a unified American identity.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Visual Arts



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Alexander Gardner, battlefield photography, Gettysburg, American Civil War, turn of the century, photographic histories, American identity, memory



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