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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

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Sam Cooley: 1865

Sam Cooley: 1865

Circa 1865. "Wagons and camera of Sam A. Cooley, U.S. photographer, Department of the South." Wet plate glass negative. View full size.


Civil War Departments

The Union Army effectively split the country into Military Departments covering various geographic areas: Department of the West, Department of the Pacific, Department of the Cumberland, Department of New England and so on. The various Departments were responsible the installations and armies operating within these geographic regions. The Department of the South was one of these regions. At least initially the department consisted of Union held regions of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The signs on Sam Cooley's wagons would seem to indicate that he was effectively the "official" military photographer for the Department and presumably gave him much greater access than other photographers would get.


There's the rub

I wonder how many glass plates were broken or had the emulsion rubbed off, regardless of packing, as they bounced around in the wagon. Packed in cotton or excelsior? (Was there excelsior yet?)

[I think they'd be packed in negative cases. Large plush-lined boxes with edge-slots to hold the plates. - Dave]


How many megapixels has your camera got, mister?

Photographing the Civil War

We shall get some more glimpses presently of these adventurous souls in action. But, as already hinted, extraordinary as were the results of Brady's impetuous vigor, he was but one of many in the great work of picturing the war. Three-fourths of the scenes with the Army of the Potomac were made by Gardner. Thomas G. Roche was an indefatigable worker in the armies' train. Captain A. J. Russell detached as official camera-man for the War Department, obtained many invaluable pictures illustrating the military railroading and construction work of the Army of the Potomac, which were hurried straightway to Secretary Stanton at Washington. Sam A. Cooley was attached to the Tenth Army Corps, and recorded the happenings around Savannah, Fort McAllister, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Beaufort, and Charleston during the bombardment; George M. Barnard, under the supervision of General O. M. Poe (then Captain in the Engineer Corps), did yeoman's service around Atlanta.

-- Henry Wysham Lanier, Photographing the Civil War

THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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