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Requiem Aeternam: 1865

Requiem Aeternam: 1865

April 1865. Petersburg, Virginia. "Dead Confederate soldier outside the walls of Fort Mahone." Wet plate glass negative, left half of stereo pair, by Thomas C. Roche. Civil War glass negative collection, Library of Congress. View full size. There's a soundtrack and slide show for these photos here.


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re: Civil War Requiem

Very powerful presentation.

Notice that his pockets had

Notice that his pockets had been emptied. Either the contents were taken to return to his next of kin or he had been pilfered. Either way, it's a poor thing to know he had family and someone who loved him waiting for his return home


How amazing that anyone from Europe can point fingers at the US for war policies. When my father and nine uncles (two of which didin't return) fought in WWII, they sure didn't complain. The current Europe wouldn't exist if it weren't for the U.S. but it's so easy to forget...until you need us again.


It hurts me to see some of the comments. It makes no difference which side this boy was fighting for or how he got there. I think most of these boys/men entered the service because they believed in the cause. History tells us that most of the deaths in the civil war were from disease and infection.

This photo shows what these people had to deal with. It makes no difference if he was reloading or not. (The ramrod is lying next to his weapon). He is covered in mud and had to be miserable ... probably hungry and missing home. The way he is lying would indicate that he lay there for a while knowing he was dying... alone and far from home.

Thank you Dave. We as a country need to be reminded how good we have it because of boys like this.

Died trying...

Looked like he got it while trying to reload.

53rd NC


Very interesting! What company was your ancestor in and what was his name, if I'm not too inquisitive?

[A note to Brock: If you register as a Shorpy member and then log in, you can contact Tracy directly by clicking on her username. - Dave]

53rd Regiment, NC Troops

Mr. Townsend's comments sent me to look at my copy of the regimental history. My great-grandfather was one of the men of the 53rd captured on April 1st or 2nd. (The history suggests April 1st, records say the 2nd.) It is eerie to think that this is a person my great-grandfather may have known 143 years ago.

Fort Mahone

My great-grandfather and great-uncle knew these men as they were all part of the 53rd North Carolina Regiment, the sole unit in Fort Mahone. Handpicked men of the 53rd (of which my great-grandfather was one) made the final assault at Petersburg in an attempt to break Grant's line. This was against Fort Stedman, immediately in front of Fort Mahone. They initially succeeded, but reinforcements drove them back. These photographs were made the day after the 53rd evacuated the lines the night before to begin the retreat to Appomattox.(Only 83 were left at the surrender, of whom two were black.) Thank you for the wonderful video, and I shall pass it far and wide. Below may be of interest concerning this subject.
Letter from General Gordon to my great grandfather, at the end, mentions Hares Hill which was another name for Fort Stedman.
Confederate Memorial Day - 08/10/ 911 (My Grandfather & Mother)
As one can tell from my mother's comments, my family most definitely fought for hearth and home!
"This Is What He Meant - All Men Up, Erected By His Colored Friends."


The video is magnificent, it brought to my attention the remains of the paper cartridges at the firing positions. I'm not sure why that is so arresting and brought such immediacy to the image. It's certainly not ephemera. Dave's comments are spot on as I see it. I understand the preference to talk not fight, especially when one's continent has been devastated several times over. However, some see an unwillingness to ever strike back as weakness and opportunity.

Civil Warriors

Sadly, given that back then it was common practice for the wealthier American young men to pay poorer men to serve in the military in their place, it would be difficult to guarantee that anyone pictured gave his life for his beliefs. Even back then there were draft riots...

And remember that medical help was primitive, and many soldiers died of infection rather than directly of their wounds.

Check out Ambrose Bierce's work (his fiction & non-fiction war stories) for moving versions of what happened on the field.

Empty pockets

I wouldn't view his empty pockets as signs of someone nobly trying to identify him. If I recall my Civil War history correctly, Fort Mahone was carried in a rush by the Union Army, and the resulting gap in the Petersburg line caused Lee to rapidly abandon the defense of Richmond and flee west. Almost before his body turned cold it would have lain well behind the front lines, amongst the looters, stragglers, second-line troops and curious townsfolk.

Whoever went through his pockets was looking for money, rings, ammunition or what-have-you, but almost certainly not for an address of his next-of-kin.

Stealing from the dead?

Looks like this fallen soldier's pockets have been turned inside-out. Apparently someone decided he no longer needed what was in them.

[As noted by Charlie in another post: "There were no 'dog tags' then and so the soldier would write his name and hometown on a scrap of paper and carry it in his pocket so his body could be identified if needed. You will see the turned out pockets on almost all the dead." - Dave]


I don't understand why Europeans act so smug about war as if it's beneath them. European colonialism in Africa and South east Asia didn't end all that long ago. France was in Vietnam long before America was. The IRA was still bombing things and the British were still repressing the Irish within my lifetime (I'm 26). It's not as if all of Europe hasn't had blood on its hands in the past 2 generations. The first gulf war was certainly warranted and various European countries aided in that.

Maybe they don't teach history in European schools? Or maybe, like in Germany, they skip over or ignore some of the nasty bits...

re: RIP

James on Tue: Perhaps you're right, and perhaps this young man believed in the idea he was fighting for. In fact, this would be the most 'optimistic' end of his sacrifice.

What often fascinates me in this site is that after seeing the same picture people show reactions 100% different than mine.

But still, it's your country and your history, so if you think that this must have happened - you're probably right.

To sum my whole opinion about the series of Secession War pictures: it's touching and showing the war as it always is. The fact that this images of this kind were made in every next war does not lead to believe in our learning from the history. But wat touches me most - is that this is the beginning of the entertainment industry - their scope of interest didn't change much!

re: RIP

Tedus: I can totally understand where you are coming from, but you are making an assumption based on your current view point, not necessarily what actually happened. This young man could have been full of dreams to fight for what he beleived in and for the country that he was born in and supported. Who really knows but the immediate family/friends. I'm glad the Union won the war, but that doesn't diminish this man's service and sacrifice for his 'homeland'.

Dave: Thanks for saying what I feel in succinct terms. I think this country needed to go through the Civil War and that the country is better for it. Political discourse only goes so far and eventually both sides have nothing left to say to each other.

re: RIP

To Rob on Tuesday. It's really hard to me to say words like You did when I see this kind of photo. In moments like this I usually imagine that the very dead man who can be seen on the photo didn't actually care about the big idea and glorious reasons why he was send to fight.

I always rather see the crying mother and the empty house which was left after him. A man who was forcibly take out from his life to fight for his 'great' country in which he had the bad luck to be born.

Maybe that's because I'm from Europe, where the memories of the war on your house's yard are still living.

[Valid points. But bear in mind that without armed conflict, many of us would still be living under the various flavors of feudalism, slavery and dictatorship that even now characterize many places in the world. To paraphrase Tom Jefferson, Blood waters the tree of Liberty. War is, for better or worse, how the world sorts itself out. - Dave]

He looks so young

and like a very handsome young man to have lost his life so early. Beautiful perfect music for the video. It should be part of an exhibit.

Beautiful, Haunting Video

That's a beautiful video, Dave. What piece of music is that?

[Cherubini Requiem in C Minor. - Dave]


That video is deeply moving! Thank you!! I continue to be amazed at how much we can learn from photos of generations past. I LOVE this site!!!

Latin 101

Thanks for the touching history and Latin lessons. A prayer for each soldier in the titles. Well done, as usual.

Civil War Requiem

Cobbled together by yours truly. (Music by Luigi Cherubini and a choir of angels.) Possibly the oldest video on YouTube.


Thank you dear soldier for fighting for what you believe in, may you rest in peace... Amen


Thank you for including this photo. It's such a big part of our history. This picture was not an easy one for me to look at, but I'm glad you posted it.

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