Photo Sessions (June 1864)

Writing in his journal on June 11, Theodore Lyman noted, “In the leisure of these last few days we have had the apparition of Brady, who photographed the General & whole staff.” Photographer Mathew Brady and his men were very busy around June 11 and 12, 1864. Before the Army of the Potomac embarked on its ambitious flanking movement down to the James River, Brady set out to photograph various Union generals, from Ulysses S. Grant on down. He managed to get Grant, Meade, Hancock (II Corps), Wright (VI Corps), Burnside (IX Corps), and “Baldy” Smith (XVIII Corps) but had to wait to arrange a session with Gouverneur Warren (V Corps). Below are the photographs the Brady team took that day. The illustrated papers of the day used photographs as the basis for their engravings, and I’ve posted some examples of those here as well. (All images from the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge any image).

Grant

An iconic image of Ulysses S. Grant in front of his headquarters tent at Cold Harbor.

 

Grant along, with photographer Brady appearing at the edges. This appears to be half of a stereo image.

Grant along, with photographer Brady appearing at the edges.

 

Grant and his staff.

Grant and his staff.

 

Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana.

Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana.

 

George Meade at Cold Harbor.

George Meade at Cold Harbor.

 

General Meade and his staff. Provost Marshall Marsena Patrick (the man with the white beard seated next to Andrew Humphreys) had grumbled in a letter, "I doubt it will [prove] a good picture," but Meade was delighted, thinking it "the best picture I ever saw; each face being so distinct."

General Meade and his staff. Provost Marshall Marsena Patrick (the man with the white beard seated next to Andrew Humphreys) had grumbled in a letter, “I doubt it will [prove] a good picture,” but Meade was delighted, thinking it “the best picture I ever saw; each face being so distinct.” Quartermaster Rufus Ingalls stands to the right of Meade. Theodore Lyman is in the rear behind Ingalls, looking to the side with his hat at a jaunty angle.

The image of Meade and his staff as translated into a Harper's engraving.

The image of Meade and his staff as translated into a Harper’s engraving.

 

Winfield Scott Hancock and staff.

Winfield Scott Hancock of the II Corps with his staff and division commanders.

 

The above image as it appeared in Harper's.

The above image as it appeared in Harper’s.

 

VIC Corps commander Horatio Wright and staff.

VI Corps commander Horatio Wright and staff.

 

IX Corps commander Ambrose Burnside and staff.

IX Corps commander Ambrose Burnside and staff.

 

The above image in Harper's.

The above image in Harper’s.

 

Ambrose Burnside (reading paper) and staff members at Cold Harbor, 1864. That's photographer Mathew Brady in the straw hat.

Ambrose Burnside (reading paper) and staff members at Cold Harbor, 1864. That’s photographer Mathew Brady in the straw hat.

 

William F. "Baldy" Smith of the XVIII Corps and his staff.

William F. “Baldy” Smith of the XVIII Corps and his staff.

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Massaponax Church (May 21, 1864)

massaponnox croppedToday is the 150th anniversary of one of the most famous photographs from the Civil War. It was exactly a century and a half ago when Timothy O’Sullivan lugged his camera equipment up to the second floor of a little brick building called Massaponax Church and captured an image of Union officers, among them Grant and Meade, sitting outside on pews their staffs had hauled outside. They are tremendous photos. In this one you can see Meade at the end of the pew to the left, looking at a map. Theodore Lyman sits next to him. Andrew Humphreys sits at the end of the adjacent pew, reading a paper. Grant sits next to him, puffing on one of his ever-present cigars. After the long, bloody stalemate at Spotsylvania Court House, the Army of the Potomac was on the move, shifting to the left to pass by Lee’s flank and head south. The wagons of the V Corps are in the background in the photo. (This image is from the Library of Congress; click to enlarge).

Charles A. Dana (Library of Congress).

Charles A. Dana (Library of Congress).

Sitting next to Grant is Charles Dana, the assistant secretary of war. Lyman described him as “a combination of scholar and newspaper editor, with a dab of amiability, a large dab of conceit, and another large dab of ultraism.” Dana had accompanied Grant during the Vicksburg Campaign, and Lincoln dispatched him from Washington to report from Virginia. In a memoir Dana recounted his rather critical impressions of Meade. “He was a tall, thin man, rather dyspeptic, I should suppose from the fits of nervous irritation to which he was subject,” Dana said. “He was totally lacking in cordiality toward those with whom he had business, and in consequence was generally disliked by his subordinates. With General Grant Meade got along always perfectly, because he had the first virtue of a soldier–that is, obedience to orders. He was an intellectual man, and agreeable to talk with when his mind was free, but silent and indifferent to everybody when he was occupied with that which interested him.”

Massaponax Church as it appears today (Tom Huntington photo).

Massaponax Church as it appears today (Tom Huntington photo).

Below is an engraved version based on O’Sullivan’s image. The population of generals has increased substantially! If you read the caption to the print, you’ll also see the artist has added the presence of generals who were nowhere near–not only Winfield Scott Hancock, who had moved with the II Corps ahead of the army, but also General William T. Sherman, who was making his way through Georgia at the time, Daniel Sickles, George Thomas, and James Garfield.

Here's an artist's conception of that scene. He has allowed his imagination some free play. If you read the caption to the print, you'll also see that has added the presence of generals who were nowhere near--not only Hancock, who had moved with the II Corps ahead of the army, but also General Sherman, who was making his way through Georgia at the time, and General Sickles.

Here’s an artist’s conception of that scene. He has allowed his imagination some free play (Library of Congress. Click to enlarge).