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American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

Civil War Photographs

Washington, District of Columbia. Tent life of the 31st Penn. Inf. (later, 82d Penn. Inf.) at Queen's farm, vicinity of Fort Slocum. 1861. Civil War Photographs Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Civil War Photographs Collection (more than 7,000 photographs, primarily negatives, 1861-65) does not provide much coverage of women's involvement in this national conflict. But the inclusion of women in scenes of military camp life, in hospitals, and in a few images showing African American families fleeing northward does provide visual clues suggesting the profound ways in which the war affected women's lives and vice versa.

Photographs in this collection are often associated with the name of Mathew Brady, although Brady really acted more as an entrepreneur, planning the documentation effort, commissioning other photographers to make the images, and attempting to market the resulting photographic record to the American public.

Searching the Collection

Most of the Civil War glass negatives and most of the photographic prints from the Civil War reading room file can be searched in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, where the collection has its own listing. Digital images accompany most records. (Some negatives that were considered to be copy negatives have not been digitized.)

For images not found online, on-site researchers can:

  • consult the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog Groups of Images category to locate LOT numbers by a variety of subject terms
  • consult the Civil War reading room file, where most of the photographs, grouped by broad subject into the LOTs listed in the catalog are available for browsing (some that are in stereograph format, are filed in the Stereographs Collection under the LOT number)

Sample Images