Skip to Main Content

Military Photographs: Finding Images in the Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress

Civil War (American)

The Prints & Photographs Division has more than 15,000 American Civil War photos that cover the full length of the war from 1861 to 1865. Confederate images are available, but most photographs represent the Union. The primary subject matter includes portraits, landscapes, camp life, post-battle scenes, hospitals, prisons, artillery, railroads, and ships. Some photos, mostly portraits of high-ranking officers, have not yet been digitized.

Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints

Group of Union soldiers standing next to cannon.

Washington, District of Columbia. Officers of 3d Regiment Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The glass negatives and related prints make up the core of the Civil War photograph collection. All of the original glass negatives have been scanned and are available in the online catalog. The majority of the photos in the Civil War browsing file have also been scanned, with the exception of portraits of generals, portraits of naval officers, and Confederate images copied from other sources. Taken by photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O'Sullivan, they show soldiers, battlefields, and artillery used in the war. The majority of the photos focus on the Union Army but there are some photos of Confederate soldiers and locations also.

Soldier names are included if known, but in many cases, especially group shots, the men are not identified. Higher ranking officers are more likely to be identified than lower ranking soldiers. Group shots are often identified by the regiment number and state it wasn't a US Army unit. When looking for someone who served on an officer's staff, try searching for the officer's name and the word "staff" as sometimes officers took group portraits with their staff.

Stereograph Cards

More than 1,000 stereograph cards show Civil War scenes and portraits. All of the Civil War stereograph cards have been scanned, and many of them are also available to view in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room. Due to their rarity, some of the stereographs are served only by appointment. (Catalog records indicate the need to request an appointment.) There is some overlap with images from the Civil War Glass Negative collection.

African American family seated, man in uniform, in a black and gold frame.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters. Between 1863 and 1865. Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs

The Liljenquist Family Collection is an ever-growing collection of photos and other Civil War related items. The collection is strong in portraits of people not found elsewhere in the Civil War collections, such as enlisted soldiers and sailors, African-American soldiers, military band members, surgeons, and nurses. Other noteworthy aspects of the collection include the large number of ambrotypes and tintypes, confederate portraits, and veterans. New photos are scanned when they are added to the collection.

William A. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs

The William A. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs has photos of Black soldiers from the Civil War through World War II. Over 80 photos show Civil War soldiers. A few photos show the white officers who led African-American units.

Portraits of men who served as Union and Confederate military officers in the American Civil War

This group of around 340 images includes assorted portraits of both Union and Confederate soldiers. Most of the portraits are identified and show officers, and there are also photos of enlisted men, surgeons, and a few officials in the Confederate government. Some photos were taken during the war or shortly after and show the sitters in uniform. Other photos were taken well after the war and show the sitters in civilian clothes. A few of the images have been scanned, and there is some overlap with photos in other scanned collections, such as the Civil War Glass Negatives and the Brady-Handy Collection. The finding aid lists the names of all the identified portraits.

Biographical File

The Biographical File in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room has some portraits of Civil War soldiers. In many cases, the soldiers are officers. Sometimes the photos show the men after the war and in civilian clothes. Some of the photos have been scanned or show the same images that are in the Civil War Glass Negatives or Brady-Handy Collections, but most of the photos can only be found by searching the collection in the reading room. These portraits are arranged alphabetically by last name.