Photographs of Civil War Soldiers and their Hidden Meanings

    This essay argues that although scholars have claimed that civil war medical photography was dispassionate and strictly for the purpose of medical advancement, the images of civil war medical photography reveal the sentiments of the soldiers who posed for these pictures: why they posed and how they felt to be posing as an amputee or newly wounded victim of the war. I argue that although these photographs were intended to advance medical science, they actually served a larger purpose for the soldiers who posed for them. To reveal the hidden messages of these photographs, I analyze different series of photographs of wounded soldiers to compare and contrast how the photographs of civil war photography differ and what purposes they served besides medical advancement. The sources I used to make my argument are the images used in “Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Images, Memory, and Identity in America” by J.T.H. Connor and Michael G. Rhode as well as “Photography in Nineteenth Century America” by Keith F. Davis  and “Civil War Medicine: A Patient’s Account” by Rausch, David A.

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7 thoughts on “Photographs of Civil War Soldiers and their Hidden Meanings”

  1. I know this is probably far-fetched, but did you find any personal records of the amputees/injured soldiers that included their thoughts? Those could be interesting primary sources. I like that you included some of your sources. Very cool topic!

  2. I like it! I’m wondering if similar trends can be seen in war photographs taken after the civil war? Also, what methods of analysis will you be using?

  3. Do you think there was any intention on the part of the photographer or the subject in displaying the emotion seen in Civil War medical photography or is it just a given people will always convey emotion in photos because they feel emotion and we as humans are trained to pick up on others’ emotions?

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