Documenting the Civil War: Some Famous Photographers

One element of photography that I learned while a student in photography school was that of photojournalism. However what really drew me in was the numerous images taken during the Civil War. As arduous a process as photography was in its infancy, there were no photography schools at the time, the development of photography in the 1830s and 1840s gave many budding practitioners the ability to practice their craft. With a new technology at their fingertips, many of the images produced during this area were mainly portraits. Yet once the Civil War started in 1861, many photographers immersed themselves in covering the war, producing photographs that have had a long-lasting effect.

With the Civil War having a nationwide reach, many photographers made a name for themselves covering the war, the most notable of them being Mathew Brady, who some consider one of the first photojournalists. One of the first individuals to open a studio and teach photography, Brady was an award-winning photographer, known for his portraits. During the Civil War, Brady had his employees travel throughout the country to document the war; they traveled in carriages which served as portable dark rooms.

Using daguerreotypes at first, recent developments including the ambrotype and the albumen print which was a paper print produced from large glass negatives that made it more convenient to document the war. Brady’s first photographs of the war involved the Battle of Bull Run; however since the exposure time was very slow, no action photographs could be produced, so many civil war images are of soldiers, portraits or images of the aftermath of battle. An exhibit of his photographs, The Dead of Antietam, was held in 1862 that shocked many observers who had never seen the horrors of war up close.

The overall experience of covering the war was dangerous; many thought the Civil War would last only a few weeks and people used to assemble gatherings where they bring picnic lunches and watch the battles with morbid curiosity.

While almost everyone in photography school was familiar with the work of Mathew Brady, there were many other equally distinguished Civil War photographers who took equal risks in covering the war and, in the end, created some extremely powerful images.

Alexander Gardner was actually an employee of Brady’s who was brought on to cover the Union army under General George McClellan.Gardner took numerous photographs of the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg. However, his most famous photograph is Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter,which was taken at Gettysburg and depicts a dead Confederate soldier laying behind a stone wall constructed between two huge boulders; the image has an eerie but peaceful quality of a soldier left alone to die. Even more horrific was when Gardner revisited the same spot during the consecration of Gettysburg Cemetery, to find the untouched, decomposing remains of the soldier. Gardner was also responsible for the now famous 1862 image of Abraham Lincoln’s visit to the Antietam battlefield as well as his portraits of the conspirators who had planned to assassinate Lincoln as well as their subsequent execution by hanging.

Other photographers who made an impact include Timothy O’Sullivan, who had worked with Brady at a young age and was one of his many associates to photograph the war, including the Siege of Petersburg and most notably The Harvest of Death, a grim image of the aftermath of Gettysburg in which dead soldiers are graphically strewn across the battlefield. O’Sullivan would later collaborate with Gardner in to create the first major publication of Civil War photographs,Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, which appeared in 1866 and was one of the seminal texts I studied in photography school.

In the south, Confederate photographer George S. Cook, also an associate of Brady, earned praise for his wartime daguerreotypes of Charleston, South Carolina and Richmond, Virginia. In addition, Cook also gained notoriety for his images of Union prisoners and the destruction of Fort Sumter. However, his 1863 photographs of Federal ironclad ships bombarding Fort Moultrie in South Carolina are considered to be the first combat photographs ever taken.

Sadly, not all of the work of these (and many other) photographers survive, but what does survive is a remarkable document of a harrowing time in American history. After extensive study of these photographs in photography school, I realized that The Civil War was instrumental in helping set the precedent for future photojournalism.

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I Helped Exorcize a Spirit

Actually I have ‘helped’ exorcize spirits more than once but this particular one could have beeen taken by science to prove that exorcisms are not weird and do not need dogma or fear to be used with them.

An Exorcism I Was Involved In:

While working at Ed Martin Olds and trying to get an alternative ISDN project off the ground; I made friends with a man my age named Bill Crawford. Bill took a month of observing me before he allowed I might be a sincere person. Discussions about psychic things had to be done in private due to a lay minister by the name of Herman Benge who was the top salesman, and who liked to hold forth on the Bible and Jesus. During one of Herman’s sermons he said something that I couldn’t stomach. I succinctly suggested that he wasn’t living the life of Jesus and hadn’t done any scholarly work to understand the origins of the Bible and the intent of the power mongers who wrote it. I said a little about the Holy Trinity being known in ‘The Triune Nature of Man’ from much more ancient times as well as the Macho domination of the current Christian attitudes or ‘war on women’. The import of the soul and its’ ‘connectiveness’ that makes it impossible for any one man to authoritatively speak FOR god seemed to appeal to Bill a great deal. God is more than any one man or even all of mankind collectively can understand in this physically oriented frame of reference and Herman was subject to needing answers or egoistic anthropomorphism. Bill made it clear that he agreed without jeopardizing his relationship with Herman. Herman took it very well and never seemed to hold a grudge as many Christians I have known often do.

Another man who worked with us at this car dealership started to come to my office away from the other people and share many psychic things. His name was Tom Bellamy and he had been through by-pass surgery (Co-enzyme Q-10 reduces the need for such surgery substantially.) a couple of years before I met him. While under the surgeon’s knife he experienced an Out of Body Experience or OOBE and had seen the white light. His experiences ‘fit’ with the work of Moody and Kubler-Ross who Sherry and I saw at the Shrine Auditorium as moderated by Father Justin Belitz.

Part of Tom’s rehabilitation after the operation had included bio-feedback therapy. This therapy mimics part of the attunements of Yoga and led to him being able to sense many things of a psychic nature that were at odds with his prior beliefs. Many of the things I spoke about resonated in his soul and he was also a knowledgeable numerologist. As a leader in his Catholic Church community and because his wife would consider no things related to spiritism he was limited in expressing or using these things in his life. He only spoke about these things with me at first and was even hesitant to talk to Bill in depth. He was a conservative man through years of having grown up in a religiously oppressive system but there is much wisdom in this concern for open discussion about spirits and the like, as we all know. The spirit of the Inquisitions is, after all is said and done, ‘still afoot’ as another paranormal buff by the name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was fond of saying.

Tom’s wife was suffering from some unknown neurological ailment. A total of $250,000 had been spent trying to figure it out when we first began to talk about it. He had taken her to the Mayo Clinic and McGill University in Montreal. All the local ‘experts’ were befuddled and had no clue. The discussions of ‘psychosomatic origins’ are often just ways of avoiding real explanations by blaming the person for what the practitioners refuse to admit they have little or no knowledge about. I listened to the stories of how X-rays and other techniques found no causes yet everyone agreed there was a problem. Suggestions of alternative ways to cure and solve the problem went nowhere. His wife would have nothing to do with spiritual ‘healers’ or other ‘heresy’. I told Tom about the correlation of the psychic points chart and acupuncture charts and a point on the upper arm where they meet.

He touched her there one night and her body rigidly swung in that direction. He touched her on the other arm in the same spot and it caused her to return to normal. We had discussed some possibilities relating to her relationship with her father before he died. I told him that I thought her father was ‘possessing’ her from the grave, as those who seek to breed fear say. He had a hard time dealing with this but did not reject the possibility completely. Tom did not know what to do. We continued to talk for over three months after this event and he saw no other possibility as her condition continued to worsen. His wife had a sister who had become a ‘black sheep’ due to some things she said about the father and his abuse. She had some experience with witchcraft and seemed to agree with me as Tom reported back to me. His wife was on her death bed in the hospital and had been given the ‘last rites’.

There were doctors and nurses as well as the Monsignor and other family members in attendance. Tom had discussed my theory with the ‘black sheep’ sister and they told the other family members to join hands séance style, in a circle with their loved one in the center holding her hands on either side of the bed. The authorities watched as the sister was thrown out of this circle to the wall and almost out the window. Tom’s wife came to consciousness immediately at this juncture. I told Tom this was the point where the fathers’ soul was freed from the limbo state or purgatory and able to freely pursue its’ soulful purpose, when I heard what had occurred. His wife was immediately better and he brought her to meet me two days later or so. I was not allowed to talk to her about what had actually occurred. Tom spoke about our exorcism with his psychologist who had witnessed the event and his psychologist or psychiatrist said there was no better explanation. The Monsignor was not so inclined to say the least. He said THEY (The Catholic church) were the only ones who could perform an exorcism. The cardinal or bishop level exorcists who inculcate the victims with dogma and fearful or hallucinatory visions have the audacity to state they are the only ones who can deal with the nature of the spiritual world. This provides an interesting insight to the way they operate in all their doctrines and dogmatic control of their ‘flock’.