Why do the men in Civil War portraits look so calm? The soldiers, who fought some of the bloodiest battles in American history, couldn't have been at ease marching against cannon fire, even if they believed in their side's cause. It's more likely that the men and their anxious families convey a particular attitude because of the novelty and careful ceremony of photography in its early days. The soldiers weren't quite sure how to behave in front of a camera, and these evocative portraits show their subjects with more candor than most modern, staged photographs could hope to achieve.
Many of these photographs are displayed as part of The Last Full Measure, an exhibition at the Library of Congress which opens on April 12 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the war. Like birth of photography, the outbreak of the war represented only the halting first steps of a campaign that would change the world.
The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection at The Library of Congress, April 12, 2011 - August 13, 2011