The American Civil War was the first war to be fully captured through photography. Few photographs survive from previous conflicts, but during the mid 19th century new techniques and processes made photography much more accessible. The Civil War provided an unprecedented opportunity for American photographers, both to make a profit from the steady supply of customers, but also to document the one of the most important events in American history.
The Civil War is divided into three theaters of war. The Trans-Mississippi Theater encompasses actions west of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. At least 200,000 soldiers spent all or part of the war in the Trans-Mississippi, many of whom wanted their “likeness” captured. Although most Americans had probably been photographed at least once by 1861, most men in both armies were photographed again, some numerous times.
The Trans-Mississippi Theater Photo Archive consists of hundreds of images from the war. Individual portraits were the staple of the photographer’s art, and indeed, most surviving photographs from the war are portraits; however, this project also includes images of ships, towns, buildings, and other subject matter from the Trans-Mississippi.
The Photo Archive is a joint project by the Springfield-Greene County Library District and Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. It is made possible through a Challenge Cost Share Grant funded by the National Park Service.