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34 Stunning Portraits Capture Life During The American Civil War

"In their eyes and the eyes of their loved ones, I could see the full range of human emotion."

From 1861 to 1865, America was engulfed in a harrowing civil war that would determine the future course of this nation's history.

The Library of Congress now holds a comprehensive collection of more than "1,000 special portrait photographs, called ambrotypes and tintypes, representing both Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War."

Each image reveals the actual faces of those Americans who took up arms and fought for what they believed in. Many are posed with personal artifacts: photos of loved ones, locks of hair, family pets, poems, and other items that were once loved and cherished over 150 years ago.

These were the young men who did most of the fighting and dying. In their eyes and the eyes of their loved ones, I could see the full range of human emotion. It was all here: the bravado, the fear, the readiness, the weariness, the pride and the anguish. Have you ever seen a photograph of a person you knew you would never forget?
Library of Congress

An African-American soldier in Union uniform with a rifle and revolver in front of a painted backdrop showing weapons at Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri.

Library of Congress

Young women in dresses in front of an American flag.

Library of Congress

An African-American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters.

Library of Congress

Three soldiers in front of a painted backdrop showing a 34-star American flag.

Library of Congress

Ulysses S. Grant of the General Staff Regular Army Infantry Regiment; dried flowers in frame on left.

Library of Congress

A young African-American soldier in Union uniform.

Library of Congress

A soldier in Union musician uniform with cavalry saber.

Library of Congress

A soldier in Union officer's uniform at Point Lookout, Tennessee, sitting with cavalry saber in hand and slouch hat resting beside him on a rock.

Library of Congress

An unidentified African-American boy standing in front of a painted backdrop showing American flag and tents; (left) campaign button with portraits of Lincoln on one side and Johnson on the opposite side are attached to the inside cover of the case.

Library of Congress

A soldier in Confederate infantry uniform with musket and Bowie knife.

Library of Congress

Unidentified African-American woman.

Library of Congress

Unidentified soldier in Union corporal's uniform with viola.

Library of Congress

Young sailor in Union uniform.

Library of Congress

Private James W. McCulloch of Co. E, 7th Georgia Infantry Regiment, holding wooden canteen, with lock of hair, obituary, and poem in case.

Library of Congress

An unidentified African-American soldier in Union uniform and Company B, 103rd Regiment forage cap with bayonet and scabbard in front of a painted backdrop showing landscape with river.

Library of Congress

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with dog and unidentified woman.

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

African-American soldier in Union corporal's uniform.

Library of Congress

Girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father as a cavalryman with sword and Hardee hat.

Library of Congress

Brothers Private Hiram J. and Private William H. Gripman of Company I, 3rd Minnesota Infantry Regiment.

Library of Congress

Unidentified young African-American soldier in Union uniform with forage cap.

Library of Congress

Sergeant William T. Biedler, 16 years old, of Company C, Mosby's Virginia Cavalry Regiment, with flintlock musket.

Library of Congress

Family portrait of Union soldier.

Library of Congress

Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with shotgun sitting next to dog.

Library of Congress

Unidentified African-American sailor in Union uniform sitting with arm resting on table.

Library of Congress

Child named Carl who became a soldier, with a handwritten note and lock of hair in the case.

Library of Congress

Unidentified African-American soldier in Union sergeant uniform holding a rifle.

Library of Congress

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform and slouch cap.

Library of Congress

Sergeant Tom Strawn of Company B, 3rd U.S. Colored Troops Heavy Artillery Regiment, with revolver in front of painted backdrop showing balustrade and landscape.

Library of Congress

Unidentified deceased child.

Library of Congress

Unidentified African-American soldier in Union infantry sergeant's uniform and black mourning ribbon with bayonet in front of a painted backdrop.

Library of Congress

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform.

Library of Congress

Unidentified African-American soldier in Union cavalry uniform with cavalry saber in front of a painted backdrop showing a landscape.

Library of Congress

Boy holding 34-star flag.

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