Digitized Collections

Civil War Photographs (Gallery View)



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About Civil War Photographs

The Civil War brought an unimaginable amount of death and destruction to the nation. Between 1861 and 1865, there were on average 504 deaths per day. The average number of wounds was much higher. Nearly 2.2 million Americans fought in the Civil War; 2.1 million for the Union and 880,000 for the Confederacy. An estimated 40% of those who died were never identified, but a large number of the men who survived, often severely wounded, were recorded in the name of medical science.
Hundreds of thousands of men were wounded and approximately 80,000 surgeries were performed during the war. Many physicians had little experience treating the extreme injuries seen in war. Given the severity of wounds and germ theory being a relatively new idea, many men died from surgical intervention itself. Although more soldiers died from infectious diseases than wounds inflicted during battle, medical men focused their photographic documentation efforts on the wounds of war, which they collected and sent to the newly created Army Medical Museum.
These photographs are from a collection housed at the Medical Historical Library entitled Gunshot Wounds Illustrated. The collection is composed of enlarged photographs of individual soldiers who were treated at Harewood Hopsital in Washington D.C. during the Civil War. These images, some quite graphic, depict soldiers recovering from a variety of wounds, including gunshot wounds. The soldiers' case histories and stories are included on the back of many of the photographs, although some remain anonymous. Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou, the surgeon in charge of the hospital, compiled the collection of photographs, and sent many portraits of wounded soldiers to the Army Medical Museum, as well as creating an album of carte-de-vistes for his own personal use. In total, there are over 100 photographs available online.

There are currently 103 photographs in this collection.

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