Sherman and His Generals

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Sherman and His Generals
George N. Barnard
Albumen print from collodion negative
10 1/8 x 14 1/8 in.
The Art Institute of Chicago
Hugh Edwards Photography Purchase Fund

At first glance, this photograph may seem to tell a rather boring tale—a group of stern-faced men posing for posterity. But look very closely at the seated man on the far right. Do you notice anything about his image? In fact, General Blair was added to this image later, even though the caption boasts that it is “From Nature.” This was called a “combination print,” where two different photographic negatives were pieced together, and was very popular in the 1860s. The composition underwent yet another change when the image was later made into a wood engraving for Harper’s Weekly in July, 1865. In the Harper’s print, General Blair changes position and appears as a standing figure in the gap on the right, as does Hugh Judson Kilpatrick on the left.

This group portrait of the Union general William Tecumseh Sherman and his generals was made in May 1865 during the Grand Review of the Armies, a military parade in Washington D.C. following the end of the war. Can you imagine thousands of soldiers marching through city streets? Crowds and politicians, including the new President Andrew Johnson, cheered them on. The photograph—and the later engraving—were meant to help Northerners see the men who had won the war, to honor their service to the country.

George Barnard was already well known as a photographer in New York when the Civil War began. Early in the war he photographed military activities in northern Virginia. He became the official Army army photographer for General Sherman’s Military Division of the Mississippi in 1864. After the war Barnard published a book, Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, containing sixty-one large photographic prints. In addition to this portrait of Sherman and his generals, they show the destroyed landscapes and cities left in the wake of the general’s campaign and his March to the Sea.

1. Look closely at all the figures in this portrait. The war is done and each man has endured months and years on the battlefield. What details can you observe that suggest their experiences? Do they appear proud of their accomplishments?

Further reading:
Davis, Keith E. George N. Barnard: Photographer of Sherman’s Campaign. Kansas City: Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1990.

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