1863, Portrait Gallery
A disturbing image shocked the nation during the Civil War
In March 1863, a runaway slave named Gordon entered Union lines at Baton Rouge and joined the army. When military doctors discovered the scars of the overseer’s lash on his back, a photographer recorded the sight. Gordon marched off to a fate unknown, but his widely reproduced portrait—100,000 copies should be “scattered over the States,” said the New York Independent—helped persuade restive Northerners that the conflict was indeed about slavery.