Special Report

Civil War Artifacts in the Smithsonian

The museum collections house many items from the Civil War, including photographs, uniforms and personal diaries

Lincoln's Top Hat (National Museum of American History)

Timothy H. O’Sullivan’s “Incidents of the War: A Harvest of Death,” Smithsonian American Art Museum

Incidents of the War A Harvest of Death
(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Timothy H. O’Sullivan was one of many photographers that Mathew Brady, the so-called father of photojournalism, dispatched to document the troops during the Civil War. “These photographers had a dual duty,” says chief curator Eleanor Harvey. “They were to document the war and what it was really like, and they were to do it at the highest level, often adjusting bodies to get a well-composed picture.” O’Sullivan’s A Harvest of Death, which captured Confederate casualties at Gettysburg in 1863, is part of the museum’s collection and will be exhibited in “The Civil War and American Art,” opening November 16, 2012. “With the gruesomeness of the foreground, the figure on horseback in the background becomes like a grim reaper overseeing his harvest of death,” says Harvey.

by Megan Gambino


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus