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A Harvest of Death
Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, about 1840 - 1882)
Print by Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821 - 1882)
negative July 4, 1863; print 1866
Albumen silver print
17.8 x 22.1 cm (7 x 8 11/16 in.)
Slowly, over the misty fields of Gettysburg–as all reluctant to expose their ghastly horrors to the light–came the sunless morn, after the retreat by [General Robert. E.] Lee's broken army. Through the shadowy vapors, it was, indeed, a "harvest of death" that was presented; hundreds and thousands of torn Union and rebel soldiers–although many of the former were already interred–strewed the now quiet fighting ground, soaked by the rain, which for two days had drenched the country with its fitful showers.
This paragraph opens the text that Alexander Gardner wrote to accompany this photograph in Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War. Both text and image eloquently capture the war's toll of death and destruction, especially apparent after the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863. Although Gardner's caption identifies the men in the photograph as "rebels represented...without shoes," they are probably Union dead. During the Civil War, shoes were routinely removed from corpses because supplies were scarce and surviving troops needed them.
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