Original PhotoLincoln, Abraham. Alexander Gardner. [Photograph]: Abraham Lincoln at Antietam Battlefield, 1862. Mounted albumen. The albumen itself measures 9" x 6.5" and is affixed to the original mount, trimmed to an overall size of 9.375" x 6.75". Good clarity. Sunning resulting from prior matting and framing. Photograph shows Abraham Lincoln at Antietam, Maryland, on Friday, October 3, 1862. Lincoln's thin, towering figure, accentuated by his hat, makes him the dominant person in this group of Union Army Officers.
This photograph of Lincoln at Antietam is one of the best-known images of the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. The Confederate withdrawal was sufficiently heartening for Lincoln to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which had been withheld awaiting a victory. Two weeks later Lincoln came to the battlefield, to see the troops, and to confront George McClellan, who had failed to pursue Lee’s army. Soon after the engagement, Alexander Gardner and other photographers working for Mathew Brady came to the battlefield, capturing the carnage in dozens of photographs and then documenting Abraham Lincoln’s tour of the battlefield on October 3. In an unprecedented exhibition, Mathew Brady displayed Gardner’s Antietam photographs in New York. “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.’” (New York Times, October 20, 1862). Not long after Brady’s Antietam exhibition, Gardner struck out on his own, establishing his own gallery in Washington. This is a classic photograph of Abraham Lincoln with the troops in the field, bearing the imprints of Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner, the two most important figures in Civil War photography. Lincoln is posed standing by a chair and facing McClellan with other Union Army officers grouped outside a tent. From left to right: Colonel Delos B. Sacket, Captain George Monteith, Lieutenant Colonel Nelson B. Sweitzer, General George W. Morell, Colonel Alexander S. Webb [Chief of Staff, 5th Corps], General George B. McClellan, Scout Adams, Dr. Jonathan Letterman [Army Medical Director], unidentified soldier, President Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Henry J. Hunt, General Fitz-John Porter, Joseph C. G. Kennedy, Colonel Frederick T. Locke, General Andrew A. Humphreys, and Captain George Armstrong Custer. In 1865 and 1966 Gardner would issue this same view as Plate Number 23 in his monumental work “Photographic Sketchbook of the War”. Shortly after this plate was developed it fractured; At least one print of it has survived with the telltale crack. Gardner masked the cracked negative for all future prints including the one reproduced in his Sketchbook. A very good photograph of a historic battlefield. (Source: Library of Congress Ostendorf-62, p. 107).