The Most Significant Battlefield Photographs of the Civil War
In 1978, Lawrence Lee Hewitt became the first manager of the Port Hudson State Historic Site. There, he began collecting photographs related to the Civil War battle. Carefully analyzing a vast and remarkable photographic record of Port Hudson, Hewitt has now brought his four decades of research and collecting together in this book. The quantity, diversity, and in some cases uniqueness of these photos help widen our perspective not only on Port Hudson and the Civil War’s impact on its people and environment, but also on the history of photography.
Together the six cameramen claimed many “firsts,” including the first-ever photograph of soldiers engaged in battle, first exterior shots at night, and first “composition print.” The collection—arranged chronologically—allows readers to follow the changes in the landscape during and after the siege. The sheer range of subjects represented is impressive. A cotton gin, a grist mill, and a Methodist church—all showing signs of damage—caught the eyes of photographers. At the request of a Union soldier’s mother, there was a photograph taken of his burial site. There is even the only known photograph of a Confederate army surrendering. Biographies of the photographers and the captions in this volume also brim with fresh information about both the photographs and the campaign, attesting to the author’s meticulous scholarship and skilled analysis.
Though Port Hudson may never receive the level of attention of Gettysburg or Vicksburg, this well-conceived collection of photographs will make those with a serious interest in the conflict or photography not only reexamine Port Hudson but also the importance of the Civil War’s photographic record.
LAWRENCE LEE HEWITT was professor of history at Southeastern Louisiana University. He has authored Port Hudson, Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi and coedited four volumes of essays under the collective title of Confederate Generals in the Western Theater and three volumes of essays under the collective title of Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi Theater.