Article ID: CBB250338715

"Moulder[ing] into nothingness among the rocks": Sharpshooters in Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War (2017)


During the American Civil War, sharpshooters were contested figures in the Northern media. Magazines published romanticized profiles of Union snipers, while simultaneously worrying about the deadliness of Confederate sharpshooters. Years after the war, in 1896, the aging painter Winslow Homer wrote that the sharpshooters' task was as "near to murder as anything I ever could think of in connection with the army." Accompanying this sentiment, Homer sketched, in the letter, a soldier trapped within the crosshairs of a sniper's scope. I use this sketch, along with Homer's words to his friend, as a way to understand the significance of two battlefield portraits of deceased Confederate sharpshooters found in Alexander Gardner's iconic Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. Art historian Anthony Lee posits that the photographic book, as a whole, is an "effort at imaginative recovery." The past, for Gardner, is "unromantic," and the future, "uncertain, and unpromising." Locked in Gardner's camera's scope, the Southern sharpshooter is memorialized as a failed warrior, while the Northern sharpshooter is allowed to safely fade from memory. As figures of moral controversy and anarchic disunion, the sharpshooters of both armies must be consigned to the past in order to pave the way for the tenuous Federal future.

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Authors & Contributors
Bauer, Susanne
Dodds, Ben
Kaplan, Caren
Simões, Ana I.
Kasperski, Tatiana
Þorsteinn Helgason
Agricultural History
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
University of Minnesota Press
Cambridge University Press
Duke University Press
MIT Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Collective memory
Military technology
Military ethics
Computers and computing
Technology and ethics
Eddington, Arthur Stanley
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, early
20th century
20th century, late
17th century
18th century
United States
North Africa

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