The Civil War was a defining moment in American history, testing the strength of a young nation as it nearly split apart. It also occurred during the early days of photography, some twenty years after the introduction of the field. The idea of using photos to chronicle major events, like a war, was still relatively new and many of the photos taken of Civil War battlefields and soldiers can be seen as some of the first attempts at photojournalism. Seeing these pictures of the Civil War provides a whole different perspective than a history book, giving us a way to see how things really were then and appreciate how long we’ve come since.
Click through to see some humbling moments from our nation’s greatest internal conflict — Number 3, which showcases the dead on the field of Gettysburg, is particularly sobering.
14. Amputation at Gettysburg
Given that it was the most costly battle in U.S. history, with approximately 50,000 casualties on both sides, it’s no surprise that there would have been a lot of amputations happening at Gettysburg. Given the generally unclean operating conditions that were present in most field hospitals, an amputation was often the least of the worries of a soldier as various diseases and infections had a good chance of killing them even after they’d started to heal.