Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Field Telegraph Station

This is a picture from the Civil War showing a field telegraph station. It was taken near Wilcox's Landing, Virginia, in 1864.

It is amazing how much was involved in creating these old Civil War photographs. Today, photography is mainly about artistic aspects like composition, exposure, shutter speed and such. Back in the Civil War, the cameras were very large, and the negatives were large glass plates. Before each exposure, there was lots of chemistry that had to go on in a dark wagon nearby to create the glass negative. In reading the process to create the negative, prior to taking the photograph, I gained a new sense of appreciation for Mathew Brady, and the photographers working for him. Today, with digital cameras and cheap memory cards, we don't think near as much about setting the pictures up and getting the perfect shot.


  1. It is interesting to note that Brady did not take most of the photographs attributed to him. His assistants did.

  2. Kent said . . .

    That's true, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan come to mind. However, Brady is to be credited for his great portraits like the "Lincoln head penny portrait" and for essentially creating the first photographic news service, a predecessor to AP etc.

  3. As a child, I was facsinated by Brady's Civil War photographs, no matter who took them.

    They triggered my life-long interest in the Civil War (and history in general).

    I didn't even know they were able to take pictures back then, and when I first saw those photos they blew me away.

    Even now, I didn't realize they used telegraphs during the Civil War. I know they sent telegrams, but I thought telegraphs came along later. Fascinating.

  4. Telegraph was an important means of communication during the War. One of our local reenacting groups has a telegraph unit and sets it up for the public to see how it was done "back then."

  5. I love these kind of photos. I made a recent trip to Petersburg Va and they had an exhibt on the way photos were taken and had some orginial ones on display


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