Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mathew Brady's Photographs of Union Generals

Where: National Portrait Gallery

When: through March 31, 2015

Just down the hallway from the Maya Angelou portrait is a small display of photographs taken in Matthew Brady's studio of Civil War generals from the Union side.  Although Brady is best known for his battlefield pictures, his studio was sufficiently well-regarded at the time that officers who wanted their portraits taken would go to him.

Interestingly enough, in addition to selling the photos to the generals themselves, Brady also made up small postcard sized prints to sell to the public.  They collected them, and when one general replaced another in the field, they would replace the photograph on their mantelpiece.  It struck me that they were much like baseball cards.

Although the Union had some very fine generals, some of the people who led the Army in battle were just dreadful.  Often, men with no military experience would be given commands, simply due to their political connections.  Unsurprisingly, they usually met with disastrous results.  One can't help but feel for the men in their charge.

Verdict: Worth a look if you're interested in the Civil War; otherwise, not a must-see.

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