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The American Civil War

American Civil War Soldier

Unknown, Portrait of a Civil War Veteran Wearing a Grand Army of the Republic Medal , c. 1866-1870, Tintype. Gift of Frank and Katherine Martucci, 2021. The Clark Art Institute, 2021.4.2.

Alongside wood-engraved illustrations, photography emerged as an essential reporting tool during the American Civil War. Mathew Brady was an early figure in what came to be known as photojournalism. His studio dispatched many field photographers, equipped with portable darkrooms, to capture the immediacy and atrocity of battle. Yet the history of documenting the Civil War cannot be summed up easily, given the anonymity of many photographers and the many pictured soldiers whose names are likewise unknown. Although long insufficiently recognized by history, more than 186,000 Black Americans served in the Civil War in the United States.

Colored Troops—regiments of the U.S. Army comprising African Americans and members of other minority groups—were supplemented by thousands more who served in the Navy and segregated state regiments. New acquisitions to the Clark’s collection featured in this section of the exhibition document Black soldiers’ essential contributions to the Union victory.