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[58]

A striking war photograph of 1863: artillery “regulars” before Chancellorsville The introduction on page 30, “Photographing the Civil War,” remarks on the genius required to record such vivid action by camera in the days of 1861. The use of the instrument had not then become pastime; it was a pioneer science, requiring absolute knowledge, training, and experience. Only experts like the men that Brady trained could do such work as this. There were no lightning shutters, no automatic or universal focus. In positions of danger and at times when speed and accuracy were required, there was the delicacy of the old-fashioned wet plate to consider, with all its drawbacks. No wonder people were surprised that pictures such as this exist; they had grown used to the old woodcut and the often mutilated attempts of pen and pencil to portray such scenes of action. There are many who never knew that photography was possible in the Civil War. Yet look at this Union battery, taken by the shore of the Rappahannock, just before the battle of Chancellorsville. Action, movement, portraiture are shown. We can hear the officer standing in front giving his orders; his figure leaning slightly forward is tense with spoken words of command. The cannoneers, resting or ramming home the charges, are magnificent types of the men who made the Army of the Potomac--the army doomed to suffer, a few days after this picture was taken, its crushing repulse by the famous flanking charge of “StonewallJackson; yet the army which kept faith and ultimately became invincible in the greatest Civil War of history. Within sixty days after the Chancellorsville defeat the troops engaged won a signal triumph over the self-same opponents at Gettysburg.

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