How the Secret service gave rise to the complete photographic record of ‘soldier life’: photographer and soldier, 1862, as the armies paused after McClellan's attempt on Richmond
It is quite astonishing to discover that the immense collection of photographs reflecting the ‘soldier life’ of 1861-65 so intimately and vividly had its rise in secret-service work.
It is literally true, however, that Alexander Gardner's privileges of photographing at headquarters and within the Federal lines, at a thousand historic spots and moments, resulted entirely from the desire of the authorities to insure the strictest secrecy for their movements.
Obviously, any commander was pretty much at the mercy of the individual who copied the maps, charts, and the like for his Secret Service.
Through an untrustworthy or careless employee the most zealously guarded secrets of contemplated destinations or routes might reach the adversary.
The work of preparing these maps, therefore, was confided to Alexander Gardner, the brilliant Scotchman
brought to America and instructed in the photographic art by Brady himself.
He proved so trustworthy that he was permitted in his spare time to indulge his hobby of photographing the soldiers themselves—a useless hobby it seemed then, since there was no way of reproducing the pictures direct on the printed page.
But Gardner, first and last an artist, worked so patiently and indefatigably that, before the campaign was over, he had secured thousands of outdoor views which, with the many that Brady took in 1861 and part of 1862, and later in the path of Grant's final campaign from the Wilderness to Richmond, form the nucleus of the collection presented herewith.
Needless to say, Gardner did not break faith with his employers or pass any of these photographs to Southern sympathizers, or through the Confederate lines.|