Lens of War
Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War

Edited by J. Matthew Gallman and Gary W. Gallagher

Historians reflect on photographs from the Civil War


"While many of the well-chosen images will be recognizable to even the casual Civil War scholar, there are a few obscure images presented as well. It is also amazing to see how much information can be divulged from some seemingly simple images such as the dead horse of a general."
—Tom Elmore, Blue & Gray Magazine

"Lens of War isn't intended for coffee tables. . . . It is not so much a collection of Civil War photographs as a book about the insight photography brings to our understanding of the war. . . . The photographs in Lens of War are doorways to lives long past; the words walk us through their worlds."
—Allen Barra, America's Civil War Magazine

"A brilliant starting point for truly understanding the Civil War."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This collection of images, many of them familiar to Civil War enthusiasts,were selected to serve as a jumping-off point for the essays of twenty-seven scholars on topics suggested by the photos. The photos, topics, and essays are an eclectic mix. By themselves, many of the photos would seem unremarkable, but the often brilliantly written essays compel the reader to view the photos with a fresh perspective. . . . Together, the photos and essays make a superb addition to Civil War collections."

"Lens of War is refreshingly episodic and individualized, with the best essays being deeply personal, Montaignean explorations of why the war still matters to individuals today."
—Kenyon Gradert, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Lens of War meets the promise of the simple observation that prompted its creation. Additionally, this book provides an excellent analysis of representative images. Perhaps most importantly however, these timeless photographs are the central focus of this volume—a rare event among academics."
Military Images magazine

"The UnCivil Wars series . . . describes itself as 'dedicated to new ways of seeing and telling the American Civil War.' Lens of War actually manages to tell the war by seeing it. Moreover, it illuminates not only how photographs shape our understandings and memories of the war, but also how we teach it, and how images—even in black and white—will always hold a special power the written world alone simply cannot supply. With all of this in mind, the book is highly recommended to historians of photography and visual culture (it even includes a very helpful resource on Civil War photographic histories), but for historians of the Civil War it is—without question—a must read."
—Matthew C. Hulbert, Civil War Monitor

"This fascinating volume . . . offers powerful insights into history and historians. . . . Lens of War is a sometimes moving and always enjoyable book to read."
—Lawrence Kreiser Jr., Journal of Southern History

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Lens of War grew out of an invitation to leading historians of the Civil War to select and reflect upon a single photograph. Each could choose any image and interpret it in personal and scholarly terms. The result is a remarkable set of essays by twenty-seven scholars whose numerous volumes on the Civil War have explored military, cultural, political, African American, women’s, and environmental history.

The essays describe a wide array of photographs and present an eclectic approach to the assignment, organized by topic: Leaders, Soldiers, Civilians, Victims, and Places. Readers will rediscover familiar photographs and figures examined in unfamiliar ways, as well as discover little-known photographs that afford intriguing perspectives. All the images are reproduced with exquisite care. Readers fascinated by the Civil War will want this unique book on their shelves, and lovers of photography will value the images and the creative, evocative reflections offered in these essays.

UnCivil Wars

A Friends Fund Publication

Page count: 256
31 b&w photos
Trim size: 9 x 9


List price: $32.95

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J. Matthew Gallman is a professor of history at the University of Florida and author of Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia during the Civil War, America’s Joan of Arc: The Life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, and the forthcoming Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front.

Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia and author of eight books, including Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty (Georgia), The Union War, and Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War.