Choosing Sides

After Fort Sumter, there could be no fence-sitters; for most white Americans, geography determined allegiance. Patriotism and social pressure sent men, and some women, to the front lines. Over six hundred thousand did not return. Many came home maimed in body and mind. Mid-nineteenth-century advances in photography made this the first American war caught on camera, bequeathing indelible images of this bloody struggle.

Charles Dana, a Yankee, survived the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, but a wound at Gettysburg early in July of 1863 ended his participation in combat. That same day, Confederate John Taylor found himself trapped in the siege of Vicksburg. His war ended at a New York prison camp.

The Valley of the Shadow, an extensive archive of Civil War documents is available online at:

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“The Rear of the Column” in Edwin Forbes, Life Studies of the Great Army. New York: E. Forbes, 1876.

Gift of Thomas Francis Woods (MSS 2446)

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“Cave Life in Vicksburg During the Siege” in Adalbert John Volck, Confederate War Etchings. [Baltimore?: s.n., 1863?].

Gift of Douglas H. Gordon (E647 .V92 1863 c. 2)

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Portrait of Private Charles Plummer Morrill, 24th Maine Infantry, Union Army, 1863.

(MSS 11031)

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Portrait of Private [Robert] Merrit Seward, Virginia, Confederate Army, 1861

(MSS 9405-x)

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Portrait of Charles Hazen Dana, 48th Massachusetts Infantry, with entries for 13 August and 24 August 1862 from his “War Journal,” compiled from letters and field notebooks.

(MSS 5130)

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Sketches by John Cowdery Taylor, Provisional Army of Virginia, while imprisoned at Fort Lafayette, New York.

Gift of H.B. and A.B. Taylor (MSS 9965-a)

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Chessmen carved by Virginia soldier Horace Buckner Burnley, while imprisoned at Fort Delaware, Delaware.

Gift of Mrs. Carrie Burnley (MSS 2322)