Monday, May 23, 2011

Civil War Photographs at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is having an exhibition of Civil War portraits, up now through August 13th, 2011.

The exhibition of over 400 photographs is entitled The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection. Items in the exhibition are part of a large, and exceptionally important, gift to the Library of Congress of over 700 images collected by the Lljenquist family.

Tom Lljenquist and his sons Jason, Brandon, and Christian have amassed this extraordinary collection of images, to which they continue to add, as a way to remind us that the soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War were human beings, much like ourselves, each of whom had a very personal story.

Portraits in this collection include images of Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as rare images of African-American soldiers. Images also document the grief of those back home at the death of over 600,000 soldiers on both sides in the War.In these images, the soldiers, including the Confederate soldier pictured above, look so confident, determined, and well turned out, as they went off to the hell of war and to the agonies of survival or death.

The Library of Congress says that the Liljenquists became interested in Civil War history after finding bullets and other signs of an encampment near their home in Virginia. They became especially interested in the images captured in the photographic formats called ambrotypes (on glass) and tintypes (on metal).

The Library of Congress' extensive website for this exhibition includes the Liljenquist family's reasons for collecting the photographs and donating them to the Library. Visit

The entire Liljenquist Family Collection is viewable at the Prints and Photographs Division online at

The exhibition's Press Kit is available here:

Also, images in the collection can be seen through Flickr Commons, where viewers can assist in identifying individuals and photographers based on such clues as painted backdrops and regimental insignia.

To view the photos at Flickr Commons, visit  .

Much, much here for contemplation, especially for those of us whose ancestors fought in the Civil War.

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