These Colorized Images From The Civil War Will Transport You

The older the conflict, the less tangible it is to our modern sensibilities. We can read about Roman battles, try to imagine them, but Vietnam we captured on Kodachrome.

It won’t be long before we capture war on virtual reality cameras. Future generations will have the opportunity to stand on the battlefields of history. Meanwhile, we’ve become pretty good at colorizing old black and white images.

If Vietnam was the first televised conflict, The American Civil War was the first one we photographed.

Custer’s First Recline – 1862

The man next to the dog on the right is George Custer, the Lieutenant Colonel the Native Americans trounced at Little Big Horn. You may also know that battle as Custer’s Last Stand. Led by Crazy Horse and Cheif Gail, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Nations defeated Custer’s troops in a major win for the Native people. Custer would love his life in that battle, as would his two brothers.

Union Major General Fitz John Porter – 1862

Porter was a career officer in the U.S. Army. Historians know him mostly for his actions in the Second Battle of Bull Run, which was compliant with his orders, but nonetheless landed the man in hot water. They court marshaled and dismissed him, but President Grover Clevland later commuted Porter’s sentence. He was restored to the Army, then two days later he retired.

Ulysses S. Grant Before He Was President – 1865

The man on the left was Grant’s friend, Brigadier General John Rawlins. Grant would eventually serve as the 18th president of the United States, from 1869–77. During the war, he reported directly to Lincoln. Andrew Johnson won the office after Lincoln, but once Grant took office, he sought to restore the Republican values implemented by Lincoln.

Black Teamsters – 1864

Regiments of black soldiers were in place when someone snapped this pic, but that didn’t mean black soldiers received the same respect as their white counterparts. As teamsters, these contributors the war could only drive wagons or horses. They were the laborers. It wasn’t uncommon to find white teamsters, but black soldiers were less common than black teamsters.

Lincoln & General George B. McClellan– Oct 3rd, 1862

Lincoln met with General George, a man who often overestimated the strength of his foes, to encourage an attack on the confederates. McClellan did not have the full confidence of Lincoln. He considered the General insubordinate. It was later the same year of this photo, Lincoln would remove McClellan from his role. Two years later, McClellan unsuccessfully bid for the Democratic ticket against Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln – Feb, 24th 1861

Taken days before his inauguration, Lincoln had already won the seat of the president. His victory set in motion the events that historians would later call the Civil War. If you could search the mind of the man photographed above, somewhere you’d find his inauguration speech and parts of another speech about emancipation.

General Robert E. Lee

The story of the Civil War, we already know. The southern states who’d previously separated from the Union returned to the United States. Taken days after his surrender, this is Lee at his home in Virginia. A respected General, Lee was not a fan of the southern secession from the Union. He’d imagined a future where his career advanced in the complete United States. Instead, he went with his home state of Virginia. Lee served no time for his role in the war but did lose some property and the right to vote.