Photographs of the American Civil War in Color

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The American Civil War was one of the first major conflicts to be extensively photographed due to camera technology advancing enough by the 1860s to produce a high-quality image in a relatively quick time. Thanks to the Northern and Southern photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and George S. Cook among many others, thousands of old black and white photographs of both sides of the US Civil War still exist today despite many not surviving the 150+ years since the end of the conflict. Thanks to the expert colorization skills of Mads Madsen, we have the unique opportunity to see the American Civil War brought to life through the addition of color to these old historical images. Scroll down this article to see multiple colorized photographs of the US Civil War.

Colorized photo of President Abraham Lincoln and General George McClellan at Antietam in October 1862 during the American Civil War (in color)
Colorized photograph of US President Abraham Lincoln and Major General George McClellan sitting together at Antietam in Maryland, 3rd October 1862. Taken by Alexander Gardner.
Credit: Colorized – Mads Madsen // Original – Library of Congress

This photograph of the President of the United States and the commander of the Army of Potomac was taken shortly after the Battle of Antietam in which McClellan led an army against the Confederate General Robert E. Lee on September 17, 1862. The battle was considered a Union Army victory as the Confederate invasion of Maryland failed but was believed to be tactically inconclusive. The battle resulted in around 25,000 casualties on both sides. Lincoln was disappointed with McClellan’s performance in this battle, leading to him being relieved of his commanding duties in November 1862.

 Commander of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee (seated), photographed with his son, George Washington Curtis Lee (left), and his chief aide, Walter H. Taylor (right). April 16, 1865. Colorized.
The Commander of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee (seated), photographed with his son, George Washington Curtis Lee (left), and his chief aide, Walter H. Taylor (right). April 16, 1865.
Credit: Colorized – Mads Madsen // Original – Library of Congress

This photograph was taken on April 16, 1865, 7 days after Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to the Union Army Commander, Ulysses S. Grant. It was taken by Mathew Brady, the most renowned photographer in the United States during the 19th Century. It was taken in the basement below the back porch of Robert E. Lee’s home in Richmond, Virginia. The colorization of the photograph highlights the colors of the uniforms worn by the Confederate Army.

The American Civil War in Color, Alfred R. Waud, sketching at Devil's Den, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863.
Colorization of American Artist, Alfred R. Waud, sketching at Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863.
Credit: Colorized – Mads Madsen // Original – Library of Congress

Alfred R. Waud was a well-known sketch artist that spent time as an American Civil War artist correspondent for the magazine Harper’s Weekly. This photograph was taken by Timothy H. O’Sullivan while Waud was sketching scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

An iconic photo of the American Civil War in color “A Harvest of Death” shows soldiers that have died during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.
Credit: Colorized – Mads Madsen // Original – Met Museum

This photograph is one of the most famous that was taken during the US Civil War. It is known as “A Harvest of Death” and shows the battlefield at Gettysburg littered with bodies that are waiting for collection and then burial. This was taken by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. This image colorized can impact you in a completely different way compared to seeing this in black and white. The fact it is is color makes it feel more “real”; with the war taking place over 150 years ago, you sometimes forget that these soldiers were real people whose lives ended fighting this war.

Colorized photograph of American Civil War Union Army Soldier, Joseph Hooker, wearing military uniform sitting on a horse in 1863.
Color photo of Union Army Major General Joseph Hooker sitting on a horse in front of tents in 1863.
Credit: Colorized – Mads Madsen // Original – Library of Congress

Joseph Hooker was a Major General of the Union Army spending some of his time as the commander of the Army of Potomac, the main Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. He had the nickname “Fighting Joe”. In this colorized photo, you can see the detail and deep blue color of the uniform of a Major General in the Union Army.

We teamed up with Mads Madsen to produce a video tutorial of how to colorize an old black and white photograph yourself. You can find this video below and on the HistoryColored youtube channel. You can find more of Mads’ work on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our American Civil War Quiz.

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