Online Exhibits@Yale

Our Mothers' Sons: Portrait Photography and Civil War Memory

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In the 1860s, thousands of men walked with death in the United States’ most consuming conflict, the Civil War. Facing rampant death and destruction, soldiers attempted to preserve a record of their presence and service through the creation of portrait photographs. These portraits, depicting images of steely-eyed young men and grinning boys, are now ubiquitous. However, the evolution of the photographs’ use and curation has impacted perceptions of Civil War memory and history.

Our Mothers’ Sons: Portrait Photography and Civil War Memory explores this relationship between portrait photography and Civil War memory in the American mind. By examining documents from Yale’s Beinecke Library, the Huntington Library, the University of Mississippi Library, and Rice University Library, Stankovic highlights how portrait photographs helped transform the Civil War soldier from the mourned to the mythologized.

Credits

Isidora Stankovic (Student Curator, Timothy Dwight '16)