02548 - Dead South Carolina soldier; Petersburg, Va., April 1865 [LC-DIG-cwpb-02548]
While we think of photo manipulation as being a modern phenomenon, this stereo view illustrates how photographs were manipulated during the Civil War. The soldier depicted in this image appears in at least three stereo views of the battle of Petersburg. He is reported as both a dead Union and dead Confederate soldier. The original paper sleeve for this image identifies him as a South Carolina solider. Looking at the black and white version of this image, it is obvious why these conflicting claims were made. The ammunition pouch he is carrying is clearly marked with a U.S. insignia, which would quickly identify him as a Union soldier. When looking closely at his uniform, it is clear that it was made of coarse material not found in the Union army. The South had few manufacturing facilities, resulting in soldiers outfitted with homemade and poor quality goods. The brush from the canon behind him would indicate that he was part of an artillery unit, or near one at the time of his death. In the other existing images, the brush does not appear at all in one image and the other image shows the handle is only about 12 inches long; indicating that it was probably a photographer’s prop used to enhance the image. This is clear evidence that photographers staged shots to present the image that they wanted. Only careful observation tells the story of what the photographer wanted us to see vs. what they actually saw.