The guy behind the lens

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reliving the Civil War through Digital Photography

In my photography experience, I've always been interested in nature and the natural world with minimal interest in shooting people / portraits. If you look through my website over at, you’ll see very few images with humans in them – Until recently!

Ever since I was a boy and we visited Civil War battlefields, I have had an interest in that huge and tragic conflict. This was enhanced by family stories of my great-great grandfather who I knew fought along the South Carolina coast near Georgetown. Upon further research, I can state that Hugh Milton Stackhouse fought with the South Carolina 4th Cavalry regiment in Company E. 

The history of the unit is:
COMPANY E, 4TH SOUTH CAROLINA CAVALRY was originally organized in Marlboro County in the latter part of the year 1861. The Company left Marlboro for Georgetown, South Carolina, January 22, 1862, and in the spring of 1864 were transferred to Virginia and became a part of Butler's Brigade of Hampton's Division.
(from:  A History of Marlboro County, South Carolina by J.A .W. Thomas Reprint sponsored by the Marlborough Historical Society
Gateway Press, Inc. Baltimore 1989
Originally published Atlanta, 1897
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 73-181859
International Standard Book Number 0-8063-7985-5)

Once this unit went up to Virginia in 1864, they fought in the Wilderness Campaign, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, The Siege of Petersburg, and finally surrendered with the Army of Tennessee.

We know that Hugh Milton Stackhouse survived the war and went back to South Carolina to become a State Senator later in his life. We have a short (2 page) typewritten recollection of his time guarding the coast of South Carolina from the Union Blockaders  and he details how his unit & the Union sailors met and exchanged personal items at various times. I also know that his brother, Robert Boyd Stackhouse was wounded in Virginia at the Battle of Haw's Shop and died after the war from long term effects of those wounds.

Given my personal history, I had thought I might like to photograph modern day reenactors, but living in Texas, I never had the opportunity present itself. (Admittedly, I did not seek out much!) However, last month I was at a restaurant in McKinney, Texas and met a young reenactor who was taking a break from his small encampment neat the downtown square. He informed me of the encampment and the skirmish planned for the next day. I had a great time photographing this small skirmish and once I saw my modern color images, I felt they did not look “real” since all Civil War images are black & white! As such a started to learn how to transform my images into more authentic looking “1862” style images with grey scale or sepia toning and appropriate wear and tear.

"Scouting Report"
(click in the image to see the high resolution version)

"On Watch"
(click in the image to see the high resolution version)

(click in the image to see the high resolution version)

My next several posts here will feature images from this session as well as another I shall share in a future post. 


Unknown said...

Interesting post.. the Civil War is fascinating..& these pictures look authentic..

Unknown said...

Thanks Cindy! I was surprised how "unreal" the color images were and thus began my learning how to try to create realistic photographic reenactments of these men and woman who dedicate so much effort to making their reenactments so true to the actual history they are reliving. Your comments mean a great deal to me!

Al said...

Very nice, you did a great job making these fine shots look very old. Although the wires in the last one are a bit of a giveaway :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Al! Actually by the end of the war, telegraph wires were a pretty common sight in may places ;)

Pink Shamrock said...

These are fantastic, John! You rocked the processing, and as always, I love your work. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks a ton, Erin! Your kindness made my Monday here!

Toad Hollow Photography said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toad Hollow Photography said...

Great images here John. Love the interest that your personal story adds to the shoot here. Love your processing of this series, it's very sympathetic to the subject you were working with.

Unknown said...

Interesting articles in blog and fotos
Greeting from Belgium

¸.•´¸.•*• ♥ 5 ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬

Anonymous said...

Wow, these are great! Now I can't wait to try my hand at this next time there's a re-enactment near by! --- Katie