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Civil War Image Gallery

The Library of Congress digital collections house a wide variety of Civil War sources including many Tennessee-related sources. In this gallery, you will find a sampling of what the Library of Congress has to offer. These sources will rotate periodically, so be sure to check back to see what's new!


Freedmen's School of Edisto, South Carolina

.Title: [Freedmen's school, Edisto Island, S.C.] / Samuel A. Cooley, photographer, Savannah, Ga., Hilton Head, S.C., Beaufort, S.C. [between 1862 and 1865]

This freedmen's school on Edisto Island, S.C. was one of several established for former slaves living on land granted for their settlement by General Sherman's Special Field Orders No. 15. Most of the freedmen's schools were run by teachers from the North, usually women, with the support of various benevolent societies and the cooperation of the Freedmen's Bureau. Mary Ames was one of the northern teachers on Edisto Island and recorded her experiences in From a New England woman's diary in Dixie in 1865, published in 1906. In her diary, Ames describes the poor standard of living on the island and the difficulties of conducting school under such conditions, the great desire of the freedpeople to learn, and the betrayal they felt at the forced restoration of the plantations to their former owners.

  • What do you notice about the people in the photograph? How old are they? How are they dressed?
  • Would it be easy to learn in a school like this? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think former slaves were so determined to get an education?
  • Why do you think this photograph was taken?

Excerpt from Thirty Years a Slave page 174

Title: Thirty years a slave. From bondage to freedom. The institution of slavery as seen on the plantation and in the home of the planter. Autobiography of Louis Hughes [1897]

Louis Hughes was born into slavery in Virginia and sold as a child. He would eventually be sold to a wealthy Mississippi family and moved south. The family first lived in Memphis. After the Confederate loses at Fort Pillow and Fort Donelson, the family moved south with their slaves into Mississippi and Alabama to escape Union troops. Hughes worked primarily as a house slave but also writes about the larger day-to-day routines and workings of the plantation. In this autobiography, Hughes describes his five attempts to run away and the consequences of his multiple attempts to secure his freedom.  In his fifth attempt to gain his freedom detailed in "My Fifth Strike for Freedom is a Success” (p. 172-177), Hughes escapes to Memphis where he finds a the city greatly changed at the end of the war.

  • How did slave owners attempt to limit the opportunities for slaves to run away?
  • Why did Hughes and George run to the Union lines?
  • How would they have known where Union troops were positioned at the time?
  • Why would he have left his wife behind?

Panorama of Mississippi Valley Fortifications, detail

Title:Panorama of the Mississippi Valley : and its fortifications / [1863?, detail]

Taken from a map depicting the Mississippi River as it flows from the Gulf of Mexico to St. Louis, Missouri, this detail focuses on the river as it forms the western boundary of the state of Tennessee. The Civil War had an extraordinary impact on mapmaking in the United States, as invading armies needed to know the natural and manmade features of the landscapes they encountered. As one of the most fought-over states of the Confederacy, Tennessee's landscapes and cities were reproduced in numerous printed and hand-drawn maps by Union cartographers at the request of Union generals.
This overall map breaks the river into four sections, and displays the sections side-by-side in order to create a map of a manageable size and shape. If placed end-to-end (as the river is in actuality), the map would be almost 7 feet 9 inches long and only about 6 inches wide!

  • What kinds of features were the most important to the mapmaker?
  • Why would knowledge of these features be useful to Civil War armies?
  • What defensive features and structures protected armies or civilians along the Mississippi River in Tennessee?
  • What techniques would the mapmaker have used to achieve this level of detail and knowledge of the terrain?

Unidentified Woman with portrait of Private W.R. Clack

Title:[Unidentified woman with cased photograph of Private W.R. Clack Co. B, 43rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment, probably a relative] [between 1861 and 1865]

This unidentified woman holding a photograph of Private William Raleigh Clack may be his wife, Sabria Caroline Newport Clack, or another relative. Private Clack's regiment, the 43rd Tennessee, was organized in Knoxville and included men from several East Tennessee counties. During the Civil War, women had to take on new responsibilities at home when their male relatives went to the battle front. To stay connected, women wrote letters and sent care packages (including photographs) to their relatives and friends at the front. Because reliable information was difficult to get during the war, women also spent a lot of time trying to find out what was happening to their loved ones. Private Clack survived the war and lived until 1919.

  • Why might this woman have chosen to be photographed holding the soldier's photograph? Do you think she had the photograph taken for herself or for him?
  • What do you notice about the woman's appearance? How is she dressed?
  • How would you describe the photograph case and frame?
  • What would you ask this woman if you could speak to her?

2012 Civil War Gallery

Last updated on: 06/20/13 10:53 am