Of the Civil War photographs, the most moving are the inhumanly objective records of combat deaths. Perhaps the most reproduced of these Civil War photographs is [Timothy] O’Sullivan’s A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863. Although this image could be seen as simple reportage, is also functions to impress on people the high price of the Civil War. Corpses litter the battlefield as far as the eye can see. O’Sullivan presented a scene that stretches far to the horizon. As the photograph modulates from the precise clarity of the bodies of Union soldiers in the foreground, boots stolen and pockets picked, to the almost illegible corpses in the distance, the suggestion of innumerable other dead soldiers is unavoidable. . . . Though it was years before photolithography could reproduce photographs like this in newspapers, they were publicly exhibited and made an impression that newsprint engravings never could.
– Gardner’s Art Through the Ages
Fred S. Kleiner & Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Twelfth Edition: Volume II, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005, 850.
Photo via The J. Paul Getty Museum website.