A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)
Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)
July 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 17.8 × 22.5 cm (7 × 8 7/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This photograph of the rotting dead awaiting burial after the Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the best-known Civil War landscape. It was published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866), the nation’s first anthology of photographs. The Sketch Book features ten photographic plates of Gettysburg—eight by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, who served as a field operator for Alexander Gardner, and two by Gardner himself. The extended caption that accompanies this photograph is among Gardner’s most poetic: "It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ . . . Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation."

  • Provenance

    Alfred R. Waud Collection; [Rinhart Galleries, Inc., New York, October 8, 1976]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York

  • Notes

    Plate 36 in Volume 1 of Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War. This print is accompanied by the descriptive text page from Gardner's Sketchbook.