Isaac H. Bonsall (American, 1833–1909)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8 3/8 x 10 1/2 in. (21.2 x 26.6 cm)
Purchase, Celia Tompkins Hegyi Gift, 2007 (2007.392)
On first glance, this photograph of Lulah Falls appears to be an idyllic landscape of an imposing, rocky waterfall. On closer inspection, however, one notices that the figures—some standing at attention for the photographer, others sprawled casually on the boulders in the foreground—are Union soldiers. Here is a view of the Civil War in striking contrast to the scenes of fortifications, camps, bridges, and destruction so prolifically documented by the camera during that era. The photographer, Isaac H. Bonsall of Cincinnati, served in the Union's Army of the Cumberland as a staff photographer beginning in September 1862. His initial duties were to photograph maps at their headquarters in Cincinnati, but he later traveled with the army to Tennessee, broadening his subject matter to include portraiture and war-related landscape along the way. During the Union's six-month siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1863, Bonsall spent his time photographing the areas surrounding nearby battle sites such as Lookout Mountain, where the Army of the Cumberland contributed to a Union victory on November 24, 1863. Lulah Falls, situated on the south side of the mountain in northwest Georgia, was, for a moment, worlds away from the war.