As you may know, the five year period from 2010 to 2015 marks the Sesquicentennial (150th) of the Civil War. For photography enthusiasts and history buffs alike the next four years will offer lots of photographic opportunities. Now might be a good time to sample some of the many books on Civil War photography, Here is a short list with comments where I am familiar with the work. This is by no means comprehensive, but these titles look the most promising.
A good introduction to the subject, but you’ll want to explore further.
This is one volume that I currently own and is the premier work on the subject. The author, Bob Zeller, is a historian who specializes in the subject and is the President of The Center for Civil War Photography. The Blue and Gray in Black and White covers the subject of Civil War photography in a comprehensive fashion. There are chapters on daguerreotype technique and individual photographers, including Matthew Brady at Bull Run and Alexander Gardner at Antietam. There is an entire chapter on Gettysburg. If you only buy one book, this is it.
Not strictly about photography. Fascinating nonetheless.
Just prior to the Civil War Mathew Brady was America’s most famous photographer. By then, however, due perhaps in part to failing eyesight, he was more a manager of other photographers than one himself. That said, the images that his team made during the course of the war remain an enduring testament.
Sadly, now out of print. Keep an eye open for it with the renewed interest in the Civil War.
Over 300 Brady photos reproduced directly from original negatives and commentary
Mary Panzer is the curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D. C. and in this book examines the work of Mathew Brady. Brady, she writes, "used art to forge a relationship between photography and history, but when the memory of Brady the artist vanished, we came to accept his images as facts." Recommended by The Online Photographer.
"Panzer's account of Brady's wartime work is especially revealing: where assistants like Timothy O'Sullivan and Alexander Gardner favored realistic studies of the dead in battle, Brady favored sweeping panoramas that obscured individual soldiers."
That said, it is Brady that we remember as the photographer who "[brought] home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war."
Although designed for younger readers, don’t dismiss this informative and beautifully designed book.
This book by Bob Zeller’s mentor, William A. Frassanito, investigates the photography of Gettysburg, both before and after the battle. Early Photography at Gettysburg looks at hundreds of photographs of the battle in detail, including studies by Alexander Gardner and Matthew Brady. The book includes two noteworthy images of the dead rebel sharpshooter in Devil's Den. The first is the famous image by the stone wall. The second is of the same solider lying in the field where he actually died. Gardner had dragged him to the spot where he was immortalized by the more famous photograph.