Scene of General McPherson's Death

George N. Barnard American

Not on view

George N. Barnard released this volume of views in November 1866, ten months after Alexander Gardner published his Sketch Book. Together, the two volumes are the foundational publications of nineteenth-century American photography. One is an amalgamation of photographs by multiple artists made over a period of four years; the other is the work of a single artist who followed the campaign of one general and his army in the final months of the war.

On July 22, 1864, Union General James Birdseye McPherson was shot off his mount near the woods seen here. First in his West Point class of 1853 and keenly admired and trusted by General Sherman, McPherson was the only commander of a federal army during the Civil War to die in battle. Barnard constructed the photograph as a painter might, by manipulating the bones, trimming the foliage, and removing any distracting details that could interfere with the psychological meaning of a proper memorial portrait. The screen of trees became a simple but useful backdrop, a curtain for this minimal landscape of life and death.

Scene of General McPherson's Death, George N. Barnard (American, 1819–1902), Albumen silver print from glass negative

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Plate 35