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."
Inscription: Printed in black ink on mount, recto BC below image: "Negative by T.H. O'SULLIVAN. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1865, by Alex Gardner, in the Clerk's Office of the Disctrict Court of the District of Columbia Positive by A. GARDNER, 511 7th St. Washington. // A HARVEST OF DEATH, GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA // No. 36. July, 1863"
Alfred R. Waud Collection; [Rinhart Galleries, Inc., New York, October 8, 1976]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
Grey Art Gallery, New York University. "The Indelible Image: Some War Photographs 1848 to the Present," September 24, 1985–November 16, 1985.
Institute for the Arts, Rice Museum, Houston. "The Indelible Image: Some War Photographs 1848 to the Present," February 6, 1986–March 24, 1986.
Corcoran Gallery of Art. "The Indelible Image: Some War Photographs 1848 to the Present," April 26, 1986–June 22, 1986.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," April 2, 2013–September 2, 2013.
Gibbes Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," September 27, 2013–January 5, 2014.
New Orleans Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," January 31, 2014–May 4, 2014.
Naef, Weston J., and James Wood. Era of Exploration: The Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West, 1860–1885. Buffalo: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1975. fig. no. 146.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 133.
See also 2005.100.502.1 and 2005.100.502.2 for complete volumes 1 and 2 of Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War.