Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)
Formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady (American, born Ireland, 1823?–1896 New York)
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
16.3 x 36.9 cm (6 7/16 x 14 1/2 in.)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Not on view
In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the Confederate government moved its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the front and to protect Richmond’s ironworks and flour mills. On April 2, 1865, as the Union army advanced on Richmond, General Robert E. Lee gave the orders to evacuate the city. A massive fire broke out the following day, the result of a Confederate attempt to destroy anything that could be of use to the invading Union army. In addition to consuming twenty square blocks, including nearly every building in Richmond’s commercial district, it destroyed the massive Gallego Flour Mills, situated on the James River and seen here. Alexander Gardner, Mathew B. Brady’s former gallery manager, then his rival, made numerous photographs of the "Burnt District" as well as this dramatic panorama from two glass negatives. The charred remains have become over time an iconic image of the fall of the Confederacy and the utter devastation of war.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on 33.65.11, verso, top left: "Ruins on Canal / Richmond"; numbered in red ink on print, verso, center right: "144"
Inscribed in pencil on 33.65.226, verso, TL: "Richmond Va//Ruins of Gallego Mill"; Inscribed in pencil on print, verso, TL: "No 106"; Inscribed in red ink on print, verso, BR: "156"
The Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, Boston
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Thirty Photographers: A Selection from the Museum's Collection," April 12, 1969–June 1, 1969.
High Museum of Art. "Picturing the South: 1860 to the Present," June 15, 1996–September 14, 1996.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag," June 6, 2006–September 4, 2006.
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.
Davis, William C., ed. The End of an Era, Image of War, 6 (1984). p. 10.
Katz, Mark D. Witness to an Era: The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner: The Civil War, Lincoln, and the West. New York: Viking Press, 1991. no. 908, p. 291.
Sullivan, Constance, ed. Landscapes of the Civil War: Newly Discovered Photographs from the Medford Historical Society. New York: Knopf, 1995.