Little is known about George Barnard's early photographic career. He operated a daguerreotype studio in Oswego, New York, between 1846 and 1853. (Daguerreotypes were the first commercially available photographic process.) In December of 1853, Barnard moved his studio to Syracuse, New York. Despite his great technical expertise, Barnard was forced to close his Syracuse studio in 1857 due to the poor economy.
In 1859, Barnard joined Edward Anthony's photographic firm in New York City as a stereoscopic photographer. Stereographs, the first mass-produced photographs, were a popular form of entertainment for the upper and middle classes. Because stereographs were published and distributed for sale, the publisher, not the photographer, often received credit for the views. We do know that Barnard made stereographs in Cuba, and they were sold by Anthony.
Barnard went on to work for the well-known studio of Mathew Brady, both in New York and Washington, D.C. His duties included studio portraiture as well as non-studio group portraiture of the troops assembled in Washington at the start of the Civil War. His views of Civil War battlegrounds, sometimes taken months after the battles, were widely distributed. Some of these images can be found in the American Memory collection, Selected Civil War Photographs from the Library of Congress, 1861-1865.
Barnard is best known for his 1866 book, Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign, which contains 61 albumen prints of Civil War sites such as Nashville, the Chattanooga Valley, Atlanta, and Savannah, as well as other sites associated with General Sherman's command, and one studio portrait of Sherman and his generals. Barnard continued to photograph after the war, operating studios in Charleston, South Carolina, and Chicago. His Chicago studio was destroyed by the historic fire of 1871. Barnard died on February 4, 1902, in Syracuse, New York.
Photographing the Civil War
Barnard took panoramas while he was employed by the Department of the Army in 1864. Barnard was summoned to Atlanta, Georgia, in September 1864, immediately after Union forces, commanded by General William T. Sherman, captured the city. While the Army surveyed major topographical features, railroad lines, and roads, Barnard created photographic documentation, including this panorama of Atlanta, labeled with important landmarks. On November 12, 1864, Sherman ordered his men to raze Atlanta.