The collection of Civil War photographs included in American Memory represents a portion of the Anthony-Taylor-Rand-Ordway-Eaton Collection of Civil War Views housed in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. The nucleus of that collection is the negatives taken during the war under the supervision of Mathew B. Brady. After the war, these were transferred to the photographic supply firm of H. T. Anthony Company as payment for debts owed them by Brady. The negatives were purchased in the 1870s by Col. Arnold A. Rand and Gen. Albert Ordway, veterans of the war, and collectors of war memorabilia. To Brady's negatives, they added about 2,000 negatives made by Alexander Gardner, a photographer who left Brady's employment early in the war to set up his own business. Rand and Ordway sold the entire collection to John C. Taylor, who used the negatives to make stereographic prints and lantern slides which he sold during the 1880s. In 1907 the negatives were bought by Edward B. Eaton, who used them in several books he published on the Civil War. The most notable of these was the ten-volume work, The Photographic History of the Civil War. In 1916 the collection was placed in storage, where it remained until the Library purchased it in 1943. The Library's acquisition included 7,500 original glass plate negatives and about 2,500 copy glass and film negatives, providing a total of about 3,750 different views and about 2,650 different portraits. After acquiring the collection, the Library made a concerted effort to copy the original glass plates onto film, most often in an 8x10-inch format.
In 1961 the Library published a two-reel microfilm publication, Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865, which reproduced 1,047 copy negatives made from original negatives in the collection. This selection of images was copied in 1991 for inclusion in American Memory. In this microfilm publication, the photographs are arranged chronologically by campaign in three areas of the United States. The three areas are: 1) the main eastern theater, 2) the Federal Navy and the seaborne expeditions against the Atlantic coast of the Confederacy, and 3) the war in the west. There are additional sections featuring Washington during the war, and portraits of Confederate and Union officers.
In addition to the selection of images taken from the microfilm publication, the American Memory collection includes about fifty images of enlisted men which are not part of the Anthony-Taylor-Rand-Ordway-Eaton Collection of Civil War Views. Although there is no written history of the origin of these photographs of ordinary soldiers, it is thought that the Library copied them during the 1950s and early 1960s from original daguerreotypes and tintypes in private collections. After copying, the original photographs were returned to their owners, but the Library did not retain a record of their names and addresses. Any information on the history or owners of these original photographs would be welcomed by the Library of Congress. Please write to the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540.