June 11-12, 1864: Time To Get One’s Picture Taken

USG Cold HarborOn June 12, 1864, Theodore Lyman offered the following observation:

General Grant has appeared with his moustache and beard trimmed close, giving him a very mild air–and indeed he is a mild man, really. He is an odd combination; there is one good thing, at any rate–he is the concentration of all that is American. 

The general was getting ready to have his picture taken.

The above image of Grant, taken by Matthew Brady, is iconic. Yet it was not the only picture taken during Brady’s visit to army headquarters, a visit made just as the army prepared to commence to cross the James River.

Grant and Staff Cold HarborThat’s Grant and his staff.

Grant Rawlins Bowers

Grant with John A. Rawlins and Theodore S. Bowers. Note … no Horace Porter. Grant would be the only man in this picture alive in 1870.

Meade at Cold Harbor


There’s a rumor that this fellow was once kind of a big deal.

Meade and staff

He must have been, judging from the size of his staff. Look how Andrew Humphreys poses in 3/4 profile. Same with Theodore Lyman, who can be seen over Rufus Ingalls’s left shoulder (Ingalls stands to Meade’s left in the front row).

Second Corps CommandersYou might think that Winfield Scott Hancock’s sitting just to enhance the composition of the image (with Frank Barlow, David Birney, and John Gibbon standing around him). In truth, he was days away from having to step aside due to the pain of his wound from Gettysburg.

Hancock staFF


And there’s Hancock with his staff and subordinates.

Wright and staff

Here’s Horatio Wright and his staff.

Burnside and staff

Ambrose Burnside and his staff … no sign of Cyrus B. Comstock, who was often sent by Grant to keep an eye on Burnside, irritating Burnside to no end.

Burnside reading Brady watching

Ah, yes … Burnside reads the paper. In about seven weeks, he could read it at home. Matthew Brady inserts himself in the image. By the way, Burnside was not pleased to be captured in this fashion.

Smith and staff

Why, there’s Baldy Smith and his staff. He’ll be gone before Burnside.

Gouverneur Warren was not available at this time …because the Fifth Corps was already on the move. Brady would catch up with Warren shortly, and this was the result:

Warren and staffNow, these images were most probably taken between June 11 and 12, 1864–Lyman’s comment about Grant’s appearance points to June 12 for his picture, although that’s just an educated guess.

The Grant leaning against the tree look is so iconic that it’s appeared in many places. Here’s one place where it would have appeared had it not been for the author’s intervention (note the title change as well):

BDS Grant rejected cover




6 thoughts on “June 11-12, 1864: Time To Get One’s Picture Taken

  1. John Heiser June 12, 2014 / 6:30 am

    What may or may not be an interesting perspective to these images are comparisons of the numerous staff officers and their dress at this time of the campaign. Granted that officers were given leeway in attire in the field, I noticed that a majority of Grant’s staff wear the regulation coat and trousers and while this is also true in the other instances, the dress seems to get sloppier (if that’s the proper term) when comparing the other groupings. Meade’s officers display a wider variety of regulation and non-regulation wear, Hancock’s group appears to prefer the privately tailored sack coats for officers as do Burnside’s and Baldy Smith’s. General Wright’s officers appear to be the most casual. Aside from their commander’s regulation coat, they wear a variety of different sack coats and four of them sport the same style of nappy straw hat, certainly a different style of headwear from many of the other officers in these images. And while most of the officers in the groupings appear to prefer a variety of non-regulation head wear, I also noticed that many are carrying the US Model 1861 light cavalry saber as a sign of their rank and office rather than any regulation sword, Francis Barlow being the most notorious general for preferring it instead of the officer’s sword with it’s lighter blade.
    Perhaps these differences in attire may be just a minor distinction between Grant and his staff who came from the western theater and those who served in the Army of the Potomac, but could it also indicate a difference of general attitude in army operations or just reflect the attitude of Grant and his demeanor?
    One last tidbit- Matthew Brady had a good weekend to produce these photographs. The diary of Pvt. Alexander Patton, Company G, 114th Pennsylvania Infantry (Library collection at Gettysburg NMP), which was assigned headquarters guard to the Army of the Potomac during this campaign, notes that June 11 and 12 were both sunny and pleasant days and the regimental band serenaded Meade and his staff on Saturday evening (the 11th) just before taps. The two zouaves standing in the background on either side of Meade’s group are members of the 114th.

    • John Foskett June 12, 2014 / 11:04 am

      Good point about the conditions. My ancestor Isaac Foskett served in the U.S. Engineers with the A of the P and his diary entries for both June 11 and June 12 state “cool and pleasant”. I’m not quite certain what “cool” meant to him for June but Krick’s excellent book on Civil War weather in Virginia may have Richmond information for those dates and probably has the readings taken in Georgetown (I have the book but it’s not handy at the moment).

  2. centerforhistorystudies June 12, 2014 / 11:16 am

    Grant and his staff sloppier? Ha! Ask them if they care!

  3. Buck Buchanan June 12, 2014 / 12:26 pm

    My impression of the attire of officers is one of they wore what was practical in the heat and humidity of a Central Virginia in May & June. These men were experienced campaigners. They were in camp on the north shore of the James River. There was little excess baggage for dress uniforms, etc., because the logistics was geared to ammunition, fodder, medical supplies, mail and food (in that order) foraward and wounded soldiers back. HQs tents were not a luxury but essential to be able to do effective map studies and planning and writing of orders. Finally the plainness of the uniforms also reflects an across the board realization that flashy unifroms and accouterments would get one killed by sharpshooters.

    • John Foskett June 12, 2014 / 4:24 pm

      Hell, our friends from across the pond started relaxing the dress code in the AWI along about 1776 or so to accommodate the climate and campaigning. I’m not sure how many caught up on the sports section like Old Burn, however.

  4. Noma June 13, 2014 / 10:39 am

    Too bad Brady could not have waited a couple more days. After they had had a month or so of constant fighting, Rufus Ingalls provided everyone in the army with new, summer outfits at Weymouth Point. But, I guess they had other things on their mind at that point. (And, if Brady had waited, Grant would not have been wearing the uniform that everyone loves.)

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