News / USA

    Civil War Photographer's Work Draws Belated Praise

    Traveling with the troops, George Houghton captured their daily life

    George Houghton's image of members of the 4th Vermont Regiment's band during the Civil War.
    George Houghton's image of members of the 4th Vermont Regiment's band during the Civil War.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Nina Keck

    Civil War photographers Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner caused a sensation with their grisly pictures of corpse-strewn battlefields but it was a relatively unknown Vermont photographer who captured some of the most striking - though less sensational - images of the conflict.

    Daily life

    Traveling with Civil War troops, George Houghton managed to expertly capture the nuance of day-to-day life for soldiers.

    “His composition is amazing," says historian Don Wickman. "Everything that you’re taught now about dividing pictures up into thirds, line of sight - he’s using back in 1859, 1860.”

    Houghton operated a photo studio in Brattleboro, Vermont, when the Civil War broke out in 1861. He tried to enlist but was turned away for health reasons. So instead of fighting, Houghton followed Vermont soldiers to Virginia with his camera and became a pioneer in the budding field of photojournalism.

    Camp of the 6th Vermont Regiment at Camp Griffin, Virginia, taken in 1861 by George Houghton.
    Camp of the 6th Vermont Regiment at Camp Griffin, Virginia, taken in 1861 by George Houghton.

    Pioneering photojournalist

    “When we start looking at previous conflicts - from the French and Indian War and the Revolution, War of 1812 - photography wasn’t there," says Wickman. "So people would do oils, watercolors, pen and inks, so you had an artist’s interpretation of the scene. Photography now captured the scene as it was, bringing the war and the scenes associated with it back home.”

    Wickman has gathered more than 100 of Houghton’s photographs in a new book, titled “A Very Fine Appearance.” The images are accompanied by excerpts from letters and diaries of Vermont soldiers.

    There are long-range photos of union camps that show row upon row of white triangular tents tucked amidst the landscape. There are sobering scenes of men burying their comrades.

    But Wickman says it’s the images of soldiers relaxing that may be the most haunting. They show the men in front of tents - their worn and dusty boots propped up on stools - fatigue etched into their young faces. Behind them, jackets and laundry hang on tent posts.

    Officers of the 4th Vermont Regiment by George Houghton
    Officers of the 4th Vermont Regiment by George Houghton

    “They’re not all spit and polish. A real favorite that I have shows veterans of the 4th Vermont regiment returning at the expiration of their three year term of enlistment in 1864 to Brattleboro. They look totally opposite from the way they would have looked in September of 1861. They’re wrapped in blankets, their clothes are ragged. But they’ve just been through three full years of war and they’re showing it.”

    'Arresting images'

    Harold Holzer, a leading authority on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era, wrote the forward to Wickman’s book. He writes that “George Houghton produced some of the most comprehensive and visually arresting images of the war."

    "It remains something of a mystery,” says Holzer, “that Houghton has remained all but unknown for nearly a century and a half.”

    While Vermont soldiers fought in some of the most horrific battles of the day, Holzer thinks Houghton might have been a victim of geography. He lived too far from the reigning media centers where photographs were exhibited and reviewed.

    However, his captivating images have stood the test of time and now author and historian Wickman hopes his new book will help Houghton finally win the recognition he deserves.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.