Colour photography may not have been invented until the 1930s but that hasn’t stopped an active group of Redditors from looking to change the past. On the Colorized History Subreddit, Redditors use photo manipulation to add colour to historical black and white images.
Two of the most prolific users, Mads Dahl Madsen and Jordan J. Lloyd (who has since started Dynachrome, a digital image restoration agency), have done United States history a favour by taking a large amount of the Civil War photographs available at the Library of Congress and turning them into realistic and beautiful looking colour.
As photography was not invented until the mid-1800s, the Civil War was the first war to be captured on film. Famous photographers such as Matthew Brady and his apprentice Andrew Gardner made it their duty to capture the country’s tragic war in posterity, with a variety of portraits of officers and soldiers and scenes of daily life and the aftermath of battles. At the time, cameras were not able to accurately capture motion so there are few, if any, photos of actual battles in action.
This photo depicts President Ulysses S. Grant (pictured in the center, at the time, a Lieutenant General), his friend Brigadier General John Rawlins (left) and an unknown Lieutenant Colonel in 1865.
Colour by Reddit User Zuzahin/Photo Courtesy of National Archives
Union Captain Cunningham poses next to the command tent in Bealeton, Virginia, 1863. Cunningham was a member of Brigadier General Thomas F. Meagher’s staff, who commanded a primarily Irish contingent during the Civil War.
This photo by Matthew Brady, the most famous Civil War photographer, portrays three Confederate prisoners at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863.
This photo by Andrew Gardner, originally Brady’s apprentice, depicts Union Colonel James H. Childs (middle, standing) and several other officers at Westover Landing, Virigina in 1862. Childs was later killed at the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American history. 22,717 soldiers were either killed, injured, or missing in action.
This is Major General Ambrose Burnside, the commander of the Union army of the Potomac. He is best known for leading the army to a crushing defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg and for his distinctive facial hair, which later became known as the, you guessed it, sideburn.
Mads Madsen/Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress
The photograph by Andrew Gardner, originally Brady’s apprentice, depicts the staff of Brigadier General Andrew Porter in 1862. George Custer (of Battle of Little Bighorn fame) is shown reclining next to a dog on the right.
Colour by Reddit User Zuzahin/Photo by Andrew Gardner
This is a portrait of General William Tecumseh Sherman in civilian clothes. During Sherman’s famous “March to the Sea,” the Union army destroyed nearly everything in its path, both military and civilian, on its way to Savannah, Georgia.
Colour by Reddit User Zuzahin/Photo Courtesy Library of Congress
Confederate General Robert E. Lee at his ancestral home in Arlington (now the National Cemetery) less than a week after surrendering.
Colour by Reddit User Zuzahin/Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress
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