Saturday, July 22, 2017

Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph [fake news, Civil War style]

Figure 1. Studio photograph taken in Philadelphia, probably in early 1864. The handwritten numbers, “1895 x 1895” in reverse in the upper right-hand corner appear to have been hand-scratched on the emulsion side of the original glass plate negative; these numbers may represent a catalog reference used by the photographer. Photograph, courtesy, James Spina (see note 6 in the linked article).

Retouching History:
The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph

by Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite, Jr.


“In the past decade,” the Yale historian David Blight has recently written, “the neo-Confederate fringe of Civil War enthusiasm . . . has contended that thousands of African Americans, slave and free, willingly joined the Confederate war effort as soldiers and fought for their ‘homeland’ . . . . Slaves’ fidelity to their masters’ cause - - a falsehood constructed to support claims that the war was not about slavery - - has long formed one of the staple arguments in Lost Cause ideology.” 

In this paper we discuss a graphic example of Blight’s contention by examining a Civil War-era posed studio photograph of black Union soldiers with a white officer. We maintain that this photograph has been deliberately falsified in recent years by an unknown person/s sympathetic to the Confederacy. This falsified or fabricated photo, purporting to be of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards (Confederate), has been taken to promote Neo-Confederate views, to accuse Union propagandists of duplicity, and to show that black soldiers were involved in the armed defense of the Confederacy. 

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