Colorized Confederates -By Liana Jacob and Michael D. Carroll

Photo credits: Mads Madsen /

War History Online presents this Guest Article from Michael D. Carroll

A UNIQUE INSIGHT into the Civil War Confederates has been brought to light in the form of rare photographs that have been enriched with color.

Photos include a portrait of American Confederate soldier and commander of the Confederates States of America, Robert Edward Lee, and Lewis Powell Payne, who conspired with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, leaning against a wall.

The vintage photographs were carefully colorized by CEO, Mads Madsen (23), from Horsens, Denmark, who spent between 12 to 14 hours to colorize the pictures.

“You’re seeing Confederate soldiers; both good and bad, deceased or alive, out on the battlefield or in a studio getting their pictures taken,” Mads said.

“You’re seeing the ‘enemy’, so to speak, as you would be seeing the Germans of the Second World War. Only a handful of Confederate images survived the war, compared to the amount of Union images, so you’re getting a rare insight into a time long forgotten.

“I’m pretty good at distancing myself from the subject matter and working in bits and pieces, bit-by-bit – so rather than looking at the image as a whole, I look at it in bite-sized pieces; which definitely makes everything a whole lot easier.”

Lewis Powell Payne 2. Mads Madsen /
Lewis Powell Payne 2. Mads Madsen /

The American Civil War began from 1861 to 1865, a consequence of the enduring slavery that was bestowed upon predominantly Africans and African-Americans that resided in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, closely following the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln, whose group supported the banning of slavery in all the US territories.

Eventually, the Northern forces won the Civil War, defeating the Southern Confederate States, banning slavery and reuniting America, which to this day has never experienced such a destructive war on its soil.

Schiffers Robert E. Lee. Mads Madsen /
Schiffers Robert E. Lee. Mads Madsen /

“They’re a piece of history, a cultural treasure – it’s an insight into a certain set of people who might not agree with the same things we agree with today and who might have made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day, they’re just as human as you and I,” Mads said.

“Having studied the Civil War as much as I have, I find it very significant when I find a high quality, well-preserved, and digitalised photograph of a Confederate; so it’s a lot more significant than a Union soldier or Officer, which adds to my ‘need’ to bring it to life.”

Robert E. Lee on Porch. Mads Madsen /
Robert E. Lee on Porch. Mads Madsen /

Out of the photographs, Mads’ favorite from the collection is either the Lewis Payne portrait or the Samuel Arnold portrait.

“They’re just so conventionally handsome, they look as if they could have walked straight out of a clothing catalog,” he said.

“They don’t look like criminals who played a hand in one of the biggest political upheavals in modern history, but there they are, as clear as day.”

Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Samuel Arnold, a conspirator. Mads Madsen /
Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Samuel Arnold, a conspirator. Mads Madsen /

Michael D. Carroll is a journalist and author with a particular interest in historical photography.

From his base in Birmingham, UK he directs bespoke press agency, and through his work at the agency, Michael came into contact with the thriving community of colorizors of historical images.

After placing several colorized history features into the national newspapers in the UK, he enlisted the support of this community to publish Retrographic, the first book to present a specially curated selection of iconic historical images in living color.

With the support of ambassadors from the world’s first society for photographers, the Royal Photographic Society, UK, images and reviews on Retrographic have been featured in newspapers and online zines, including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times, Fstoppers, War History Online, and ePHOTOzine.

Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Samuel Arnold, a conspirator. Mads Madsen /
Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Samuel Arnold, a conspirator. Mads Madsen /

For more information visit HERE.

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