Timothy O’Sullivan: Civil War Photographer

 
 
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"Harvest of Death"
“Harvest of Death”

Timothy O’Sullivan was born in 1840 and was a photographer. Born in Ireland, his parents emigrated to the United States  in 1842. O’Sullivan died of tuberculosis at the age of 42 and left behind some incredible photographs during the Civil war and the expansion westward after the war.

"By this place passed Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, in the year in which he held the Council of the Kingdom at his expense, on the 18th of February, in the year 1726"
“By this place passed Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, in the year in which he held the Council of the Kingdom at his expense, on the 18th of February, in the year 1726”

O’Sullivan discovered this inscription that was carved in sandstone in 1726. The inscription was found in New Mexico and it has been turned into the El Morro National Monument.

Miners O'Sullivan photographed while they worked
Miners O’Sullivan photographed while they worked

In 1867, he went to Virginia City, Nevada to document the mining procedures of the men of the Savage, the Gould, and the Curry mines on the Comstock Lode. The men worked 900 feet under ground and O’Sullivan photographed them in tunnels, shafts, and lifts.

1874 view across the top of Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho.
1874 view across the top of Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho.

When the Civil War ended, O’Sullivan became the official photographer for the United States Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel from 1867 to 1869. He was tasked to take photographs of the west that would lure Americans to settle there. He created records of prehistoric ruins, Native American weavers and pueblo villages.

Old Mission Church. Zuni Pueblo, new Mexico. 1873
Old Mission Church. Zuni Pueblo, new Mexico. 1873

O’Sullivan was an apprentice to the photography pioneer, Matthew Brady. O’Sullivan enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and took photographs in his spare time.

Pyramid Lake, Nevada - 1867.
Pyramid Lake, Nevada – 1867.

 

Confederate Sharpshooter seen dead in the trenches
Confederate Sharpshooter seen dead in the trenches

After joining a surveying team in Panama to assess the difficulty of digging a canal in the isthmus, O’Sullivan returned to photograph the American West, jointing Lt. George Wheeler’s survey team. After facing near-starvation when his survey boat capsized on the Colorado River, O’Sullivan accepted a post with the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, D.C.

04-50th-NY-Engineers
May 24, 1864 – The 50th New York Engineers build a road along the southern bank of the North Anna River near Jericho Mills, Virginia.
Timothy O'Sullivan - 4th from the left
Timothy O’Sullivan – 4th from the left

When the Civil War ended, O’Sullivan became the official photographer for the Unite Boat crew of the “Picture” at Diamond Creek. Photo shows photographer Timothy O’Sullivan, fourth from left, with fellow members of the Wheeler survey and Native Americans, following ascent of the Colorado River through the Black Canyon in 1871.

July 1863, O’Sullivan captured the famous scene from the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The photograph shows the battlefield riddled with bodies from both sides, the Union and the Confederates.

1862 - African Americans prepare to begin working the cotton gin on Smith's plantation. Port Royal Island, South Carolina.
1862 – African Americans prepare to begin working the cotton gin on Smith’s plantation. Port Royal Island, South Carolina.

When O’Sullivan was discharged from the army in 1862, he rejoined his former teacher, Matthew Brady. Later that year he began following Major General John Pope and his Northern Virginia Campaign. O’Sullivan joined Alexander Gardner and published 44 photographs in Gardener’s “Photographic Sketch Book of the War.”

1864 - Captured Confederate camp located near Petersburg, Virginia.
1864 – Captured Confederate camp located near Petersburg, Virginia.

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan  1871-74.
Timothy H. O’Sullivan 1871-74.

Source: Irish Central

 
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