PORTRAITS OF UNION SOLDIERS RETRIEVED FROM THE US POSTAL SERVICE 'DEAD LETTER FILE'
1861 - 1865
Cartes-de-visite (French for ‘Visiting cards’) were first introduced in 1854. They were intended for personal use- exchanged with friends and relatives and placed in albums. They were made of paper and metal (called ‘’tintypes’) and were popular, inexpensive kinds of photographs made throughout the Civil War years. Many photographers would visit military camps during the war and set up temporary studios to photograph the soldiers. Soldiers sent these pictures back home to loved ones and friends, and waited for similar pictures of loved ones. These letters that contained these portraits, however, never arrived at their final destination. They came from the Dead Letter Office of the Post Office in Washington D.C.
What can these portraits tell us about who the soldiers were and what they experienced? How old were they? How did they dress? How did they fight in the war? What happened as a result?