Brady's first journey onto the battlefield had not gone as he had hoped. But his determination to produce a photographic record of the war remained strong. As Northerners adjusted to the reality that the war might last for quite awhile, Brady organized his photographers into two-man teams that accompanied Union armies all around the country.
One of these teams, comprised of Alexander Gardner and James Gibson, accompanied the Union army commanded by General George B. McClellan (1826-1885; see entry) when it clashed in September 1862 with a large rebel force led by Confederate general Robert E. Lee (1807-1870; see entry). This one-day struggle along Antietam Creek outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland, produced more than twenty-six thousand casualties, making it the single bloodiest day in American military history.
The Battle of Antietam (known in the South as the Battle of Sharpsburg) forced Lee to discard his plans to invade the North. Instead, he retreated back into Virginia to regroup. In the meantime, Gardner and Gibson wandered over the Antietam battlefield. Their photographs of the dead soldiers who lay scattered across the countryside provided vivid evidence of the toll that the war was taking on both sides.
When Brady saw the photographs that Gardner and Gibson had taken, he immediately made plans to exhibit them at his studio in New York. The photographs created excitement throughout the city. Citizens rushed to the gallery to see the horrible but powerful pictures for themselves. "Mr. Mathew Brady has done something to bring us the terrible reality and earnestness of the war," commented the New York Times. "If he
has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along our streets, he has done something very like it."
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