Creating Hattie’s War #5 – Photos and Drawings… the gory details

Creating Hattie’s War #5 – Photos and Drawings… the gory details

Mathew Brady

The Civil War was the first war to be photo-documented, leaving us a vast collection of graphic imagery of the horrors of war. The best-known photographer of the war was Mathew Brady but there were many others including Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan. The Civil War was a grotesque slaughter of human beings, plain and simple, Americans killing Americans. The scale of death and suffering is unmatched in our history. In writing Hattie’s War I knew I had to address this reality because in my mind Hattie would want to know details of her father’s service and death.  A story based on the Civil War would be incomplete without addressing the carnage.  

I was uncertain, however, about how far I could go with the gory details in a book geared toward a YA (Young Adult) audience. After reading two YA books set in the Civil War : Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen and Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells, it was clear that a truthful account of the horrors of war is entirely appropriate in this genre. 

The war was also documented by artists who drew what they saw in the field.  Albert Waud and Edwin Forbes are the best known of the on-the-ground artists.  Illustrator Frank Leslie’s drawings are also considered significant.  Many of Leslie’s illustrations are available at the University of South Florida ClipArt ETC website. This section of the website uses many of his illustrations in the headers

The Library of Congress (LOC) holds just about everything one can possibly want about the Civil War, photographs and drawings make up a significant portion of the collection, all free of copyright.  This means, of course, I can use these resources to illustrate the story as I choose.  My intent is to have original art adorn  the book, but these materials are invaluable in mocking up a book to see how the story works with the visuals. 

I am indebted to these dedicated artists who, like their modern counterparts, risked their lives to capture the realities of war, leaving a legacy that continues to inform and inspire more than 150 years later.

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