Johnsburg Goes to War: 1861-1865

It was Mathew Brady who first brought home the horror of the Civil War to the folks back home. In 1862 he shocked America by displaying photographs of dead soldiers at Antietam where they had fallen and before the battlefield had been cleaned up.

Known primarily as a photographer of famous men, in 1856 he opened a studio in Washington DC to better photograph the nation's leaders. He became one of the first photographers to use photography to chronicle national history.

As the war broke out, he turned his attention to documenting the war and organized a corp of travelling photographers to cover it. Hearing of the battle at Antietam, just 70 miles from the capital, he rushed to the battlefield. His friends tried to discourage him, citing battlefield dangers and the financial risks. But, Brady persisted and later said that, "I had to go. A spirit in my feet said 'Go' and I went."

One of Brady's most famous photographs is of Abraham Lincoln with whom he was on a first name basis. It was taken on Feb. 9, 1864 and was on the old $5 bill until 2008 when a re-designed $5 was released, which features a different photograph of Lincoln taken by Brady taken on that same day.

In my book "Echoes in These Mountains" I concluded that Mathew Brady was born in Johnsburg, about one mile south of Wevertown. Depressed by his financial situation, loss of eyesight, and devastated by the death of his wife, Brady died in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City in 1896 at age 73. Penniless at the time of his death, his funeral was paid for by veterans of the 7th NY Volunteer Infantry.

In preparation for my future talk "Johnsburg Goes to War", I'd very much welcome hearing from you if you have any information on the soldiers listed below, all buried by the Johnsburg Methodist Church on South Johnsburg Road, or any soldiers listed in my earlier columns. Contact me at 251-3009 or pearsall.glenn@gmail.com. Thank you.

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