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The Civil War photographic album of Louis–Philippe d’Orleans, Comte de Paris, a major archive of Civil War photographs

BRADY, MATHEW et al.. Civil War photographic album of Louis–Philippe d’Orleans, Comte de Paris

Various photographers including Brady, c. 1862

This important Civil War photograph album, assembled for the Comte de Paris, who served on George McClellan’s staff, has been donated by the Beth and Stephan Loewentheil Family Photography Collection to Cornell University as its 8 millionth book.

This album of the Comte de Paris was perhaps the finest Civil War photographic album in private hands. There are 265 photographs: over 60 very rare war camp scenes in small format, mainly by Brady and his assistants, including unusual images of military field operations, headquarters and candid officer photos, gun emplacements, ordnance, soldiers at work and rest,  artillery and cavalry regiments preparing for battle, scenes before and after battle, and scores of officers and soldiers in virtually every war life situation. There are also early photos of Washington and environs including fortifications and encampments around the city.

The more than 200 portraits including an amazing Brady photo of Lt. George Armstrong Custer sitting with the Confederate prisoner James Baroll Washington (a classmate of Custer’s at West Point), seated with a young shoeless black (slave?) boy leaning against his feet. The album also includes cartes of freed slaves known as “contrabands” and images of the Comte de Paris in military camp relaxing with officers. The album contains scores of wonderful portraits of leading military men including some apparently unrecorded camp and field portraits, military group photos including the Comte de  Paris, prominent cabinet members and their wives, portraits of Lincoln and the first lady, foreign ministers and dignitaries, leading members of Congress,  Washington notables, and others. Individual war scene photos have become scarce, and even small groups of such scenes are increasingly rare.

The appearance of a large group of these photographs in an undisturbed album in outstanding condition, with direct provenance from a well known military figure and respected historian, is a unique event of great historical significance.

This treasure trove of carte sized photographs the album also contains 13 extraordinary larger format Civil War photos of great importance including several salt prints. The large Brady photographs include:

General McClellan and His Staff. Albumen print. 11 x 10 in. Taken in 1862 at Upton’s Hill, near Centreville, Va. It is said that the cannons of the Battle of Second Bull Run were audible in this camp while John Pope’s troops were defeated with out the expected support from McClellan’s troops.  (At page 53.)

Officers of Rhode Island First Regiment. Albumen print. 11 x 10 in. Summer 1861. Ambrose Burnside, then still a colonel, with the officers of his command. His troops were among the first to arrive in Washington at the start of the war. (At page 60.)

General Irvin McDowell and Staff. Albumen print. 11 x 10 in. Taken after Bull Run, July 1861, at Lee’s ancestral home, the Arlington Mansion, overlooking the Potomac. (At page 61.)

Provenance: Louis-Philippe d’Orleans, Comte de Paris (1838-1894); by descent to Prince Henri d’Orleans, Comte de Paris (1908-1999). Philippe, Comte de Paris, served on Gen. George McClellan’s staff in 1861 and 1862. He would have become king of France had not his grandfather been forced from the throne in 1848. He closely observed the early progress of the war and assembled this extraordinary album of photographs to documents the people he met and the events he witnessed.

The result is an exceptionally complete portrait of the leading figures of the Union Army and of army life in the first years of the war. This unique album contains a cross-section of the Civil War virtually impossible to obtain in a single set of images. This is the finest privately owned album we have encountered in over thirty years.

Donated to Cornell University as its 8 millionth book