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38 Rare Photos from the Civil War That Will Blow Your Mind!

Sherry Rucherman

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The Civil War is one of the most important wars in the history of the world. As the deadliest war in United States history, the Civil War divided the nation in a way that would leave a rippling effect ushering through the rest of the developing world. 5,000 battles would take place during a four-year period, across twenty states. While this war was instrumental in the formation of America as it is today, it was woefully under-documented. Today, we are going to guide you through 38 incredibly rare and stunning photos from the Civil War.

A Forgotten Soldier

This image shows a Union soldier stumbling across a Confederate soldier in the remnants of a burnt-out camp. The wounded soldier appears to have been left behind by his compatriots, likely due to the fact that he was too injured to travel. This image shows a close-up and personal view of the terrors that existed throughout the Civil War. When we stop and look at the war from a personal level, rather than a broad historical one, the consequences become alarmingly clear.

Most Famous Soldier of the Civil War

Ulysses S. Grant is one of the most famous men to have served during the Civil War. This rare image shows Grant standing before a tent in Cold Harbor, VA, in June of 1864. Grant was a pivotal leader during the war and his efforts would help to turn the tide, thus preserving the Union that we cherish to this day.

The Husk of Haxall’s Mills

This haunting image shows a string of burnt out buildings, known collectively as Haxall’s Mills. These buildings were razed by Confederate soldiers after working their way through Richmond, Virginia. At the time of this photo, Haxall’s Mills was the largest flour mill in the world, or at the least very near to the top. Bolling Haxall was the owner of the mill, and he was one of the wealthiest men in the country at the time.

Tragedy of General John Sedgewick

The decorated figure sitting before the tree is General John Sedgewick. General Sedgewick earned the honor of being the highest-ranked Union soldier to be killed in the Civil War. Sedgewick’s final words were haunting, as well. Sedgewick had been commanding his soldiers to stand up and return fire during a skirmish. Sedgewick’s last words were, “Stand up! They couldn’t shoot an elephant from this distance.”

The Battle of Sudley Springs

On July 21, 1861, the battle of Sudley Springs would begin. This horrific image shows the first real battle of the Civil War and the impact that it would have on the land and the people fighting within it. Throughout the broader Battle of Bull Run, more than 4,500 soldiers lost their lives, were grievously wounded, or simply vanished.

Fort Wagner’s Defense

You are looking at a 200-pound gun that was placed in defense of Fort Wagner, located on the Charleston Harbor. There were 13 total guns of this size defending the fort, making Fort Wagner difficult to approach, to say the least. These guns were set in place at Fort Wagner until 1863 when Confederate forces managed to overrun the Union fort.

Lincoln at Antietam

While President Lincoln was the face of the North during the Civil War, finding pictures of the President during the war can be difficult. Here we see Lincoln speaking with soldiers at a battlefield in Antietam, Maryland. Antietam was one of the defining battles during the Civil War as it succeeded in preventing Northern Virginia’s Confederate soldiers from invading the North. This battle would serve to inspire Lincoln during his writing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Shelling of Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter was one of the first places to be bombarded during the Civil War. Fort Sumter saw action on April 12, 1861, from Confederate forces who were angered by President Lincoln’s decision to reinforce the fort. The bombardment of Fort Sumter would help to kickstart the war. Nobody was killed during the bombardment as Union forces were quick to surrender.

Antietam’s Dunker Church

This haunting photo captures Dunker Church, located around Sharpsburg, MD. This church was involved in the Battle of Antietam as it served as a battlefield between the two forces. The Battle of Antietam was, of course, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the United States. The church was blown down by a storm before promptly being rebuilt.

Field of Cannon Balls

Have you ever seen a cannon in action? The loud booming noises must have scared soldiers to their core. Now, let your eyes trace the ground of this battlefield. All of those round items on the ground are massive cannonballs that served to tear men apart.  This image was captured in Richmond, Virginia.

Relaxing at Pine Cottage

This wooden hut may not look like much, but during the winter it would serve to keep soldiers warm. This building was known as Pine Cottage and it served as one of the few decently insulated buildings in the area. As a result, soldiers would gather at the building in order to stay warm when the weather started to turn.

Fistfight at Fredericksburg

During the Battle of Wilderness in 1864, a Union and Confederate soldier would both seek to take cover in the same gully. The two began arguing in order to try to convince the other to surrender. Eventually, they began a brawl that would cause the entire battle to pause. The entire battlefield watched the two men during their fistfight. Once the Confederate soldier won, the Union fighter agreed to surrender.

The War Council

This astonishing picture was captured in Ringgold, Georgia. In the middle of the picture, you will find General George Thomas. These war councils were instrumental in deciding how the Civil War would progress. Both the Union and the Confederacy would rely on impromptu war councils in order to advise their various commanders.

Meet the Albemarle

The Albemarle was an ironclad ram used by the Confederacy.  What you see here is all that remained of the ship after it was destroyed by Union forces. While the Albemarle was literally reduced to rubble, it still succeeded in taking out two Union ships while aiding in the death of Captain Fusser of the Miami.

Diplomats in New York State

While the Civil War consisted of the United States fighting itself, it still spawned interest from foreign nations. This image shows a collection of foreign diplomats from all of the world. Take in New York State in 1863, this image reveals foreign ministers from Great Britain, France, Italy, Sweden, Russia, and Nicaragua.

Inventions of Thaddeus Lowe

While hydrogen air balloons had already been a thing by the time of the Civil War, they had not made their way to North America. In this image, you see an inventor and Union soldier named Thaddeus Lowe standing by his hydrogen air balloon. Lowe believed that the balloons could be used for military advantage but, instead, he ended up being blown off course before landing in enemy territory.

The Dictator, Railroad Mortar

That horrifying looking cannon was known as the Dictator. This photo was captured in 1864 in Petersburg, Virginia. The Dictator weighed an astonishing 17,120 pounds and it would be used to shoot 218-pound shells over a span of 2.5 miles. To say that the Dictator had an impact during the war would be an understatement.

Sherman’s Neckties

During the civil war, resource management was incredibly important. Leaving steel behind could lead to Union soldiers seizing it for use on their railroad. As a result, confederate soldiers began burning steel in this formation. Union General William Sherman loved the idea and appropriated it for use, himself, thus claiming the name of the method.

Stopping at Deveraux Station

We already briefly talked about the importance of the railroad, so it is only fitting that we discuss Deveraux Station. This image shows the U.S. military feverishly working in order to develop the U.S. Military Railroad. These rails allowed Union soldiers to create a supply line across the nation as they continued pushing forward during the war.

Close Together

Did you know that Washington D.C. was only one hundred miles away from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia? The two capitals were so close together that soldiers from both sides would visit the other. Here, we see Union soldiers looking down on Richmond.  It would take the Union three years before they could overcome Richmond.

Firefly Train Engine

This astonishing image shows the impact that war can have on industrial development. We are looking at the Firefly Train Engine as it uses the Orange and Alexandria Railway. This railway was absolutely pivotal to supplying soldiers of both sides with life-saving resources and supplies. Owning the railway was an important point of contention between the North and South.

Thank  You, Mr. Brady

The man seated in the middle of this photograph is Matthew Harrison Brady. Brady is widely considered to be the original creator of photojournalism. Due to his work and expertise, we get to enjoy all of the photographs that you have been looking at. Without Brady and his work, who knows what we would have forgotten about the war? Unfortunately, Brady would die in debt after selling his photo collection for a fraction of its value.

United States Christian Commission

Religion obviously played a huge cultural role during the Civil War. In this image, we see the United States Christian Commission (USCC) in Germantown, MD. The USCC provided soldiers with supplies, medical resources, social assistance, and religious aid. The USCC isn’t widely known about, but it certainly made an impact during the war.

Meet the USS Monitor

While we tend to think of the Civil War as a land-based battle, it was anything but. This image shows the crew of the USS Monitor as it arrives at a battlefield in support of Union soldiers. The Monitor was a pivotal ship in the development of naval warfare and its battle with the Merrimack would go down in history.

Religious Service on Deck

As we’ve discussed several times, religious services were instrumental morale during the war. We’ve seen what the United States Christian Commission did for soldiers, now we see more soldiers attending to a religious service being held aboard the U.S. Passaic. The U.S. Passaic was a slow warship that carried larger weaponry during transportation.

Flanking of the James River

This image shows a large pontoon bridge. While fairly harmless in and of itself, this bridge would be employed by General Grant for one of the most impressive flanking maneuvers of the war. Grant sent his soldiers across the bridge in formation so that they could capture the Confederate advanced guard by surprise.

Alexandria Slave Auction House

Did you know that New Orleans was the largest slave center in the U.S. during the Civil War? It’s true! However, Alexandria, VA, was right behind New Orleans. Here we see a slave auction house located on Duke Street, located in Alexandria. Nowadays, the building is used as the location of the Freedom House Museum.

The Infamous General Sheridan

General Sheridan earned a reputation for himself that will live on forever down South. Most notably tied to the burning that he ordered in the Shenandoah Valley, General Sheridan was also considered to be one of the finest military minds of the war. Sheridan would become one of the greatest nemesis of General Robert E. Lee during the war.

Brompton Oak Plantation

Adequate medical care was almost impossible to find during the Civil War, so soldiers had to make do where they could. Here we are looking at the Brompton Oak plantation in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg. This area was used as a pop-up hospital for soldiers who were wounded in the battle of Spotsylvania. You can still tour the area in order to find buildings that are riddled with bullet holes.

Attack on Devil’s Den

The Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most famous battles in the world, as well as the most important battle of the Civil War. Now known for being a popular tourist destination, the Battlefield of Gettysburg is filled with areas that were pivotal to the outcome of the battle. One such place is Devil’s Den, a curious collection of rocks and boulders.

Famous Evergreen Cemetery

While we are still in Gettysburg, let’s head on over to the Evergreen Cemetery. This cemetery was built roughly a decade before the Battle of Gettysburg. Of course, you might also recognize the Evergreen Cemetery for being featured during the Gettysburg Address. During Lincoln’s speech, you can see the cemetery in the background of several photographs.

General Ambrose Burnside

General Ambrose Burnside probably had the most impressive facial features of the Civil War. Unfortunately, Burnside’s sideburns couldn’t protect him from making a rather terrible string of military decisions. Burnside replaced General McClellan before heading off on several reckless charges against General Lee. Burnside would only have the job for three months before resigning.

General Lee’s Arlington Home

This fascinating image shows the Arlington House. The Arlington House belonged to General Robert E. Lee, the face of the Confederate army. Once used as his home, this building is now a memorial to the work that Lee did while serving the Confederacy. While General Lee was staunchly against confederate memorials, we wonder what he’d think of his own memorial?

Custer Before Little Big Horn

George Armstrong Custer is famous for the Battle of Little Big Horn. Most notably, people conflate Custer’s name with being a poor military leader. However, Custer was once one of the most decorated soldiers in the Union army. The man next to Custer is John W. Lea, a confederate soldier that Custer had trained with while at West Point. Custer would save a wounded Lea during the Battle of Williamsburg, carrying him to a hospital where he would be saved.

The U.S. Capitol

This image shows the U.S. Capitol’s iron dome, looming over the surrounding area. The Capitol building was erected during the Civil War. Below the dome, you can see the stocks where a confederate captain named Henry Wirz would be executed. This powerful image also shows several men standing in the trees so that they could get a better view of the execution.

Little Round Top

Here you can see an image of Little Round Top. This image shows the area where the Union army almost got completely derailed. Little Round Top ended up being a rallying cry for the Union army and it would be instrumental in General Lee’s downfall as it motivated Pickett’s Charge. Many heroic men died on the land in this image.

Ford’s Theater

For a different view of the Civil War era, we are showing you the President’s Box at the Ford Theater. You will remember the Ford Theater, of course, as the place where President Lincoln was assassinated. The theater would be closed for over 100 years following the murder of Lincoln before opening once again in the 1960s.

Historic Artillery Barrage

This image shows the largest artillery barrage ever performed in North America. Led by Confederate general George Pickett, this barrage would lead to Pickett charging his 12,000 men toward the Union army. The barrage did little damage but Pickett didn’t know this, due to the accidental explosion of a Union ammunition store. Thinking that he was winning the battle, Pickett would charge headlong into defeat, losing half of his men along the way.

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Failure Provides Opportunities To Succeed

Lea Lomas

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The fear of failure is failure itself and stops you from moving farther in your life, such as pursuing a relationship a job or anything that requires you to step forward.  No one prevents you from achieving your dreams of a better livelihood. The reason why the goal goes unfulfilled is that you undercut your efforts out of fear of failure. You have convinced yourself that making an effort is worthless and is thus not worth doing. But in fact, making an effort is essential to achieve your goal.  

Stop Bullying Yourself

The struggle may be as simple as filling out an application or applications seeking the job. Fear of failure has the same effect of bullying yourself by having concerns that you will nor be successful.  Failure may lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy of failing, which is a form of circular reasoning in that you know you will fail and then chose a course that leads to failure.  

You Are Your Worst Enemy.

Your fears may be directly be related to the thinking that you do not deserve to be successful. How do you overcome the fear of failure? The definition of failure is different, and it varies from person to person who has a) different red lines to cross that defines failure, b) different values, and c) different belief systems. So what may be a failure to you could be on the road to success for another. So what is failure? You could be so afraid of failing that you become immobilized to the point of depression. You may have had bad experiences as a child and received no positive feedback from your parents. At one time, you were traumatized in your life by failure and stopped trying to succeed. As a result, you become trapped in life’s struggle.

 Negative Mindsets

With these types of experiences, you may have set a death trap, or mindsets, requiring one to reset your life to a better path. The following mindsets set the trap.
•  You sabotage yourself through procrastination, excessive anxiety, or a failure to follow through to achieve your goals.
•  No self-confidence, coupled with low self-esteem, pondering on negative self-feedback that your life will not get better or that you lack the skills or the ability to succeed or it’s too late to be successful.
•  Perfectionism – You developed artificial high standards and cannot reach a level of perfection or willingness to try.

Breaking the Cycle of Fear

1. Fear of failure has the same effect of bullying yourself by having concerns that you will nor be successful, which leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of failing, a form of circular reasoning in that you know you will fail and then chose a course that leads to failure.   
2.  Be your own best friend.  Love yourself, be your confidant, and not your worst enemy. Seeking external happiness, like a good relationship, may fatefully tie you to the failures of others that will not lead you to genuine fulfillment. It is up to you to change your own life.
3.  Whatever negative trait you may have should be viewed in the whole of a person that you are, so don’t be so hard on yourself or permit any other person’s negative view of yourself to define who you are.

Rational and Positive Thinking  

Failure is common and many times, precedes success. The most successful people have experienced palpable failure, such as Michael Jordan failed at basketball in high school. William Buffet was not academically qualified to be accepted at Harvard. Richard Branson does not have a high school diploma. The words “think positive” is not a mind game but a highly successful method of thinking that refuses to accept failure or treats failure as having another opportunity to succeed.

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How to Boost Self-Trust for the Ultimate in Self-Care

Mackenzie Freeman

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Trust is a concept that you know well. From the time you were born, you learned to trust in the inevitability that a person would do what is expected and promised. Trust is an essential part of your relationships first with your family (parents, siblings, and even extended family). It evolves to become the basis for learning and growth experiences, romances, and (hopefully) something more self-centered: self-trust.  

What is Self-Trust? 

It’s usually called self-trust or self-esteem. The concept traces back to the works of William James, the father of modern psychology, in 1890. His concept of self-trust or self-esteem involved a combination of achievements and expectations, so you could either achieve great things or just lower your expectations. That earliest concept of self-esteem, self-worth, or self-trust changed through the 1960’s as influential figures like Nathaniel Branden ushered in the self-esteem movement, and John Vasconcellos politicized the concept. Fixing self-esteem was lauded as a “social vaccine,” the magic bullet that would remediate or prevent drug abuse, crime, teen pregnancy, etc. The persuasive efforts of Vasconcellos inspired a task force in California turned into the National Association for Self-Esteem (NASE) in 1995.  

Further studies by Psychology Professor Roy Baumeister in the 1990’s demonstrated that the premise for self-esteem was problematic. It could not cure all societal ills, nor could it be easily boosted by artificial means. In 2006, Professor Jean Twenge further found that the current laser-focus on self-esteem not only fueled depression, but also facilitated narcissism. While the concept of “self-esteem” has gradually taken on a negative or skeptical tinge, self-love and self-trust as a more positive spin-off. If you go back to the innocence of youth, before self-doubt crept in, you get the core of who you are and what you want. It’s a diamond in the raw, unmarred by pretension or the fear of failure. It’s something precious, because in that state it’s really about knowing and loving yourself, which naturally equates to self-trust.  

Why is Self-Trust Important & How Do You Reach It?  

The concept of self-trust is important because it relies upon a firm faith and understanding of your own integrity, or sense of self. As you trust yourself, you find a confidence and clarify that you are making the right choices. Self-trust is not about arrogance or narcissism. With true self-trust, it is something beyond external validation or seeking approval, because you have an internal roadmap that lays out your path and direction. Self-trust is unconditional, beyond fear or risk. Even when it feels out of reach, at the bottom of the well, or just beyond reach—self-trust never goes away. It remains, unbroken. 

The question, then, is how do you reach self-trust, particularly since it’s so important for self-care? You might just find that it’s easier than you think. Here are a few top tips for redirecting your focus and mindset inward on your journey toward self-trust.  

Get to Know Yourself!  

Julia Cameron calls it an “artist’s date.” The idea is that you need to find out what makes you tick, feed your creativity, and explore your bliss. It could be a book store, a library, or a toy store. Your exploration could involve a dinosaur expo, a botanical garden, a robot or tech show, a gemstone exhibit, an art museum, or a nuclear science museum. There are countless variations on destinations that could start to restore your self-trust.  

Look Inward, First Thing 

You probably reach for your phone as a first thought when you wake up. It feels natural, but what would happen to your sense of self and self-trust if you repossessed the first moments of your day. Look out the window to notice that the sun is rising. Open a book of poems or quotes, and take time to let the words sink in. Meditate, practice your breath exercises, take 10 or 15 minutes to do Yoga or Pilates stretches in your comfortable spot. Stand in one spot, allowing the silence of your place to surround you. Embrace the blank slate that is the day ahead, as you restore your self-trust.  

Focus on the Now 

When you focus on past regrets or future worries, you’re focusing on fear, loss, and suffering. Instead of living in a state of fear of failure, self-trust allows us to live in the present moment. It can be scary, with a feeling that it’s an unprotected or vulnerable state. What you’ll find is that living in the now opens up a realm of other possibilities. It’s not for the faint of heart. It can take courage, inner fortitude, and more strength than you ever thought you had.  

It can feel hard. It may seem possible… It also might just change your life.

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You Have More Inner Strength Than You Know

Leslie Tander

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You have more strength than you realize. You’ve always had that strength burning inside of you. Do you remember when you fell down as a child? You skinned your knees. It hurt so bad. It was the worst pain that you had ever felt. You looked down and saw the blood. You wondered if you would ever recover. Then, magically, the bleeding stopped. New skin grew to take its place. The bruises that you received from that fall also faded. They eventually disappeared as if nothing had happened. Then, the healing process finished. You became stronger. You learned from this adventure and it made you a better person.

You have more strength than you realize. You have been struck down before. The world has told you no. Maybe you got denied for the job you so badly wanted. Maybe you got rejected from the school you always had dreams of attending. Even though the world told you no, you didn’t listen. You didn’t pay attention to anyone or anything that was going to tear you down. You didn’t let your wings get clipped. You didn’t let that anchor drag you to the bottom of the sea. You didn’t let anyone tell you what you could or couldn’t do. Even after the world said no, you found a way to spread your wings and fly again because that is who you are. That is where your strength comes from.

You have more strength than you realize. You decided to hold onto that vision of your dreams. You didn’t want them to tell you no. You ignored those who wanted to stop you. You ignored those who didn’t see or share your vision of what your future should look like. After all, who are they to dictate your future? Who are they to tell you how to live your life? Who are they to believe your dreams should be limited? You have so much strength inside of you. Your heart is so strong. Your bones are resilient. Your fingers are capable of painting a picture on the canvas of your future that knows no bounds. You do not settle for black and white when you know your life deserves to have the color of a thousand rainbows.

You have more strength than you realize. You can do the impossible. You have experienced grief in the past. You know what this feels like. You know that grief can shatter you in ways nobody else can. You feel guilty even though you know this isn’t your fault. You have always found a way to pick up the pieces of your broken heart and put them back together. Even when you felt like you were broken beyond repair. Even when you wanted nothing more than to curl up, close your eyes, and shut the world out, you got up and kept going. You did this because of the tremendous strength inside you. You decided not to let your wounds become scars. You decided to let your body heal just like your knees did when you were a child.

You did this because you have more strength than you realize. Now, you have risen to meet the challenges placed before you. You did this both for yourself and for the world who has told you no. You did this for the people who look to you as a source of inspiration. You do this because you want others to know that they have more strength than they realize as well. You have the strength to change the world.

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