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Civil War Portraits from the Liljenquist Family Collection: A New Teacher Primary Source Set of Photographs from the Library of Congress

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Samuel Doble with drum

A drummer boy gazes solemnly into the camera. Two soldiers clown around with cigars. A girl in a mourning dress holds a photo of her father in uniform.

The Library’s new primary source set, “Civil War Soldiers’ Portraits: The Liljenquist Family Collection,” brings students face to face with some of the everyday men and boys who fought in the Civil War. The photographs in the set were selected from the Library’s Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, which brings together more than a thousand special portrait photographs of Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors, together with letters, poems, patriotic envelopes, and photos of loved ones.

An African American soldier with his family

The Civil War was the most photographed war of its era, and these photos provide a sampling of the diverse individuals who took up arms, and of the variety of poses and moods that they brought before the camera. Although most of these men and women’s names have been lost to history, these photographs let students connect with them across the years, and convey a sense of the humanity and individuality of all those caught up in this vast conflict.

The set includes a background essay putting the photographs into context, along with teaching ideas that prompt students to ask questions about the lives of the men and women in the photographs.

To learn more about the Liljenquist family and the inspiration for their collection, read this essay by Brandon Liljenquist.

Which of these photographs speaks most powerfully to you, or to your students?



  1. What a remarkable family project! Done by kids not much different in age than the soldiers photographed it is a tribute to soldiers but also to the family who cared and worked together to share with all of us OUR Nation’s history!

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