The Civil War In Color

Photography was in its infancy in the early 19th century. One of the best photographers of the time was Mathew Brady. Much of Brady’s early work was with daguerreotypes, for which he won many awards. Daguerreotype photography gave way to ambrotype photography, which eventually gave way to albumen print photography. Albumen print photography was a paper photograph produced from a large glass negative, which was the common process during the Civil War period.

In the early days of the Civil War, Brady earned a brisk business in the sales of cartes de visite to soldiers in transit. It was taking a portrait of a soldier for their families, advertising with the slogan, “You cannot tell how soon it may be too late.” Brady, however, had become taken with the notion of documenting the war. Many, both north and south, had seen the war to last a few weeks, may be a year at most. Brady had applied to his old friend, Gen Winfield Scott, asking permission to photograph battlefield sites. He eventually made application to President Lincoln, requesting permission to photograph the war. Lincoln gave permission, provided Brady financed the project himself. And so, Brady’s project to photograph the grand scale of war began, which cemented his place in American history and photographic history.

Many of his photographic images are considered historical treasures, particularly here in the United States. From formal portrait sittings to the aftermath of a fierce battle, Brady captured it all.

Recently, British colorist Jordan Lloyd and Danish colorist Mads Madsen began colorizing images from the Civil War period. Both have an interest in the Civil War, particularly of the many images that were taken during the war. The photos Lloyd and Madsen have colorized gives a sense of that era, ranging from heroes to villains. Unlike many other colorization projects, Lloyd and Madsen have refined their processes and methods, to give an authentic presentation with great attention to detail. In their work, you do not see unusual colors in the scene or odd-colored skin tones.

A sampling of their work:

Gen Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General – Army of The Potomac


Confederate Gen George E. Pickett


Lewis Powell, John Wilkes Booth co-conspirator


It is a most impressive project, especially from a historical perspective.

More information and photos on the project can be found at The Daily Mail, and the Lloyd and Madsen Facebook pages here and here. Information on Mathew Brady can be found here.


Many thanks to John Hinderaker of PowerLine writing about the colorization project here.


3 thoughts on “The Civil War In Color

  1. It seems an unusual thing to do to give colour to images, where we seem to live in a world where most seem to prefer black and white. I have to admit I think they are really well done and if you didn’t know that they has been colourised I doubt people would guess. The of Lewis Powell, I thought was a modern images when I first saw it, it looks like something that could have been taken now. Grant seems like a such a small man, for someone so important, I guess we always think these people are giants among us.

    • Historical images, like those from the Civil War, I would rather leave them in B&W since color photography didn’t exist at the time. The two individuals doing the colorization process have done a remarkable job, I think their interest in the Civil War had them to take great care. The Lewis Powell portrait, it does look very modern. It may be saying not much is different between the 1860s and today. Gen Grant wasn’t a tall man, about 5-foot-1-inch in height.

      • I think I agree about the images, I think they would be best left black and white too, it is how they were done and it how all photographs were done back them.
        So a very short man, interesting.

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