Loss, Recuperation, and Identity

Barnard/Ruined railroad depot, Charleston, South Carolina
On February 18, 1865, the Northeastern Railroad Depot at Charleston, South Carolina was destroyed in a huge explosion set off by retreating Confederate soldiers. George Barnard, a photographer attached to Union forces, took this picture of the ruined depot. Because the rebellion began in Charleston, Northern audiences doubtless perceived the destruction as just retribution as well as confirmation of the fanatical character of the Rebel cause. While some paintings tended to glorify war, photography documented scenes of death and devastation with startling (and politically useful) immediacy.