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Hundreds of Civil War photos unearthed

Certain photographs can have an uncanny ability to influence their viewers.

For Brandon Liljenquist, a tintype photograph of an American Civil War drummer boy turned out to be such an image.

Liljenquist tells the Library of Congress that a portrait of a young Civil War drummer boy "reached across time to challenge his beliefs about what makes an army great, leading him on a journey of discovery."

Library of Congress

Young George W. Weeks of Company D, 8th Maine Infantry Regiment with a drum in front of painted backdrop showing shoreline with house and lighthouse. In a letter dated October 12, 1865, Weeks wrote to his mother, "I am coming home at last. I have served three years in the greatest army that was ever known." Weeks died from malaria at the age of 21.

Liljenquist recounts of his journey, "Over time, as my brother Jason and I learned more about the Civil War, we came to understand the meaning of Weeks' words. We came to learn the ideals an army embraces are what make it great, not its military prowess." 

Library Of Congress

Five soldiers, four unidentified, in Union uniforms of the 6th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia outfitted with Enfield muskets in front of encampment.

Facts discovered and sentiments expressed by soldiers caused the Liljenquist family to dig deeper and broaden their collection.

Library of Congress

Unidentified young soldier in Confederate shell jacket, Hardee hat with Mounted Rifles insignia and plume with canteen and cup.

In just over 15 years, the Liljenquist family amassed over 700 images, the majority now on display at the Library of Congress. Read more about the Liljenquist family collection here.

Library of Congress

Unidentified young soldier in Union uniform and forage cap with revolver

"The photographs were acquired from a myriad of sources: shops specializing in historical memorabilia, civil war shows, photography shows, antique centers, estate auctions, eBay, and other collectors like us. Assembling this collection has been a labor of love for our entire family," Lindquist said.

Library of Congress

Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters.

"The biggest surprise for everyone was seeing images of African American soldiers. Our classmates were unaware of the significant contribution these soldiers made to the Union victory."

Striking portraits of the young men who fought and died in the US Civil War go on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC this week, to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the fighting. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

In the end, Liljenquist hopes the photographs illustrate the magnitude of our nation's loss of 620,000 lives in a way never before shown in the history books.

Related content:
Civil War stereographs on Flickr
Library of Congress' 1600+ stereographs
150 years on, 3-D Civil War photos unveiled
How Civil War photography changed war

 

**editor's note (4/12/2011) When this post was initially published, the photos were reported to be on display at the National Archives, which is incorrect. The photos are on display at the Library of Congress.