Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner


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Alexander Gardner was born in Paisley, Renfew, Scotland on 17th October, 1821. The family moved to Glasgow and at the age of fourteen Gardner left school and became an apprentice jeweler.

As a young man Gardner became interested in the socialist ideas being advocated by Robert Owen. Inspired by the New Harmony community established by Robert Dale Owen and Fanny Wright in Indiana, Gardner helped establish the Clydesdale Joint Stock Agricultural & Commercial Company. The plan was to raise funds and to acquire land in the United States.

In 1850 Gardner, his brother James Gardner, and seven others travelled to the United States. He purchased land and established a cooperative community close to Monona, in Clayton County, Iowa. Gardner returned to Scotland to help raise more money and to recruit new members.

Gardner used some of his funds to purchase the newspaper, the Glasgow Sentinel. Published every Saturday, the newspaper reported on national and international news. In his editorials, Gardner advocated social reforms that would benefit the working class. Within three months of taking control of the newspaper, circulation had grown to 6,500, making it the second-best selling newspaper in Glasgow.

In May, 1851, Gardner visited the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, where he saw the photographs of Matthew Brady. Soon afterwards Gardner, who had always been interested in chemistry and science, began experimenting with photography. He also began reviewing exhibitions of photographs in the Glasgow Sentinel.

Gardner decided to emigrate to the United States in the spring of 1856. He took with him his mother, his wife, Margaret Gardner, and their two children. When he arrived at the Clydesdale colony, he discovered that several members were suffering from tuberculosis. His sister, Jessie Sinclair, had died from the disease and her husband was to follow soon afterwards.

Gardner decided to abandon the Clydesdale community and settle his family in New York. Soon afterwards he found employment as a photographer with Matthew Brady. Gardner was an expert in the new collodion (wet-plate process) that was rapidly displacing the daguerreotype. Gardner specialized in making what became known as Imperial photographs. These large prints (17 by 20 inches) were very popular and Brady was able to sell them for between $50 and $750, depending on the amount of retouching with india ink that was required.

In the 1850s Brady's eyesight began to deteriorate and began to rely heavily on Gardner to run the business. In February, 1858, Gardner was put in charge of Brady's gallery in Washington. He quickly developed a reputation as an outstanding portrait photographer. He also trained the young apprentice photographer, Timothy O'Sullivan.

On the outbreak of the American Civil War there was a dramatic increase in the demand for Gardner's work as soldiers wanted to be photographed in uniform before going to the front-line. The following officers were all photographed at the Matthew Brady Studio: Nathaniel Banks, Don Carlos Buell, Ambrose Burnside, Benjamin Butler, George Custer, David Farragut, John Gibbon, Winfield Hancock, Samuel Heintzelman, Joseph Hooker, Oliver Howard, David Hunter,John Logan, Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, James McPherson, George Meade, David Porter, William Rosecrans, John Schofield, William Sherman, Daniel Sickles, George Stoneman, Edwin Sumner, George Thomas, Emory Upton, James Wadsworth and Lew Wallace.

In July, 1861 Matthew Brady and Alfred Waud, an artist working for Harper's Weekly, travelled to the front-line and witnessed Bull Run, the first major battle of the war. The battle was a disaster for the Union Army and Brady came close to being captured by the enemy.

Soon after arriving back from the front Matthew Brady decided to make a photographic record of the American Civil War. He sent Gardner, James Gardner, Timothy O'Sullivan, William Pywell, George Barnard, and eighteen other men to travel throughout the country taking photographs of the war. Each one had his own travelling darkroom so that that collodion plates could be processed on the spot. This included Gardner's famous President Lincoln on the Battlefield of Antietam and Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (1863).

In November, 1861, Gardner was appointed to the staff of General George McClellan, the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Granted the honorary rank of captain, Gardner photographed the battles of Antietam (September, 1862), Fredericksburg (December, 1862), Gettysburg (July, 1863) and the siege of Petersburg (June, 1864-April, 1865).

He also photographed Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold after they were arrested and charged with conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. He also took photographs of the execution of Surratt, Powell, Atzerodt and Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on 7th July, 1865. Four months later he photographed the execution of Henry Wirz, the commandant of Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

After the war Brady established Gardner own gallery in Washington. This included taking photographs of convicted criminals for the Washington police force. He also published a two-volume collection of 100 photographs from the American Civil War, Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War (1866).

In 1867 Gardner became the official photographer of the Union Pacific Railroad. As well as documenting the building of the railroad in Kansas, Gardner also photographed Native Americans living in the area. Alexander Gardner died in Washington in 1882.

For the purpose of acquiring land in some suitable locality in the United States of America in which to establish by means of the united capital and industry of its partners a comfortable home for themselves and families where they may follow a more simple useful and rational mode of life than is found practicable in the complex and competitive state of society from which they have become anxious to retire.

The present proprietor who had long felt the necessity of an efficient and independent Democratic newspaper in Scotland was induced to become the purchaser April last not as mere speculation in the usual sense of the term but as a means of enlightening the public on the great political, educational, and social questions of the times and of guiding right the popular mind of this country on all matters of state policy whatever advice was necessary or important.

The portraits of the heroes who have done so much for the honour of the allies are most vividly portrayed. We can hardly commend any of the photographs more than another, but we would suggest to the visitor to pay particular attention to the one on the "Council of War" held on the night previous to the taking of Mamelon.

It will be seen from an advertisement in another column that Mr. Gardner is practicing among us as a photographic artist and the portraits he has turned out of several well known townsmen entitle him to be considered among the foremost professors of this beautiful art.

M. B. Brady respectfully announces that he has established a Gallery of Photographic Art in Washington. he is prepared to execute commissions for the Imperial Photograph, hitherto made only at his well-known establishment in New York. A variety of unique and rare photographic specimens are included in his collection, together with portraits of many of the most distinguished citizens of the United States.

Brady's Photographic Corps, heartily welcomed in each of our armies, has been a feature as distinct and omnipresent as the corps of balloon, telegraph, and signal operators. They have threaded the weary stadia of every march; have hung on the the skirts of every battle scene; have caught the compassion of the hospital, the romance of the bivouac, the pomp and panoply of the field review.

Brady's artists have accompanied the army on nearly all its marches, planting their sun batteries by the side of our Generals' more deathful ones, and taking towns, cities and forts with much less noise and vastly more expedition. The result is a series of pictures christened Incidents of War, and nearly as interesting as the war itself: for they constitute the history of it, and appeal directly to the great throbbing hearts of the north.

Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations. It is so nearly like visiting the battlefield to look over these views that all the emotions excited by the actual sight of the stained and sordid scene, stewed with rags and wrecks, come back to us, and we buried them in the recesses of our cabinet as we would have buried the mutilated remains of the dead they too vividly represented. The sight of these pictures is a commentary on civilization such as the savage might well triumph to show its missionaries.

The space between two large rocks was walled up and the loop holed so that he could take deliberate aim at any one who showed himself on round top, he had been wounded on the head with part of a shell. As the canteen and surrounding indicates that he had lain sometime before he died. When passing over the field in November afterwards I took a friend to see the place and there the bones lay in the clothes he had been wearing. He had evidently never been buried.

(x) Captain Christian Rath, was placed in charge of the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold. He was later interviewed about his role in the event.

I was determined to get rope that would not break, for you know when a rope breaks at a hanging there is a time-worn maxim that the person intended to be hanged was innocent. The night before the execution I took the rope to my room and there made the nooses. I preserved the piece of rope intended for Mrs. Surratt for the last.

I had the graves for the four persons dug just beyond the scaffolding. I found some difficulty in having the work done, as the arsenal attaches were superstitious. I finally succeeded in getting soldiers to dig the holes but they were only three feet deep.

The hanging gave me a lot of trouble. I had read somewhere that when a person was hanged his tongue would protrude from his mouth. I did not want to see four tongues sticking out before me, so I went to the storehouse, got a new white shelter tent and made four hoods out of it. I tore strips of the tent to bind the legs of the victims.

(x) William Coxshall, a member of the Veteran Reserve Corps, was assigned the task of dropping the trapdoor on the left side of the gallows.

The prison door opened and the condemned came in. Mrs. Surratt was first, near fainting after a look at the gallows. She would have fallen had they not supported her. Herold was next. The young man was frightened to death. He trembled and shook and seemed on the verge of fainting. Atzerodt shuffled along in carpet slippers, a long white nightcap on his head. Under different circumstances, he would have been ridiculous.

With the exception of Powell, all were on the verge of collapse. They had to pass the open graves to reach the gallows steps and could gaze down into the shallow holes and even touch the crude pine boxes that were to receive them. Powell was as stolid as if he were a spectator instead of a principal. Herold wore a black hat until he reached the gallows. Powell was bareheaded, but he reached out and took a straw hat off the head of an officer. He wore it until they put the black bag on him. The condemned were led to the chairs and Captain Rath seated them. Surratt and Powell were on our drop, Herold and Atzerodt on the other.

Umbrellas were raised above the woman and Hartranft, who read the warrants and findings. Then the clergy took over talking what seemed to me interminably. The strain was getting worse. I became nauseated, what with the heat and the waiting, and taking hold of the supporting post, I hung on and vomited. I felt a little better after that, but not too good.

Powell stood forward at the very front of the droop. Surratt was barely past the break, as were the other two. Rath came down the steps and gave the signal. Surratt shot down and I believed died instantly. Powell was a strong brute and died hard. It was enough to see these two without looking at the others, but they told us both died quickly.


LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Cowan's Auctions.

After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 Alexander Gardner photographed some of the key locations involved in the tragedy. Right away he photographed Ford’s Theater where it happened and the swags of black mourning muslin covering the building. Then he moved inside and photographed the interior including the Presidential box where Lincoln was shot.

He captured intricate details in his photos like the tear in the flag that John Wilkes Booth caused when his spur caught the flag as he jumped from Lincoln’s box. He photographed the stables where the assassin kept his horse and the telegraph office from which the world learned of the tragedy.

He went to the location of Booth’s escape across the Navy Yard Bridge and took photos. Gardner also provided copies of pictures of the murder suspects and was in the room during Booth’s autopsy.

He photographed the body. The image mysteriously disappeared afterword.

Gardner and his assistant Timothy O’Sullivan were the only photographers present for the hangings of Lincoln’s conspirators. They set up their camera on a roof overlooking the gallows. Gardner was also there as departing spectators dined on the lemonade and cakes they were served.

In those moments Gardner knew he was an eyewitness to history and understood the importance of documenting the tragedy. His photos are some of the most vivid shots taken of the assassination and the aftermath.

The two photojournalists missed little.

His images appear to be the first photographic picture story of an event as it unfolded. They demonstrated the revolutionary role the camera was about to play in future news reporting.

“The very things which an artist would leave out, or render imperfectly, the photograph takes infinite care with,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes.

That’s what Gardner did in his Lincoln photos. Over 140 years later the spectator gets the same bird’s-eye-view of the tragedy unfolding as the photographer did.

Gardner was a Scottish journalist who came to America in 1856. He joined the staff of photographer Mathew Brady and ultimately managed his Washington studio. He specialized in making large images called Imperial photographs.

As Brady’s eyesight failed, Gardner assumed more responsibility. He is said to have made three-quarters of the campaign pictures of the Army of the Potomac.

With the start of the Civil War in 1861 there was a big demand for portrait photography. Soldiers headed to the front posed for Gardner’s camera so they could leave behind images for their loved ones.

He was also the first Brady photographer to take photos of the dead in the battlefield. His images brought the people at home face-to-face with the Civil War.

Gardner opened his own gallery in Washington in 1863. He was appointed the official photographer of the Union Pacific Railroad and documented the building of the railroad in Kansas as well as the Native American tribes he met.

On Dec 10, Cowan’s Auctions offered a selection of vintage Gardner photos in its American History Including the Civil War auction.

Civil War photo meeting of the Shenandoah and Potomac at Harper’s Ferry 1866 copyright 7 inches by 9 inches $1,528.

Captain William W. Beckwith and Genl. Patrick’s Horse 2 photos both 6 ¾ inches by 8 ¾ inches $2,350.

Stereoviews Union Operations at City Point, Belle Plain and Bermuda Hundred 11 stereoviews circa 1864-65 $2,468.

Stereoviews of Gen. Grant and his staff 4 stereoviews 1863 copyright includes three photos of Grant’s Council of War 1864 $3,408.

Photo probably taken from his Washington studio rooftop previously unknown and unpublished pictures storefronts of his neighbors circa 1866 18 ½ inches by 13 inches $35,250.


1. Death on Camera: Mathew Brady’s Civil War Photographs

Dead Confederate soldiers near Dunker Church following the Battle of Antietam. Photograph by Alexander Gardner

In 1862, at the height of the Civil War, photographer Mathew Brady—whose 1864 portrait of Abraham Lincoln is visible on the $5 bill—organized an exhibition in his New York studio called “The Dead of Antietam.” For the first time, Americans saw images, primarily taken by Brady staffer Alexander Gardner, of the soldiers killed and maimed on the battlefield the results were shocking. “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war,” wrote The New York Times in October 20, 1862. “If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.”While Brady was not the first war photographer—Roger Fenton of Great Britain and Carol Szathmari of Austria-Hungary captured images of the Crimean War of the 1850s—he and his staff are largely recognized as the fathers of photojournalism.


Chief Lobbyist

Red cloud started down the path of becoming the most photographed American Indian of the 19th century one spring morning in 1872, a few blocks from the White House. Before meeting with President Ulysses S. Grant, the Lakota chief agreed to sit for Mathew Brady, famed for his Civil War-era photographs and his portraits of the prominent. Two days later, Red Cloud posed at the nearby studio of Alexander Gardner, Brady's former assistant and one of the founders of American photojournalism. That session yielded a picture that was a bestseller in its day and is one of the earliest, most striking photographs of an Indian chief in his prime.

Aside from the tribal blanket around his waist, Red Cloud's dress is simple. "My great-great-grandfather was both a leader and a warrior, but he was also a man," says Dorene Red Cloud, 34, an artist in Gardner, Massachusetts. The chief, she says, wanted Washington leaders to see him as a diplomat, "minus the glamour or pomp or circumstance of feathers and beads."

Not much is known about Red Cloud's visit to Gardner's studio, says Frank Goodyear III, a curator of photographs for the National Portrait Gallery and author of the 2003 book Red Cloud: Photographs of a Lakota Chief. Gardner made at least four different plates, and the session was arranged by a wealthy land speculator named William Blackmore, who was collecting photographs for a museum about Native peoples he'd opened in 1867 in his hometown of Salisbury, England.

The Scottish-born Gardner, once a Glasgow newspaperman, had been living in Washington since 1856. He started as Brady's assistant and occasional bookkeeper, but launched his own studio in 1863, after what D. Mark Katz, in his Witness to an Era: The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner, calls an "amicable" break with Brady. In 1865, Gardner published a volume of frontline Civil War scenes, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War. He also won recognition for his images of Abraham Lincoln and other leading figures. He made his mark not with technical innovations but by "affecting public awareness," Katz writes, whether through "authentic images of the horrors of the battlefield" or mug shots of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. After the war, Gardner briefly went West, where he documented treaty signings between Indians and U.S. officials. Gardner retired in 1879 and died three years later at age 61.

The best-known Indian leader of his time, Red Cloud had become a warrior in clashes with the U.S. military in the Northern Plains. In 1868, he reluctantly signed the Fort Laramie Treaty, which reaffirmed the Lakota's hunting rights, sectioned off the Great Sioux Reservation and required the government to remove military forts.

But the government didn't hold up its end of the deal, and even built a new fort on Lakota soil. After meeting with Grant the first time, in 1870, a frustrated Red Cloud was quoted as telling Secretary of the Interior Jacob Cox that the treaty was "all lies." He added: "We have been driven far enough we want what we ask for." Officials, meanwhile, had hoped to wangle from Red Cloud access to the Lakota's gold-rich Black Hills (which they obtained years later). During the chief's second visit to Grant, in 1872, Red Cloud sensed more respect, and as a kind of diplomatic gesture, Goodyear says, he agreed to have his picture taken.

In years to come, Red Cloud would journey from his home in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to Washington eight more times and hobnob with officials from three other administrations, frequently on his own initiative. Photographers clamored to capture him on film, and the 128 known photographs of the chief trace his quest to hang onto influence while most people believed American Indian culture would go the way of the dinosaurs. In photographs from the 1880s, Red Cloud sports short hair and tailored suits, which he had hoped would help win over U.S. leaders. Those efforts proved futile, and he let his hair grow. The final portraits show a frail, white-haired, nearly blind old man, seemingly wistful for his tribe's glory days. He died in 1909 at age 88.

But at Gardner's studio in 1872, Red Cloud fixes his gaze directly forward—a "strikingly modern" view, Goodyear says, that distinguishes this image from the rest: "He's at the top of his game as a diplomat and tribal leader. You can sense this is not a defeated man."


Alexander Gardner’s Photographs of the Civil War

Alexander Gardner may be best known for his photographic work during the American Civil War era of the 1860s. Gardner was born in Scotland in 1821 and started originally as an apprentice jeweler. After seeing Mathew Brady’s photographs at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, Gardner knew he had to be involved in the newly-evolving world of photography.

Mathew Brady likely paid for Alexander Gardner’s passage to the United States, and later hired Gardner to manage Brady’s Washington, D.C. photography studio in 1858. As the American Civil War broke out in 1861, photos were in high demand for soldiers wanting to leave something behind for their families. At the time, Gardner became one of the top photographers for these portraits.

After witnessing the Civil War battle at Manassas, Virginia, Mathew Brady knew the war needed to be documented. In his effort to capture the tragedy before him, Brady hired photographers–including Gardner–and equipped them with a travelling darkroom. Alexander Gardner is recorded as photographing the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Petersburg. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, Gardner ceased working with Brady and began photographing the Civil War for himself. With his traveling darkroom, Gardner could photograph and develop all of his images out in the field. Many of the photographs taken during the Civil War were publicly displayed, in order to bring the realities of war to the forefront of the general public’s attention. Gardner’s images were some of the few to hit home the hardest.

At the end of the Civil War, Gardner took one of the last photographs of President Abraham Lincoln before his assassination. He would also go on to photograph the execution of the Lincoln Assassination conspirators.

In 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad appointed Gardner as their official photographer. He would document the railroad in Kansas, as well as the Native American tribes he encountered along the way. Shortly after in 1871, Gardner would give up photography altogether and pursue a career in insurance until his death in 1882.


The true story behind the Gettysburg sharpshooter

Today’s post comes from curator Bruce Bustard. These photographs and documents are on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, until July 15 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 5, 1863, photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant, Timothy O’Sullivan, arrived at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle had ended two days earlier. On parts of the battlefield, bodies were still unburied.

Over the next three days, Gardner did not hesitate to photograph the carnage. On July 6, when he saw the body of a Confederate soldier in an area called “Devil’s Den,” he photographed it. He and O’Sullivan then saw an opportunity for another, more dramatic photograph. They moved the corpse more than 40 yards to what they believed to have been the sharpshooter’s position, and O’Sullivan made another exposure.

The photographs became two of the most famous of the Civil War, but for over 100 years historians did not question the captions Gardner wrote for them in his Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. These described a “sharpshooter” who had died a slow death and who had spent his final moments thinking of his family. Gardner also wrote that when he returned to Gettysburg in November 1863, the body and the gun were still there.

In 1975, historian William A. Frassanito proved that it is always possible to learn more about history by studying the records. He examined the photographs, which are among the records held by the National Archives, and compared them to the modern Gettysburg battlefield terrain. He demonstrated that the body in both was the same person. The gun, not one a sharpshooter was likely to have used, was probably a prop. Furthermore, it was impossible that a body would have remained unburied for months or that a rifle would have escaped relic hunters.

By questioning Gardner’s captions, Frassanito reminds us to critically examine historical documents. Historians and citizens continue this questioning, always hoping to better understand the ferocious battle that raged from July 1 to 3, 1863.


Alexander Gardner

By the time Alexander Gardner emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1856 , he was already an accomplished photographer, with an interest in optics, astronomy, and chemistry. He introduced himself to Mathew Brady, whose work Gardner had seen at the Crystal Palace exhibition in London. Brady was impressed by Gardner’s expertise with the difficult wet-plate negative/​paperprint process, which was rapidly displacing the daguerreotype in America. In 1858 Garnder moved to Washington, D.C., to manage Brady’s gallery there. For a short time he was part of Brady’s team of Civil War photographers, but in a disagreement over attribution of his work (Brady published all pictures taken by his staff as the work of Brady & Co.), Gardner left to establish his own business photographing the war. In 1866 he published Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, a two volume work with text and one hundred images taken by himself and several other photographers, including Timothy O’Sullivan and John Reekie, whos images are meticulously credited.

Burnside Bridge, Across Antietam Creek, Maryland shows the site of some of the most desperate fighting during the Battle of Antietam. The accompanying caption in the Sketch Book describes a battle scene in which ​ “ the dead and wounded on the field…seemed countless,” and an aftermath in which ​ “ the Confederates were burried where they fell, and our own dead carefully interred in groups, which were enclosed with the material of fences overthrown in the struggle.” In fact, the picture was taken sometime after the battle. Documenting a landscape that hides a cemetery, the photographer shows a bridge — ​ “ the only monument of many gallant men who sleep in the meadow at its side.”

Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996 )

American Photographs: The First Century from the Isaacs Collection in the National Museum of American Art

In the nineteenth century, people from all walks of life embraced the new medium of photography with unparalleled enthusiasm. For artist and inventor Samuel F. B.

The Civil War and American Art

The Civil War redefined America and forever changed American art. The war’s grim reality, captured through the new medium of photography, was laid bare. American artists could not glamorize the hero on the battlefield.


Alexander Gardner (soldier)

Alexander Haughton Campbell Gardner (or Gardiner), also known as Gordana Khan (Persian: گوردانہ خان ‎ Punjabi: ਗੋਰਦਾਨਾ ਖ਼ਾਨ 1785–1877), was an American traveller, soldier, and mercenary. He travelled to Afghanistan and Punjab and served in various military positions in the region. Details of his life remain obscure, though several colourful accounts have been written. Although corroborating evidence is sparse, Scottish historian John Keay wrote biographies in 1977, 1979, and, most thoroughly, The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner, in 2017. [2]

By Gardner's own accounts he was born in Wisconsin to a Scottish father and Anglo-Spanish mother. Baron von Hügel met Gardner in 1835 and claimed he was Irish, but supporting evidence for this is lacking. [3]

Gardner went to Ireland in about 1809. He returned to America in 1812, but finding his father dead sailed for Europe and never went back to America. From Europe he traveled to Astrakhan where his brother was working. Upon his brother's death in 1817 Gardner tried to secure a position in the Russian Army. When that failed he left Russia and spent the next 13 years wandering through Central Asia.

In 1823 he was captured in Afghanistan by Habib Ullah Khan, the nephew of Dost Mohammed Khan. Habib Ullah was fighting his uncle for the throne of Kabul, and he recruited Gardner to his cause as the commander of 180 horsemen. After an attack on a pilgrim caravan Gardner married one of the captives, a native woman, and went to live in a fort near Parwan where a son was born. When Habib Ullah was defeated in 1826, Gardner's wife and his baby boy were murdered by Dost Mahommed's forces. Later that year Gardner fled north with a few companions and near the River Oxus his party was attacked by fifty horsemen: they lost eight out of their thirteen men and the survivors were all wounded but able to escape. Their route now lay towards Badakhshan and the valley of the Kokcha the Oxus was finally crossed opposite the Shakhdara to reach the valley of Shignan. From this point his narrative is fragmentary and difficult to understand, large parts being highly improbable or impossible. He claimed to have reached Yarkand on 24 September but the year is uncertain, either 1827, 1828 or 1829 are possible, certainly he was there by 1830. He returned to Afghanistan, and visited Kafiristan, possibly the first westerner to do so. [3] In August 1831 he left Afghanistan as an outlaw for the Punjab, where he was appointed Commandant of Artillery. He served in this position for many years before he was transferred to the service of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, where he was one of between 32 and 100 Western soldiers in Ranjit's army. [4] He was later promoted to the rank of colonel by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Epigraph of Alexander Gardner's Autobiography

He remained in the Sikh army after Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, til the First Anglo-Sikh War.

Gardner was involved in numerous gun and sword fights during his career. He was described as being six-foot, with a long beard, an all around warrior and fighter. Gardner was known to have saved the City of Lahore in 1841 when his comrades abandoned him and he fired the guns that killed 300 enemies. [ citation needed ]

Gardner remained in the service of the Maharajas as they came and went, and witnessed the fall of the Punjab as a sovereign kingdom. This he vividly described in his book on the Fall of the Sikh Empire. [5]

He is described as continuing to suffer the effects of fourteen wounds in later life. [3] He is supposed to have been difficult to understand due "variously to his lack of teeth, his liking for alcohol, his considerable age or the sing-song lilt of his rusty English it could equally have been caused by the gash in his throat which was the most obvious of his many wounds and which obliged him to clamp a pair of forceps to his neck whenever he ate or drank." [6]

Gardner kept a journal, much of which was lost. Extracts were published in 1853, and attracted controversy. His exploits were so bizarre that the geographer Sir Henry Yule disbelieved them. [3] In later life, Gardner related his adventures to several prospective biographers, and after his death the surviving material was published in Soldier and Traveller: memoirs of Alexander Gardner edited by Major Hugh Pearse. [7]

Gardner appears as a major supporting character in the novel Flashman and the Mountain of Light. Parts of his journey are added into The Man Who Would Be King, particularly his visit to Kafiristan.


The J. Paul Getty Museum

As an idealistic young reporter and newspaper editor in Glasgow, Scotland, Alexander Gardner dreamed of forming a semi-socialistic colony somewhere in what he thought of as the unspoiled wilderness of America. He selected a place in Iowa, but even though he sent family and friends to live there, Gardner never joined them. Instead, when he disembarked in New York he remained. The celebrated American photographer Mathew Brady had probably paid for his passage, though how they came to be acquainted is unknown. Gardner, who had spent his spare time in Scotland studying science, became Brady's assistant for seven years. He was manager of Brady's Washington, D.C., gallery until the American Civil War broke out in 1861.

Working for Brady's studio until 1862, Gardner is said to have made three-quarters of the campaign pictures of the Army of the Potomac. In 1866 he published Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War, the first published collection of Civil War photographs, comprised of one hundred photographs by himself and eleven photographers working for him, including Timothy O'Sullivan and John Reekie. It was a commercial failure. After the war Gardner finally traveled West to his promised land, photographing along the way.

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Alexander Gardner

One of the earliest photographic records of the state is a series of stereographs depicting the route of the Union Pacific Railroad. The photographer was Alexander Gardner of Washington, D. C.

Glasgow Sentinel editor Alexander Gardner saw a Mathew Brady photo exhibit at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and developed an avid interest in photography. The Scotland native moved to the United States in 1856 and started working for Mathew Brady, eventually managing his Washington, D.C., gallery.

Brady had the idea of documenting the Civil War with photographs, but he needed a way to communicate his idea directly to President Abraham Lincoln. Gardner&rsquos connection to intelligence agent Alan Pinkerton was the key, and permission was granted for Brady&rsquos corps of photographers to follow Union army troops into the field.

Brady&rsquos practice of labeling all work done by his employees as &ldquoPhotography by Brady&rdquo caused many to think that Brady himself took all the Civil War photos for which he became famous. While he did provide the financial and logistical resources that allowed the images to be taken, Brady tended to stay in the Washington office to coordinate his staff&rsquos work as they moved from battle to battle. Gardner photographed the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Petersburg, developing the images in his traveling darkroom.

In 1863 Gardner and his brother James opened their own studio, hiring several of Brady&rsquos former employees. They published the two-volume Gardner&rsquos Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War in 1866, which included the work of the Gardner brothers and their staff.

Gardner was also known for his photographs of Abraham Lincoln, including the last to be taken of the president, four days before his assassination. Gardner photographed Lincoln&rsquos funeral and John Wilkes Booth&rsquos conspirators at their hanging.

After the war, Gardner was commissioned to survey and photograph the proposed route of the Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern Division. The series of approximately 150 views was entitled "Across the Continent on the Kansas Pacific Railroad-1867." The photos include street scenes, buildings, geography, local geological attractions, and even a picture of Gardner's photographic crew. Included are views of Ellsworth and Hays when they were less than a year old. There are also numerous views of older cities such as Topeka, Lawrence, and Wyandotte, now a part of Kansas City, Kansas. Gardner was impressed by the broad plains as is evident from titles such as "View embracing twelve miles of prairie" or "The extreme distance is five miles off." The negatives used at the time were glass plates coated with a wet chemical solution that had to be processed within an hour. Photographers had to have a darkroom close at hand. The images are the earliest photographic records of our state. You can view these images at the Kansas Historical Society&rsquos State Archives & Library in Topeka or online at kansasmemory.org.

Gardner left photography in the early 1870s and became the head of the Masonic Mutual Relief Association for the District of Columbia. He died in 1882.

Entry: Gardner, Alexander

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.

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