Reed Bontecou’s Portraits of Wounded Soldiers (1865)

These photographs of injured American Civil War soldiers were created by Reed B. Bontecou, a New York surgeon who played a key role in documenting the very many casualties of the Civil War battlefields. Such photographs were used to verify the severity of the soldiers’ injuries, and helped to determine the level of post-war pension payments. The images chosen here all depict injuries caused by bullet wounds, and each include an evocative red arrow drawn on by Bontecou tracing the trajectory of the offending projectile. Serving as a surgeon during the war and later as the chief of Harewood Hospital (where these pictured soldiers were treated), Bontecou later developed Bontecou’s Soldier’s Packet for First Wound Dressing, a type of first aid package with antiseptic bandages which the soldiers could carry with them and use to treat their immediate injuries.

In 2011, many of Bountecou’s photographs were compiled into a book published by the Burns Archive: Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography By Reed B. Bontecou.

From: U.S. National Library of Medicine
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions


Ludwig Kohn, a 26-year-old private wounded at the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. The photograph is taken two years later when Kohn was admitted to Harewood General Hospital in 1865 after suffering so much pain from the rib-fracturing gunshot wound that he could not lie down to sleep instead having to sit upright — Source.

Peter Strien, a 21-year-old private, wounded March 25th, 1865, at the battle of Fort Steadman — Source.

John H Bowers, a 19-year-old corporal, wounded on March 25th, 1865, at the battle of Petersburgh — Source.

William A Donan , a 26-year-old sergeant, wounded on June 3rd, 1864, at the battle of Coal Harbor — Source.

James H stokes, a 20-year-old private, wounded on March 29th, 1865, at Gravelly Run, Virginia — Source.





  • shay simmons

    These wounds were, most probably, from low-velocity rifled muskets firing Minnie balls, .52 caliber. I’m surprised they aren’t worse.

  • L p

    That final image is a fine example of why amputation was often the best choice–even if they survived the wound. Without modern medications and procedures shattered bone would continue to fester and ulcerate, and cause severe pain. Note how thin this the poor man is–probably the result of living with constant severe pain (as well as the debilitating effects of constant infection).