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General Grant At City Point

Written by: George Chittenden : 23 Nov 2019

This rather famous photo is a great example of an image being faked through compositing. It supposedly depicts US General Ulysses S. Grant posing on a horse with a large number of soldiers in the background, however it’s actually a combination of three different photos.

General Grant at City Point

General Grant at City Point

The fake image is attributed to Levin Corbin Handy, who was the nephew of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. When Brady died in 1896, his nephew by marriage inherited a collection of negatives.

The head - A portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, taken Cold Harbor, Virginia in 1864

The head - A portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, taken Cold Harbor, Virginia in 1864

Levin was also a photographer and worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the US Government. Levin licensed many of Brady’s images to various publications, and also created new photos that blurred the line between real and imagined.

The Horse and body - Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook on horseback, Brightwood, Washington, D.C, 1864

The Horse and body - Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook on horseback, Brightwood, Washington, D.C, 1864

Years later, the Library of Congress discovered that this image was actually a photo of Major General Alexander M. Cook (the horse and the body), a different photo of General Grant in order to use his head, and a background image of Confederate prisoners captured at the battle of Fisher’s Hill in 1864, all rolled into one.

The backdrop - Prisoners captured at Fisher’s Hill, Virginia in September 1864

The backdrop - Prisoners captured at Fisher’s Hill, Virginia in September 1864

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