The Cemetary at Melegnano -- Aftermath of Combat. June, 1859.

The Daguerreotype (A unique image on a silvered metal plate.) and the Calotype (A paper negative from which more than one positive paper print could be taken.) were discovered in 1839, then perfected throughout the 1840s. But both these processes, magical as they seemed to their time, were slow and very limited in what kinds of subjects they could successfully represent. And there were severe limitations on the number of multiple copies that could be made from each process.
In the early 1850s Frederick Scott Archer worked out a usable photographic process that could catch a slightly larger slice of the flow of daily life and freeze it into a crisp negative image on glass. And this negative image could be used to make as many positive prints as desired. The possibilities of creating multiple copies from a single negative opened up the photography profession to the possibility of mass production and distribution and created an economic market for mass consumption of these images. During the next thirty-odd years millions of images using Archer’s wet-collodian process flooded the world as commercial photographers developed ways to find new mass markets for their photographs. Stereograph views, cartes-de-visite, and topographical scenes moved from a novelty to a commonplace tool of commerce, science and education.
The stereographic format was used most frequently for views of scenery or buildings. However, the photographic materials were still so slow that it was impossible to capture fast motion, and difficult to arrest any movement at all. For thirty years it seems as if photographs of civic monuments and urban buildings were taken during some disaster that has cleared the streets of all the people, but, in fact, usually they were hurrying by too quickly to impress their images on the slow glass plates of the photographer. Blurred figures and fragments of movement in the busy streets and boulevards of the cities were captured only occasionally by the camera.
Some early stereographs were created on glass, extending the long-established practice of producing painted glass lantern slides for entertainment. Most of these glass stereo views were manufactured and sold between about 1855 and 1859; although some glass stereos were made even as late as World War I. Glass stereos were considered to be more beautiful and a more luxurious product than stereos on paper, but they were bulky, heavier and more awkward to handle, and, of course, terribly fragile. The Langenheim Brothers, from Philadelphia, were the predominant makers of glass stereo views in the United States. But an even larger producer and distributer of glass views was Ferrier & Soulier in Paris, a firm later bought out by Leon & Levy. Marc Antoine Gaudin and Alexis Pierre Gaudin, brothers based in Paris, was another established firm that made, manufactured and distributed glass stereo views. These firms often sent photographers to the sites of known tourist attractions throughout Europe and the Near East, and then marketed these views widely to the public during the first wave of excited interest in the educational and entertainment value of the stereoscope. The beautiful scenery of Switzerland was a favorite subject of these stereo view makers, as was views of the cities and buildings of Italy and of France itself.

View of Girgh, in upper Egypt, by Francis Frith. Published by Negretti & Zambra, 1857.

View of Girgh, in upper Egypt, by Francis Frith, 1857.

No. 956. View of Constantinople and the Mosque of Soliman.

No. 956 View of Constantinople and the Mosque of Soliman.

"895. Le Glacier de Gorner et le mont Rose (Suisse.)"

“895. Le Glacier de Gorner et le mont Rose (Suisse.)”

Swiss Alps. The Matterhorn in the background.

Unlabelled Swiss view. The Matterhorn in the background.

"No. 504. Panorama of Florence (No. 5)."

“No. 504. Panorama of Florence (No. 5).”

Roman Forum and Santa Maria Church, Rome, Italy.

Unlabelled view. Roman Forum and Santa Maria Church, Rome, Italy.

At the mid-point of the 19th century the Italian Peninsula was a loose collection of small kingdoms, principalities and provinces; many of them under the domination of the Austrian Empire. The third quarter of the century saw the piecemeal elimination of the Hapsburg rule and the gradual unification of Italy into a modern nation/state. The Franco-Austrian War was fought by Napoleon III of France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, in a defensive alliance, against the Austrian Empire. France and Sardinia had signed a secret treaty which stated that France would help Sardinia fight against Austria if attacked, and Sardinia would then give Nice and Savoy to France in return. This secret alliance served both countries: it helped with the Sardinian (Piedmontese) plan of unification of the Italian peninsula under the House of Savoy, and weakened Austria, an adversary of Napoleon III’s French Empire. Provoked by demands for independence and Sardinian troop maneuvers in the Piedmont, the Austrians demanded that the Sardinians stand down and, when they refused, declared war on April 26, 1859. The Austrian plan was to use the Austrian 2nd Army of approximately 140,000 men to crush the Sardinian army of approximately 70,000 men before the French could intervene. But the Austrian 2nd Army advanced into Piedmont slowly and took almost ten days to travel the fifty or so miles to be within reach of the Sardinian capital of Turin. This delay enabled the French forces to enter Italy, as Marshal François Certain Canrobert quickly moved French forces into Piedmont by the first strategic massive use of railways. On May 20th the French infantry and Sardininan cavalry halted the Austrian army in a skirmish near Montebello, causing it to retreat and delay even more. Napoleon III, now in personal command of the Allied forces, again used the novel and daring tactic of moving his French troops by rail to circle the Austrian army to the north to cut off its lines of communication and supply. To cover this maneuver, he ordered the Sardinians to feint towards Palestro and there, on May 30th, when the Austrians responded with a reconnaissance in force, the first serious battle of the war was fought. Some 14,000 Austrians supported by 40 guns attacked a combined French/Sardinian force of 10,700 men and 18 guns: but were thrown back with heavy casualties. The Austrians retreated back across the river Ticino and dug in. Napoleon III, now ready to complete his northern thrust, left most of his men on the Sardinian side of the river, and took 30,000 troops across the Ticino heading for the village of Magenta where he intended to establish a bridgehead. There, however, he ran into significant numbers of Austrians and a battle developed between Napoleon’s vanguard and the Austrians on June 4th. The Allies won at Magenta as well, and, on June 6th, the Austrians abandoned Milan and retreated east. Another Allied victory at Melegnano kept them on the run until they arrived back in the Quadrilateral fortresses in the well-fortified Austrian territory in Eastern Lombardy. The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph himself then took control of the Austrian army in northern Italy. From there, and reinforced from Vienna, the Austrians sortied out from Solferino to attack the Allied Army. The Piedmontese-French army had taken Milan and then slowly marched further east to finish off Austria before Prussia could get involved. The Austrians found out that the French had halted at Brescia, and decided that they should attempt to surprise them by suddenly switching onto the attack The battle rapidly developed into a series of attacks and counter-attacks as the Austrians tried to crush the French right wing and the Allies tried to capture Solferino and pierce the Austrian center. It ranged over an enormous area, some sixty square miles, with the Allies committing their piecemeal forces to action as soon as they arrived on the field. The battle raged from June 21 to June 24 and eventually the Austrians were driven back into the Quadrilaterals. It had been, however, a bloody contest, with the Allies taking 17,000 casualties out of 137,000; and the Austrians taking 21,000 casualties out of 128,000. On July 11, the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, defeated in battle and faced with the prospect of a revolution in Hungary, met with Napoleon III, who was badly affected by Solferino’s large number of casualties and fearful that a drawn-out campaign would allow Prussia to enter the conflict, and they together signed an armistice without consulting the Sardinian allies. The Franco-Austrian War, also known as the Second War for Italian Independence, began the unification of Italy, with Sardinia absorbing Lombardy and the Duchies of Parma and Magenta. The next year, in 1860, with French and British approval, the central Italian states — Duchy of Parma, Duchy of Modena, Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal Legations — would be annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia, and France would take its deferred reward, Savoy and Nice. This latter move was vehemently opposed by Italian national hero Garibaldi, a native of Nice, and directly led to Garibaldi’s expedition to Sicily, which would complete the preliminary unification of Italy.

These scenes were taken by an unidentified French photographer who was following in the wake of the French army during its attempt to expel the Austrian army from the Italian peninsula during the Franco-Austrian War of 1859. When the war broke out a surprising number of semi-official and completely unofficial photographers wound up in the theatre of war and photographed around the edges of the conflict. Most of these individuals, even if mentioned at all, have remained unnamed in the histories of photography. This is, perhaps, not too surprising. There are still many gaps in our knowledge of the photography of the American Civil War, even though some serious attention has been directed towards its study during the past fifty years. And the Franco-Austrian conflict, though important to the history of the unification of Italy, was a great deal shorter, far smaller, and of less consequence to the theater of world history than the American Civil War. But this conflict did precede the Civil War by two years, and the patterns of usage for photography in the Franco-Austrian war were all repeated, on a larger scale, in America several years later.
When Roger Fenton took the wet-collodion process into the combat zone of the Crimea in 1854, the process was a still new, and in many ways untried, technology. But by 1859, when the armies of France and Austria began maneuvering against each other in Italy, the stereograph was a well-established format with strong production and marketing structures in place and operating broadly throughout the Western world. Two of the largest publishers of stereographic views in France, Ferrier & Soulier and the Gaudin Brothers, had been or had had operatives photographing extensively in Italy for several years. And of course, there were many excellent Italian photographers on hand as well. [“…Those who are fond of the stereoscope, and who possess a series of M. Gaudin’s stereoscopic slides, taken in Italy, would be able to follow the belligerent parties step by step; or, better still, perhaps, with the stereoscopic views of Genoa, Milan, Turin, and the whole of Piedmont and Lombardy, executed very beautifully by M. Ferrier, member of the Societe Française de Photographie. We may add that the views taken in Tuscany, Naples, Rome, Venice, &c., by MM. Alinari, Lorent, Naya, Bernard, &c., many of which figure in the present great Exhibition of Photographic Art, of which we have lately spoken, become interesting certainly at the present moment, on account of the unhappy events taking place, or about to take place, in these quarters….” “Correspondence: Foreign Science: Photography and War!” Photographic News 2:39 (June 3, 1859): 150-151.]
The French Army, aware of both the tactical implications and the propaganda value of the Crimean War photographs, had begun to train some of its officers in photography and would eventually develop a formal photographic corps as part of its everyday operations. [“…It appears that several months since photographic apparatus was sent to the Artillery in garrison, at Versailles, with proper persons to give instruction in the art. Laboratories were established, and good progress made by the military students in its practice, some of the prints they turned out being very creditable specimens of photography. The scene of their labours is now transferred to the plains of Italy, the Emperor being desirous of possessing pictures of those fields of action in which he so confidently expects to be victorious…” “Photography in the Camp.” Photographic News 2:37 (May 20, 1859): 121-122.]
Civilian individuals quickly travelled to the conflict. Among these were several photographers. Disderi, better known for perfecting the carte-de-visite format, followed the French army, taking portraits of officers and men. (This pattern would be followed by many photographers in the USA during the next few years.) [“…I met a good many well-known Parisians yesterday at Novara. Among them were M. Audigen, the correspondent of the Patrie, who was in company of M. Durand Brager, whose pencil rendered such valuable services in the Crimea. As regards photographers, I have only met Disderi; but I know that they are all along the line. You may believe me, photography will do its duty here bravely. From La Lumiere.” “Photography at the Seat of War.” Photographic News 2:41 (June 17, 1859): 172.] Some of these individuals were what we would today call war correspondents and they began sending back dispatches. One, a M. Berardy, was sent by the French photographic journal La Lumiere, to make photographs and to correspond back to the journal. And the most extensive reportage of the photographic coverage of the conflict that is in English came from a series of letters sent to the Photographic News by “J. L.,” a British amateur photographer who diverted from a photographic trip to the Alps to cover the war when it broke out. Frankly, in this more cynical and suspicious age, “J. L.” feels like a British secret agent to me, but I’m grateful for his detailed and anecdotal descriptions of his experiences.
So there are many individuals who might have been the authors of these glass stereographs depicting the aftermath of the Italian battles. Among these, my best guess would be that they were taken by Claude-Marie Ferrier, of the firm Ferrier & Soulier; but I would be pleased if someone could bring new information to either prove or disprove that supposition.

704. Vue du Champ de bataille de Melegnano, pris du Clocher.

“704. Vue du Champ de batalle de Melegnano, prise du Clocher.” [View of the battlefield of Melegnano, taken from a church steeple.” Melegnano, south of Milan. ca. June 6th.]

702. Vue du Cimetiere de Melegnano -- lendemain du Combat.

“702. Vue du Cimetiere de Melegnano – le lendemain du Combat.” [View of the Cemetery at Melegnano – the aftermath of combat.” ca. June 7th-8th.

Pont de Buffalora (sur le ???) Detrait par les Autrichiens.

“Pont de Buffalora (sur le ???) Detruit par les Autrichiens.” [“The bridge at Buffalora, destroyed by the Austrians.” Buffalora is near Brescia, where the opposing armies met at the beginning of the battle for Solferino.] possibly ca. June 21

727. Vue du Champ de bataille de Solferino, prise de la Cour de Govriuna.

“727.Vue du Champ de bataille de Solferino, prise de la [Cour de Govriuna?] [“View of the battlefield of Solferino, taken from the courtyard of Gioviana.” ca. June 24

724. Petite vu du Cimetiere de Solferino – pris du Mamelon en etait du Empereur le 24th Juin 1859.

“724. Petite vu du Cimetiere de Solferino – pris du Mamelon en etait du Empereur le 24th Juin 1859.” [“View of the cemetery at Solferino, taken from the knoll where the Emperor was on June 24th, 1859. ca. June 24th-26th

716. Vue de l'Avenue do Brescia avec convoi de blesses et de Vivres.

“Vue de l’Avenue do Brescia avec convoi de blesses et de Vivres.” [“View of the road to Brescia, with the convoy of the wounded and survivors.” Aftermath of the battle of Solferino. ca. June 24-June 26th.]

690. Hopital Militaire a Milan.

“690. Hopital Militaire a Milan.” [“Military hospital in Milan.” ca. June 6 to June 30.]

Each summer the French army maneuvered and trained at St. Maur, in France, and there are records indicating that these annual exercises were photographed from at least the early 1850s, and that an interested public avidly purchased these photographs. There was, of course, an even larger interest in 1859, due to the heightened patriotic feelings caused by the current war. The Gaudin Brothers, members of a well-established photographic family, and proprietors of a large stereoscopic manufacturing firm, produced a series of views of the Army of Italy in camp. Again, these images of posed group portraits prefigure those camp scenes of the American Civil War.

[Pellerin, Denis. Gaudin frères : pionniers de la photographie, 1839-1872. Chalon-sur-Saône : Société des amis du Musée Nicéphore Niepce, 1997.]

French Army of Italy on manuevers at St. Maur, France.

Verso of stereo card.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

French army in bivouac, 1859.

FRANCO-AUSTRIAN WAR BIBLIOGRAPHY, compiled by William S. Johnson.

Brewster, Sir David. “Account of a New Photographic Process by M. Dupuis, Officer of Health to the French Army of Occupation in Rome.” PHOTOGRAPHIC AND FINE ART JOURNAL 11:2 (Feb. 1858): 55-56. [From J. of Photo. Soc., London. Read before the Photographic Society of Scotland, Nov. 5, 1857. “When I was in Rome last winter I became acquainted with M. M. Dupuis, a celebrated amateur photographer, who had produced the finest binocular pictures of the public buildings in that city…” (Assuming that Dupuis, Officer of Health to the French Army of Occupation in Rome in 1856, was still with the army in Rome when the second war for Italian unification broke out in 1859, he then might possibly have been one of the unknown photographers who made stereo slides of the conflict.)]

“Photography in the Camp.” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:37 (May 20, 1859): 121-122. [It appears that several months since photographic apparatus was sent to the Artillery in garrison, at Versailles, with proper persons to give instruction in the art. Laboratories were established, and good progress made by the military students in its practice, some of the prints they turned out being very creditable specimens of photography. The scene of their labours is now transferred to the plains of Italy, the Emperor being desirous of possessing pictures of those fields of action in which he so confidently expects to be victorious. There is thus a possibility that they may accomplish, on a more extended scale, that which our correspondent in Algeria has done on a lesser, and give to the world representations of a field of battle as it actually appears during an action. We have also received a letter informing us that experiments had been made, within the last few days, by some officers at Grenoble, with the view of testing the practicability of a suggestion put forth by us, and translated into the foreign papers, relative to the employment of microphotography in transmitting despatches from one part of an army to another, between which the communication is excessively dangerous or absolutely impossible. In the experiments alluded to, an imaginary despatch, containing fifty-two words, was written on a strip of thin paper in very small letters, and as closely as possible; this piece of paper was then rolled up tightly, and deposited in a conical ball, which had been hollowed at the core to the required depth. The open end was stopped up with wax, and the ball forced down into a rifle in the ordinary manner. Some thick planks were then reared on end, in the road which ascends the hill on which the fortress is built, and the bullet was fired into them from a distance of 150 metres, after which it was cut out and examined, when it was found that though the wax had been forced against the outer edge of the despatch in such a way as to glue the edges together, yet this was readily removed with a penknife, and the despatch itself was uninjured. This method of writing the despatches, instead of employing micro-photography, is so far an improvement on our suggestion, that it can be adopted under all circumstances, whatever the state of the weather may be.”]

“Epitome of News—Foreign and Domestic.” ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS 34:974 (Sat., May 21, 1859): 502. [“It is said that a staff of photographers is about to be organized to join the French army in Italy.”]

“Miscellaneous. Photographic Incidents.” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:37 (May 20, 1859): 129. [“One of the spectacles appertaining to photography is that which the departure of our troops to Italy offers. There are parting scenes and enthusiasm which it is far from useless to reproduce. Over and above the interest they excite, one may thus collect almost officially documents which will be invaluable for the history of our times. Among the military baggage I have seen an object glass, which was likewise going to make the campaign. The example given by Mr. Fenton in the Crimea will not, therefore, want imitators in Italy. Thanks to photography, we may be able to get official portraits of all the personages who may be destined to play an important part in the moving drama about to commence, perhaps even now begun, on the banks of the Ticino. The greater part of the ateliers have already been put in requisition by a vast number of soldiers of every grade, who, before embarking for Genoa, or traversing the Alps, desired to exchange their portraits….'” — M. La Gavinie in La Lumiere.”]

“Correspondence: Foreign Science: Photography and War!” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:39 (June 3, 1859): 150-151. [“(From our Special Correspondent.) Paris, May 31, 1859. “Photography and War! Such has been the cry for some weeks past in Paris. How odd to see the beautiful and peaceful science of chemistry brought by photography into such near relationship with the horrible art of war! Yet, so it is, at least in France, where, at this moment war is the main topic of the day. One would imagine that even the women of Paris were in a fighting mood, to judge from a brochure just published by Madame Dudevant (Georges Sand), entitled “La Guerre;” but that is not the case. No doubt Georges Sand was simply inspired by the example of Miss Harriet Martineau, who has lately brought out a work called England and her Soldiers. Journalism, say some, is the offspring of war; for, according to Voltaire and some other writers, it was at Venice, during the war with the Turks, that despatches were published for the first time in the streets. The people assembled to hear them read, and paid for the intelligence a small piece of money called gaxtta: hence our word gazette. So, all the French papers teem with news of the war at the present moment, and photographic journals among the others. La Lumiere, a paper which gives now and then a little photographic news, has sent her “own correspondent,” M. Berardy, into Italy. Of course he got pretty well drenched by the incessant rain as soon as he touched Italian shores. If anything in the world is annoying to an enthusiastic photographer, it is bad weather. Clouds make him dull and hypochondriacal, fogs produce serious illness, and perpetual rain kills him outright. M. Berardy, as soon as a few glimpses of the sun had restored him again to life, shouldered his camera, and was immediately overwhelmed by the Italians with questions concerning ” the new instrument of war” he had brought with him — how far it would shoot, and how many men it would kill at a time! The want of supplies of photographic agents keeping him in pretty constant connection with the principal pharmacies of the different places he visited, M. B. was at last looked upon as a doctor in medicine, travelling with some newly invented surgical instruments. And, considered as such, he will, no doubt, be left unmolested, and quietly send up some interesting photographs before long. Those who are fond of the stereoscope, and who possess a series of M. Gaudin’s stereoscopic slides, taken in Italy, would be able to follow the belligerent parties step by step; or, better still, perhaps, with the stereoscopic views of Genoa, Milan, Turin, and the whole of Piedmont and Lombardy, executed very beautifully by M. Ferrier, member of the Societe Française de Photographie. We may add that the views taken in Tuscany, Naples, Rome, Venice, &c., by MM. Alinari, Lorent, Naya, Bernard, &c., many of which figure in the present great Exhibition of Photographic Art, of which we have lately spoken, become interesting certainly at the present moment, on account of the unhappy events taking place, or about to take place, in these quarters. Already, some months ago, the artillery officers of the guard of Versailles received photographic apparatus; laboratories have been organised for them in the French camp, and they will have orders to point their camera at the same time as their cannon. We understand that M. Porro, of Paris, the able astronomer and experienced photographer, is about to make known to the French government a new photographical apparatus, especially adapted for the present war. No one could better construct such an instrument, since M. Porro distinguished himself many years ago as colonel of an engineering corps. He will favour us with a description of it in a few days….”]

“Photography at the Seat of War.” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:41 (June 17, 1859): 172. [“Nadar has been sent for to head-quarters for a particular mission; and perhaps at the present moment photography, represented by him, floats in a balloon over the field of battle, for the purpose of depicting the manoeuvres of the enemy. Thus the bold attempt made by him some months since in the hippodrome, which was ridiculed at the time by certain strong-minded parties, has been, possibly, applied to an indisputably useful purpose, which may result in its author reaping a reward at which we shall greatly rejoice. At the same time, other of Niepce’s disciples are taking photographs of greater or less interest, and, thanks to these, we can follow the triumphal progress of our troops. We cannot say whether or not the generals and superior officers who died so gloriously in the combats at Montebello, Palestra, or in the great battle of Magenta had their portraits taken previously; but we know that most of the subaltern officers figure largely in the collections of portraits which have been made. It is the fashion to have one’s portrait taken in camp. The Turcos are especially and unexpectedly fond of submitting to the operation. One of them wished to be represented in the act of seizing an Austrian prisoner whom he had managed to get hold of in the night, and was overjoyed when the photographer handed him the desired picture. A Zouave waited on Disderi the evening previous to the fight at Palestra, and addressed him thus:— “Friend, perhaps to-morrow it may be my turn to mount guard in another world; but, previously, I should like to send my portrait to my birthplace.” “Nothing can be more easy, my fine fellow,” replied the artist; “we will operate directly, and the portrait will be ready for you when you call to-morrow.” The next day our Zouave returned, and the portrait was handed to him. He looked at it for some time, but appeared by no means over pleased with it. “Sapristi!” he exclaimed, “that is not like me now.” “What is wanting?” asked Disderi. “Nothing is wanting; on the contrary, there is too much,” replied the Zouave. “How too much?” “No doubt of it, you have represented me with two hands!” “Well, and are they not admirably brought out?” “Yes, indeed, but just look here, I have only one now.” He had had his hand taken off at the wrist. A photographer writes to us, under date the 8th June. . At Frecate two peasants stopped my mule as he was taking a run across the fields, with the whole of my apparatus. You should have seen the fright expressed in their faces at the sight of my camera, which they evidently supposed to be a gun of novel construction. Indeed, you may see the expression of their faces, for I was so amused by their attitude, that I took a picture of them there and then. I shall bring back in my portfolio photographs of all kinds, and which would be useful to a painter of battle scenes; some of them are dated from the cemetery at Montebello. That which I could not depict was the emotion I felt in this asylum of the dead, where corpses lay above and below the ground—where the soldiers came from amidst the horrors of the fight to breathe their last on the graves. A mournful spectacle I assure you, and one which was only softened bv the reflection that the cause for which they died was a just one. I am convinced, too, that the blessings of the Italian people must have alleviated their last agonies. You cannot conceive the extent to which our troops arc electrified by the enthusiastic reception they have met with. We are often requested to make double portraits consisting of one Zouave and a Sardinian rifleman—a great intimacy subsisting between these two corps. I met a good many well-known Parisians yesterday at Novara. Among them were M. Audigen, the correspondent of the Patrie, who was in company of M. Durand Brager, whose pencil rendered such valuable services in the Crimea. As regards photographers, I have only met Disderi; but I know that they are all along the line. You may believe me, photography will do its duty here bravely —La Lumiere.”]

J. L. “Photography at the Seat of War.” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:42 (June 24, 1859): 183-185. [We have been favoured with the following interesting letter from the seat of war by a correspondent who left England for a continental tour shortly before the active commencement of hostilities.] Casoslroso, May 8. Sir,—Having frequently seen, when in England, letters published in your paper written by photographers in foreign countries, it has occurred to me that you would be glad to receive a letter from a photographer at the seat of war, and I therefore avail myself of this day of rest to write you an account of what I have seen, and a little of what I have done, since I left England. When I left England my intention was to make a tour with the camera in Switzerland, but the exciting prospect of being able to get plates of battle-fields, sieges, and other incidental scenes, induced me to change my course, and, instead of remaining among the glaciers and ice-peaks, to make a journey to the sunny plains of Italy. After mature consideration as to the best way of reaching the scene of action, I decided on purchasing a mule as being likely to be on the whole more economical than hiring one whenever I required its services, especially as there would be a great difficulty in finding such an animal at the seat of war. It took me nearly three days at Martigny to prepare myself for a photographic pilgrimage which I estimated would last three months, during which time there would be very little chance of my being able to remedy any omission I might make at starting. Straps had to be made and fastened on to cases, so as to allow of their being balanced across the mule’s back in such a way as to leave me room to ride when I felt disposed, which I have not the heart to do very often, seeing how he is loaded. I started from Martigny at the end of last month, passed the Great St. Bernard, and, on arriving at Aosta, stayed there for a day to rest. Here I met with an American and a German, both of whom were going to Ivrea, so we decided on travelling together to that place. I need not give you all the details of our journey there, as I did not unpack my apparatus anywhere for the purpose of taking a picture—not because I saw no scene worth taking, but because of the .trouble it would involve. On arriving at Ivrea, I found the people in a state of great excitement. The Austrians had been beaten and driven back on two or three occasions by their troops, and they were sanguine that as soon as the French troops were in sufficient force, they and the Sardinians would drive the Austrians before them like a flock of sheep. I heard the most frightful rumours respecting the brutalities of the invaders, and it was not until I approached the district which they had occupied that I began to doubt the truth of these narratives, they were so circumstantially given. I expected to see the burning ruins of houses, fields laid waste, and villages abandoned by the men who had joined the army to revenge the outrages offered to their women, but I saw none of these things. I found the men going quietly to their work all day, and drinking much and talking loudly at the wineshops all the evening. I saw no despairing Lucretias—no smoking ruins, nor, I must add, many haystacks, or anything else in the way of forage. All the horrors I had heard on first entering Piedmont gradually dwindled away, until on reaching the actual place where they were said to have been committed, I could verify scarcely a single instance of violence having been offered by the Austrians, and I took some pains to ascertain the truth. I don’t mean to say that no case like that stated with respect to the women took place, but I do say that I could not find anybody who could relate any instance of the kind from his own knowledge; and my inquiries were made at the places where all rumours arrive—viz., at the wineshops. Of the truth of one of the rumours I heard at Ivrea, further inquiry convinced me. I allude to the exactions inflicted on the fanners and tradespeople in districts occupied by the Austrians. The same man who replied to my question, with a laugh, if personal violence such as I have alluded to had been offered, burst into a fit of what I have reason to believe was cursing and swearing, when I asked if they had been robbed to any extent. On several occasions I was shown papers which purported to be receipts for hay, or corn, or tobacco, and signed with some undecipherable German name. Some of the holders seemed to entertain the idea that the Austrian government might pay them some day, but such credulity is not common. I conceive the only use of these receipts to be to prove that the holder supplied mitnizione delta bocca to the enemy only in obedience to a requisition. It took me some days to find out in which direction I could proceed with safety, as I had no desire to fall in with a body of Austrians, although I do not suppose they would have captured me, I being an Englishman and a photographer, which I presume would be a sufficient protection in any civilised country. I availed myself of this delay to prepare a few plates by the Taupenot and Fothergill process, both of which processes I had tried in Switzerland, with very similar results; in fact, the advantages and disadvantages of the two processes seem to me so equally balanced that I cannot decide which to adopt. Even as regarded exposure, which, as you are doubtless aware, is always longer at high altitudes in Switzerland than in England, I found that at one time the Taupenot had the advantage, and at another the Fothergill. I have not had an opportunity of printing from either of the plates yet, and, until I do so, I shall not form a decided opinion on either process. I do not intend to adopt the dry process as a rule, as I am afraid to trust to it in cases where no second attempt to take a negative could be made; moreover, it is too slow to be employed where the exposure must only occupy a short time. In reference to the length of exposure, there is one curious circumstance I must mention. I imagined from the purity of the atmosphere here, and the clear bright sun, that a shorter exposure would be sufficient than would be requisite in England, but I found the contrary to be the case. For example, I coated a plate with some collodion which I had brought with me from England, and with which I had obtained an excellent negative of a Martello tower on the heights near Folkestone, with an exposure of five seconds, although the day was not the most favourable possible, yet under the bright clear sun we have here, I was obliged to expose twelve seconds, and even then the negative was rather under exposed. This is a very important fact to be borne in mind, because, in default of knowing it, an important picture might be spoilt, and there might be no possibility of making a second attempt. If I wished to obtain photographs of the people here, I should have no difficulty in obtaining sitters, and I think a photographic travelling van, such as you see in England sometimes, would not want for visitors in the more rural parts of this country. Not that either sex is at all remarkable for beauty, but plain looking people enjoy a peculiar faculty for self-admiration. You cannot conceive what a singular sensation is caused by the consciousness that one is within a few miles of two armies who may at any moment fall upon and butcher each other, for a cause of which nineteen-twentieths of them are profoundly ignorant. The parrot-cry of the liberation of Italy—Italy for the Italians—which is so prevalent among the Italians themselves, is not at all understood by the mass of the French soldiery, if I may judge of the mass by the detachments that have passed through here. They have a vague idea that they are delivering, or are supposed by the Italians themselves to be delivering them, from a grinding tyranny, but they do not appear to have anything like a clear idea of its nature; but the motive which inspires them, and gives them the energy and lightheartedness which they exhibit, is the honour and glory of France, and, of course, Frenchmen. The Austrian soldiery have no such stimulant. They are told to march into a country the inhabitants of which never did them any harm, and to rob and plunder them, and they do it. They can have no desire to kill Sardinians and Frenchmen for the mere sake of compelling the Italians to live under the rule of the Emperor Franz Joseph, still less can they be desirous of shedding their own blood in such a cause. What a satire it is on human nature that the very men who, ten years ago, were in arms to obtain self-government for themselves, are now slaughtering others with the view of forcing upon them the very government which they then fought against. You at home have not a thorough conception of the horrors of warfare, or of the injustice and cruelty it involves. If a man among us chooses to consent to kill or be killed for a mess of pottage, we cannot prevent him, nor is there any great reason perhaps; why we should; he voluntarily selects this method of getting his bread, and we are not unwilling that he should take the consequences; but with the people I am among, and, as you are aware, among all the nations of the continent, the case is totally different. A man may have the greatest horror of shedding blood, but if he is drawn in the Conscription, he must serve. The very family in which I am at present living furnishes an instance of the hardship of such a system. There is an old man who is just able to walk behind a cow and a couple of goats to the field where they get a miserable subsistence from the roots of the grass which was cut and sent to Vercelli in obedience to a requisition of the Austrians; there is an old woman who is almost blind, but whose health is otherwise good, and whose appetite is only too keen considering the small quantity of food she can get; and lastly, there is a girl about thirteen—the child of their old age, and who is consequently deficient in both bodily and mental vigour, but possesses that astonishing likeness to her mother which we only observe in cases where the mother is already advanced in years when the child is born. Six months ago these old people were happy and contented. They had spent their lives in labour, and now that they were old they were supported by the produce of their little farm, cultivated by two strong and healthy sons; but the fatal conscription put an end to their happiness; their two sons were both drawn, and the remainder of the family were reduced from modest poverty to a condition of absolute starvation. My coming to live among them has improved their condition a little; for, though I am anything but a rich man, such provisions as are to be had about here are cheap, the Austrian occupation notwithstanding, and it is no great sacrifice to give up a few luxuries now and then when it is to, give bread to a starving fellow-creature; but I don’t like to think of what may happen to them when I leave, which I must do in the course of a day or two, as it cannot be long before an action will take place between the Austrians and the allies, and painful as it may be, I should not like to miss an opportunity of getting a photograph of a field of battle. In this desire I am not actuated by mere curiosity, though, no doubt, the novelty of exhibiting such a picture at home may have something to do with it, but I should like people to have an illustration before their eyes of what a battle-field is really like, when the excitement of the conflict is past; they might not then perhaps talk so flippantly of war; and endeavour to use their reason in such matters instead of being swayed by their feelings. I will write you again when I have decided on my future movements. J. L.”]

J. L. “Photography at the Seat of War.” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:43 (July 1, 1859): 196-197. [“(from our Own Correspondent.) “Casastroso, May 13. Sir,—I was about to leave here, intending to make my way to Alessandria, when I heard of a great movement among the Austrians in Vercelli; at the same time that I was told by parties of Sardinian and French cavalry who come here from time to time, that they would soon be down in force to attack the enemy, consequently I determined on remaining where I was until something decisive took place. The distance from Casastroso to Vercelli is only about seven English miles, at least; judging by the time it took me to walk near enough to see the people moving about the streets with the aid of a reasonably good opera-glass, I should not think it more. I often see parties of Austrians, sometimes infantry, but generally cavalry, when I am out walking, and I take care to put myself out of their way until they have disappeared; but the Piedmontese do not seem to care for them: I have seen them go on with their work without hardly turning their heads round as the Austrian cavalry went tramping along the road beside them. There is none of that savage enmity between them which characterised the war between the French and Spaniards. It is not to be supposed that the Piedmontese have any partiality for the men who plunder them, that is hardly to be expected; you would be rather surprised yourself if you heard a man who had just had his watch stolen, profess a very lively interest in the welfare of the thief, even though he were one of his own countrymen; but barring these exactions, I don’t think the Piedmontese have much to complain of. Of one thing I feel pretty certain, that if the troops of almost any other country except Austria had invaded Piedmont, the people would have had much greater cause for complaint. As it is, I have heard frequent complaints of the French soldiers having deluded young women from their homes; but no official complaint can be made on this score, as there is no question whatever of violence; the women have acted of their own free will. On the 11th the Austrians sent out detachments of considerable force from Vercelli in this direction, some of whom passed on towards Desana, which is a rather larger place than this, and about two miles distant on the main road. As soon as it was pretty certain that they were coming here, my camera and tent were stowed away in a hiding place prepared for it at the back of an outhouse, where even a Croat would hardly think of looking for anything to take away with him. I walked into the fields smoking a cigar, feeling certain that they would not go out of their way to meddle with a single individual unless they had some special reason for so doing, but in getting out of the frying-pan I tumbled into the fire, for I had not gone very far before I saw a party of Austrians lying under the shade of a cluster of trees. As I had never thought of meeting any of them in this direction I had not kept a look out, and they saw me before I saw them. To go back would have looked suspicious, and there might have been the same objection to have gone direct to them, so I did neither, I turned aside and walked in the direction of Sali. Presently I heard loud shouts, and turning round I became conscious of a number of hands beckoning me to come back; a gesture I thought it prudent, under the circumstances, to obey. As soon as I was within a few yards, an officer stepped forward and addressed me in German. I know a little of this language, but I did not think it advisable to appear to do so, so I answered him in English, which I found he understood perfectly. He asked me some questions, which I answered freely; and ultimately I told him what my intentions were in coming to Piedmont. We parted very good friends after a short conversation, during which he told me he thought my desire to see a battle would be soonest gratified if I remained where I was. All that day I saw troops passing to and from Vercelli, but I fancy that many, if not all, of those who left returned the same evening “bringing their spoil with them.” The troops that continually pass and repass within a short distance prevented me from taking my camera out, as I am afraid they might imagine I had some sinister design against them, and it is even possible they might fancy it to be some new implement of war, and deprive me of it under that impression; but the greatest danger arises from the former reason, from their fancying that I may be taking plans of the Austrian positions in and about Vercelli for the benefit of the Allies. Consequently the time hangs heavily on my hands, in spite of the marchings and counter-marchings. Now and then we are roused by the report of guns at no great distance. Last night I heard reports of heavy guns and got up and dressed myself, and went along a bye-lane leading to the road which runs from Vercelli in the direction of Ivrea, and could distinctly see the flashes of cannon fired from a point I imagined to be about two miles from Vercelli, and pointed in the direction of that place. It did not last long, and no notice was taken of it by the Austrians as far as I could perceive, though a good number of them are camped outside the town. I could see the lights moving about among them, but, considering the distance from which the cannon were fired, none of the balls could have reached them, and the firing most have been out of mere bravado. I have been told this morning that it was a party of Sardinian artillerymen, but, –whether Sardinians or French, they have disappeared for the present. I was interrupted just as I had got thus far in my letter by the arrival of a party of French cavalry in the village. They stopped here to ask the old people some questions, and caught sight of me. As my appearance showed pretty plainly I was not a Piedmontese, the officer, I presume, thought I must be an Austrian, and began to catechise me rather roughly, but the sight of my passport with the visas upon it soon satisfied him. There is a striking difference in the manners of the French and Austrian officers, by no means in favour of the former. The latter were quiet, and though sometimes stern in their mode in speaking, there was no arrogant assumption of superiority such as that which I have observed to characterise the generality of the former, and which is so exceedingly offensive to Englishmen. The Frenchman is polite enough to those whose superiority he cannot dispute, but when it comes to dealing with poor people, the true nature of the man peeped out. I was talking to a priest the other day, and he told me that this assumption of superiority had given great offence to the Sardinian officers, by whom the French officers were very generally disliked. From what I hear from the detachments and the increased frequency with which they appear, I have no doubt that the French and Sardinian troops are collecting in the vicinity in force ; and as the Austrian officers told me, and it is common talk among them, that they will not abandon Vercelli, there can be no doubt that a few days will see a battle fought there, which will certainly be a very bloody one, as the Austrians are in considerable force and have strengthened the place very much with earth-works. I am very much surprised to find how quietly things go on, notwithstanding the excitement -which must naturally exist when we can almost see two hostile armies in presence of each other. From what I had read of war I fancied that everybody must live in fear and trembling who happened to be in the vicinity of an hostile army, and so no doubt your readers imagine, but this is not so. I see the people about me get up at daybreak and go out to their work in the fields, as, I suppose, they always have done, and in the evening they assemble at the wineshop, or form a group where the streets cross in the middle of the village, to talk over the chances of the war. Among these assemblages the women are very conspicuous, not only by their numbers but by their volubility. Their opinions are not of much value, of course, but, I must say, they have a very low estimate of the result to be derived from the Tedeschi being driven out of Italy and curse the war in very energetic though a very barbaric kind of Italian. It would be very strange if it were otherwise; most of them have lost more by the invasion than they can recover for a long time; and it is the nature of man to feel more acutely his own material losses than any imaginary grievances under which men with whom he has no connection may happen to labour. I must confess that I entertain their views to a great extent, although I look upon the war and the results it may lead to with greater knowledge of the subject than they possess. “What,” I have heard them ask, “have we, Sardinians, to do with freeing the Italians? We are overwhelmed with taxes ourselves. We have nothing to gain by war, while we lose everything, even our children. If the Emperor of France wanted to give the Italians liberty, why didn’t he do it himself, without drawing us into the matter? The French say they are more than a match for the Austrians, so they did not want our help.” Such is the kind of language I hear everywhere about here. Possibly it may be different in Turin, where the people are far removed from requisitions and so forth. Before I came here I used to hear it said, and to read in newspapers, that the Sardinians were most enthusiastic on the subject of war; but I suspect now that the enthusiasm was confined to the people about the court, and the press which they inspired. The latter being perhaps the most unprincipled press of any State in Europe; making statements, which it knows to be false, at the bidding of this or that individual. As an illustration of the reliance that may be placed on assertions made by the Turin newspapers, I will just mention a fact which may place your readers on their guard in future. It was stated in the Turin newspapers, and among others, in the Piedmontese Gazette, that Count Cavour’s reception on his return to Turin was of the most enthusiastic kind; that he was publicly serenaded, and that a magnificent procession, with lighted torches, marched to his house, &c. Now, I have been told by a priest and two other persons since I came here, that the whole thing was a farce, and was a most ridiculous affair from beginning to end. These persons assured me they were present and saw it, and I have no doubt whatever that they told me the truth. The fact is, the Turin newspapers are mostly conducted by foreigners, who have their own purposes to serve. All this is not very photographic, is it? but photographers are men, and have the same interest in learning what is going on in the world as others; and if what I have heard be true, that no newspaper correspondents are to be allowed to travel in Piedmont, they will thank me for writing and you for publishing my letters. Besides what I have been told, I can see signs myself of something important being about to take place, the Austrians are hurrying towards Vercelli from different points. J. L.”]

J. L. “Photography at the Seat of War.” PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS 2:44 (July 8, 1859): 207-209.
[(Original copy damaged.) “(From our Own Correspondent.) “The priest came in to tell me that the Austrians were in motion, and proposed that we should go together, as he had a brother at Torrione, about whom he was in some alarm, and with whom he proposed we should stay a few days, as we should not be farther away, in the event of a. fight, than if we remained where we were, and would, besides, be in all probability out of the line of march of the troops. I was so tired of the idle life I had been leading, that I gladly accepted his proposal; disinterred my camera and other impedimenta, and packed them on my mule, and found it viciously restive from its long rest in the priest’s stable. I may mention as a rather curious fact, that in all the requisitions made by the Austrians, the priest’s house and property were spared. Whether they acted on the supposition that a priest could have nothing to be deprived of, or on superior orders to respect the clergy, I can’t say, but, certainly, the effect was advantageous as far as I was concerned, for had it been otherwise, I should most assuredly have lost my mule. Having finished strapping on my packs we mounted on our respective animals, and commenced our journey to Torrione. We were a good while on the road, in consequence of being obliged to make a circuitous route so as to avoid passing through Vercelli, and at the same time not to cross the line of troops. There was one advantage attending this, however, which was, that it enabled me to see the condition of the country on three sides of the town, and to judge for myself whether there was any truth in the statements made by the Piedmontese newspapers—for I see these, although I cannot by any possibility meet with an English one—and I am bound to say that it is using too mild a term to say that these statements are gross exaggerations. Some of the fields very close to the town appeared barren of crops, but I could only see them from a distance with my glass, and it is possible that this may not be caused by troops—but farther away the crops looked as flourishing as in any English county, and everything appeared as orderly as in a Yorkshire vale; and little children oiling about in front of the cottages, and, although so talking the mongrel kind of Italian, which they call language, with a fluency which it would have led Mrs. Farlington to hear; and not a single pin visible that an enemy had been or was near. The next day, when it was certain that the Austrians evacuated Vercelli, I, my friend the priest, and his brother, resolved on paying the place a visit. We found streets filled with litter of all sorts: dirty straw, pieces of bottles, broken and otherwise, bits of leather, and garbage abounded; in fact, they were in a very dirty state indeed; a slight aggravation, probably, of their normal condition. A good many of the windows of the houses were broken, and the general appearance of the houses themselves suggested the idea that they had been out on the loose for some time and had not yet recovered ; that they were a kind of architectural prodigals, who had been indulging in riotous living and had become considerably dilapidated in consequence; otherwise, they presented no appearance which would induce me to suppose that they had been recently occupied by a hostile army. As we rode along the street the people who were indoors came out, and those who were lying about on the ground got up and looked at us with great curiosity. I imagine they took me for one of the enemy, and had doubts whether my presence did not indicate their return, for I heard several of them asking questions of the priest as to who I was. The respectable portion of the people were indoors I imagine, for those I saw in the streets were very far from inspiring confidence by their appearance. The faces of the men generally had a dissolute, unsettled expression, and I remarked a peculiar, bold expression in the eyes of the women, which struck me as having been possibly communicated to them from the residence of the troops in the town. We dismounted in an inn yard, which under ordinary circumstances would, I dare say, have been respectable looking enough, but at present had the same disreputable look as the other houses. The landlord was sitting on the step with his hands in his pockets, and puffing away at a fat cigar with all his might, the thing, I suppose, being home-made, and difficult to draw. He was a black-bearded, swarthy fellow, and seemed good-natured and obliging. As soon as we entered his yard he got up and shouted for somebody, and then, with our assistance, put the mules in the stable. While we were in the room I took up a Turin newspaper, and from it I learnt for the first time that at least one English newspaper had got a correspondent with the Austrian army, but the paragraph which conveyed the information was not very gratifying to me as an Englishman ; it began:—”Ecco che abbiamo un inglese, il quale pensa che i poiveri piemontisi non sono abbastanza spogliati dagli Austriaci senza la sua assistenza;” and went on to refer to the said correspondent having taken a private carriage for his own use by force to convey his luggage from Vercelli, and of what he would receive for such an action if he got his deserts, and a good deal more besides. I felt sure when I read it that the charge could not be fairly stated, so I called to the landlord and asked him if he had heard anything about it, and found that the carriage was actually his property, and the account he gave me of the affair threw a very different colour on the transaction. His statement was rather a long one, but in substance it amounted to this:— “That he was asked in the first place to lend the carriage, but fearing that if it left the town with the Austrians there would be very little chance of his seeing it again, he refused ; that, thereupon, it was taken against his will, but was afterwards sent back, together with a very fair price for the hire of it.” Such is the true history of a transaction which may have been translated from the Sardinian papers into the English journals in all its original blackness. We wandered all over the place during the remainder of the day, I marking the places of which I proposed taking a picture, and which were chiefly interesting as memorials of a town which had just been abandoned by the enemy. These negatives, I mention by the way, were almost failures; they are not so bad as to prevent my using them, but the prints will be indifferent; I can detect specks in the deep shadows, and a want of definition in the half-tones. I attribute this to the agitation which the collodion and other chemicals had undergone during the journey, and I am sorry that I did not use the dry plates on this occasion. I am not very strongly attached to the dry process, and would never adopt it while I could use the wet, because I have never been able to obtain as good results by its means as with the wet collodion; but at the same time I can readily believe that the prepared plates have an actual advantage when one wants to take a picture immediately after or during a rapid journey on a mule’s back. A journey by railway does not improve the working properties of collodion, but such travelling is perfect immobility as compared with the trot of a mule ; and on this occasion we had pushed along pretty sharply in spite of the heat, in. consequence of the padre’s anxiety on account of his brother Inzuglio.
I have just returned with my camera and three negatives from Palestro. I had taken five, but a stupid Piedmontese soldier came and lifted up my tent, and thrust his head and shoulders in, knocking down a couple of them which I had stood up to drain, and completing their destruction by laying hold of them with his clumsy paws and rubbing away half the film. I will send you proofs of these as soon as I have an opportunity of printing some. They will not be quite like what I hoped to send you. You will see many dead bodies scattered about among the trees, and many lying side by side ready to be thrown into the hole in which they will be interred as soon as it has been dug, but no bodies of men in actual conflict; I felt it would be absolutely impossible to get near enough to pitch my .camera, though I was myself able to see the fight distinctly from beginning to end. At Torrione the night preceding the battle, nearly everybody was in the street expecting every minute to hear the report of guns, as we knew that the French and Sardinians had got as far as Vercelli in considerable numbers, and also that the Austrians were in the immediate neighbourhood, at the place in which I am concluding this letter among others, and which is not more than four miles from Vercelli. Every now and then one or two would get so impatient that they would walk in the direction of the town to see if they could hear anything of what was going on. I tried to get some sleep, intending to start as soon as it was light to see if there was any sign of a battle being fought, or if the Austrians had continued their retreat. There was no time lost after the sun rose in preparing to get away. I threw my glass over my shoulder, put a piece of bread in my pocket, and was off with the padre, his brother, and four or five others. We took the direction of Palestro, and pursuing our way across the fields, it was not until we had got near it that we approached at all closely the allied troops. We first came upon a strong force of Sardinians marching along the road towards Confienza, and remained standing in the field beside the road until these had passed. The appearance of the men and their bearing were such as to inspire confidence in them. The expression of their faces was resolute and determined, though different. Some were smiling, and stepped out with an air of eagerness, as if they were going to a dance instead of a fight; others seemed deadly pale by comparison with the swarthy faces about them, and these were not the least resolute looking. It sent a thrill through me as they went marching by, entirely silent as regards voices, and giving no sound but the regular tramp, tramp, mixed with the rattling of the scabbards of the cavalry, and the jingling of the accoutrements of the horses. There is something wonderfully impressive in the sound of the marching of a body of armed men, and yet it is not because they are armed, for I afterwards saw bodies of men moving towards each other to engage in actual combat without any similar feeling, but they were at a distance, and I could only see and not hear anything beside the reports of the guns; but to return. As soon as the road was sufficiently clear, we crossed over and continued our way across the fields, regulating our progress by the march of the troops, which we could now see moving towards Palestro in considerable numbers. With my glass I could distinctly see the Austrians in the last-named place, and as it was evident that the battle was to be fought there, we made our way to a little group of tall trees, up which we climbed, perching ourselves on the branches and waiting for the commencement of the slaughter. It was the most exciting time I ever spent in my life. My heart beat at a tremendous rate, not from fear, for there really was nothing to fear beyond the exceedingly improbable event of a shell bursting among us, but there was something terrible in the spectacle of bodies of men preparing to kill each other. The Austrians were the first to begin. I happened to be looking in their direction at the moment and saw the bright flash, and at the same time that I heard the roar of the gun I saw a slight movement among a body of soldiers who were ascending the slope, and then the dirt fly up in little columns behind them until the ball came to a stop in the field. Another report followed, the troops increased their speed, and soon the air was filled with a confused sound of reports of small arms, the booming report of cannon, and the shouting of the men engaged. I was so near that I could see with my glass each individual soldier, but to describe what took place over the whole scene of the fighting is out of my power. My attention was so engrossed on one point or another that I was unable to pay attention to what was passing elsewhere at the same time. There was a large body of Piedmontese, who halted when within a short distance of the Austrians, and fired, and then dashed forward to charge with the bayonet. I could see an officer a little in advance of the foremost rank waving his sword, and his face turned rather towards them, I suppose urging them on, who was struck to the ground as if by a flash of lightning. Another dark-looking figure appeared immediately in his place; the goal was gained, there was a concussion, a confused waving of arms, mingled with rapid flashes from concealed individuals who seemed to be firing among the attacking party, who were forced back in a mass, and retired for some distance; the Austrians following them but a little way and then going back and giving place to the artillery, which re-commenced firing, and the first few balls making a complete line through the mass of troops who were mixed up together in confusion. This was the most painful spectacle that met my eye during the whole of the battle. While they were in actual conflict there was something, stirring and exciting, which made one feel a longing to be among them, but to see men struck, beaten, and torn to pieces when they were in a perfectly helpless condition made my blood run cold. Fortunately this did not last long. A fresh body of troops advanced to the attack as confidently as if nothing had happened to their comrades. There was the same scene, but instead of their following the downward course of those who had preceded them, I could see them pressing closely upon the Austrians in a dense mass. The Austrians held their ground firmly and tried to force them back, but not succeeding they began to give way, very slowly at first, for those behind pressed those in front forward, but gradually the backward movement was communicated to those in the rear, and they receded more and more rapidly before the pressure of the allied troops until they were hidden from my sight by intervening objects. It turn the old tale of the Chinaman—”Suppose you must come in and we must go out.” Looking to another part of the field, I was surprised a body of Austrians almost close to our post of observers advancing at quick step in the direction of a body of troops, who were facing about, and in two minutes were rushing to meet them at a kind of trot. Several fell on both sides when they came into collision, and were forced into their places; those who had fallen trampled upon by both parties alternately. Some hand fighting ensued, the French fighting with the force of tiger cats, and gradually compelling the retreat, not in a broken and disorderly manner, in a compact mass, which rendered it difficult to do them harm with the bayonet, but rendered them an easy target for the French rifles. The French troops scattered t a little and fired into the retreating Austrians as fast as they could load, apparently without any orders, and fighting the simple principle of doing the enemy as much bad as possible. Two or three times when the French soldiers approached very closely, a portion of the Austrian army turned at bay and drove them back a little, but the moment they resumed their retreat they were harassed anew. As far as I could judge they lost ten times as many in this way as in the actual conflict. It was a horrible sight; the contending parties were so close to me that I could distinguish the cries of the wounded mingled with French oaths, and the rattling sound of the guns as they came in contact. It was during this part of the battle that I and those with .me had a narrow escape of being shot like so many rooks. A thick-headed Sardinian peasant, whose patriotism exceeded his discretion, had managed to get hold of a gun somewhere, and thought it an excellent opportunity of getting a shot at the Tedeschi. He was perched on a branch in the tree next the one in which I was, and had just got the gun to his shoulder when the padre’s brother, who was a little above him in the same tree, caught sight of his operations, and, with an instinctive sense of the danger he was about to bring upon us, gave him a tremendous kick on the side of the head which sent him tumbling from branch to branch almost to the ground. There was a good deal more fighting than that I have endeavoured to describe, but it was not so closely under my eyes, and by slow degrees the firing ceased altogether, and we concluded the battle was at an end. As soon as we descended to the ground, the priest proposed that we should if we could do anything for the wounded, and of course we were all willing to adopt his suggestion; Their groans could have directed us to where they were lying, even if we I not been able to see them. You can form no concept of the sickening sensation I felt when I found myself in the midst of pools of blood, which splashed about at every step spreading a sickening smell in the atmosphere. The bodies of the slain were lying pell-mell among the wounded, very few of whom were able to withdraw themselves from the horrible contact. We moved each in succession, and laid them gently on their backs—the dead, dying, and wounded side by side, leaving them thus until the men who had gone to get some water returned with the patrols who were out collecting the wounded. No time was lost in selecting those who were placed in the ambulance first; they were taken pretty much at random, only those who led actually dying were passed over in favour of those whose wounds seemed slighter. One of those so passed over was, I think an Englishman. He had all the appearance of one, though he was dressed in the Sardinian uniform. I moistened his face with water, and poured some in his mouth, but he had not strength to swallow it. I had him carried down to a tent where the surgeon was operating, who was kind enough to see to him at once, but could do nothing to save him. A bullet had passed through his thigh, severing the artery, and he had bled to death. I did all I could to make his last moments easy by bathing his face with water He had five Napoleons and a few francs in his pocket, and round his neck there was a portrait of an extremely pretty English girl, on the back of which was written, in a female hand, the initials ?? and the date December 14, ’58. J. L. (From the abrupt manner in which this letter concludes, ??? it must have been sent to Turin by some unexpected opportunity.—Ed.)]

Malakoff. “Closing Scenes of the Italian War.” From Our Own Correspondent. NEW YORK TIMES (NEW YORK, NY) (Sat. July 30, 1859): 1. [“Head Quarters of the Army of Italy, Valeggio, Tuesday, July 5, 1859. (Follows a long, detailed and powerful description of the final days of the war, from the New York Times Paris correspondent, now in the train of the French army in Italy.) “…The Prince arrived the evening before at Valeggio, in his traveling carriage, and stopped at one of the municipal palaces in the main street. As soon as he alighted from his carriage a crowd collected and commenced to gaze in the windows of the carriage at something which appeared unusual. …I approached and discovered that in the front of the carriage and facing the Prince as he sat, were fixed two daguerreotypes, one to the right, that of the Princess Clothilde, the other to the left, that of his father the Prince Jerome, while in the middle there was an ornamented something which might have been a prayer book, a memorandum-book or a tobacco box…”]

Lacan, Ernest. “Le Camp de Saint-Maur au Stéréoscope.” 9:36 (Sept. 10, 1859): 144. [“MM. Gaudin frères viennent d’éditer une intéressante collection de vues prises au camp de Saint-Maur. Cette vie intime da soldat en campagne, dont le spectacle a attiré de tous les points de la France tant de visiteurs curieux, la photographic la retrace tout entière. Aucune scène de cette existence mouvementée n’a échappe à l’indiscretion de l’objectif. Si vous etes du nombre des privilégiés qui ont pu visiter le camp, vous reconnaitres en considérant ces épreuves que, si longue qu’ait été votre visite, ella était incomplète, et si vous avez dù, vous en rapporter aux récits plus ou moins exacts des journaux ou des voyageurs, vous serez convaincu de Ieur insufflsance, et quand vous serez examine un à un ces tableaux si animés, vous aurez vu mieux et plus que personne sans quitter votre fauteuil….”]

Lacan, Ernest. “Foreign Correspondence.” BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY 7:122 (July 16, 1860): 212-213. [This issue of this regular column is concerned with the use of photography by military forces, which they were doing, although primarily for mapmaking and surveying. Mentions a Capt. Laussedat, in the Engineer Corps, French Army, the “War Ministry in Brussels in 1856, Mons. Libois, a staff officer.” A Mons. Riffaut in France at the same time. That Russian and Sardinian officers had trained with Niepce de Saint Victor, etc.]

Laussedat, M. A. “Photography and Its Applications. On the Employment of Photography in Surveying and Military Reconnoitering.” PHOTOGRAPHIC AND FINE ART JOURNAL 13:8 (Aug. 1860): 226-227. [From Photo. News, in turn from “The Paris Academy of Science.” Capt. Laussedat, apparently in the French military, seems to have been working on this topic since 1851.]

Seely, Charles. “Editorial Miscellany.” AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE ALLIED ARTS & SCIENCES n. s. 3:20 (Mar. 15, 1861): 320. [“Louis Napoleon has decided that a movable photographic establishment shall be attached to each regiment in the French army,…”]

“Note.” SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN n. s. 4:14 (Apr. 6, 1861): 215. [“Louis Napoleon has decided that a movable photographic establishment shall be attached to every regiment in the French army, under an officer versed in all the details of the art. During battles, their duties will consist of painting blood and thunder with sunlight.”]

Lacan, Ernest. “Foreign Correspondence.” BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY 8:140 (Apr. 15, 1861): 153-154. [Lacan reports that twenty-five officers in the French Army have been studying photography with M. Disderi, and that preparations to establish either an official photographic organization within the army were either underway or at least under discussion by the Minister of War.]

“Miscellaneous.” LONDON JOURNAL 34:855 (June 29, 1861): 15. [“Photography is being introduced into the French army as a branch of education.” (This is the complete statement.)]

“To Correspondents. Artist.” FLAG OF OUR UNION 16:37 (Sept. 14, 1861): 4. [“We see it stated that photography is being introduced into the French army as a branch of education.”]




  1. Dear William,

    I am a Media Studies PhD student in the Faculty of Information and Media studies at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. My dissertation looks at the influence of photography on changing people’s perspectives and generating humanitarian sentiment. I am was thrilled to read the articles you transcribed from J.L., they are a great find. I will certainly be including some quotes from them in my dissertation (I managed to track down PDF copies of the originals as well). I wonder if you wouldn’t mind me also including a copy of one of the photographs of the French Army in Bivouac, the stereoscope of the stream of wounded soldiers from the Battle of Solferino (vue 716), as well as the photograph from the cemetery at Melegnano. They would be reproduced in my dissertation and possibly on my own blog. I would certainly include the reference ‘Photograph courtesy of’ as you have suggested to others who have also found the photographs so fascinating and worth sharing.

    Thank you for making all this wonderful material available!

    Sonya de Laat

  2. Dear William
    Like Jan Schimmelman I am very interested in the stereoscopic slide of the cemetery at Melegnano. The one reproduced your blog is of better quality than reproductions I have seen elsewhere, and those do not include the French caption. I am writing a book and preparing an exhibition that deals, in part, with photographs of the north Italian campaign of 1859, and particular of dead and wounded combatants. I too would like very much to buy a copy of that slide, or at least obtain a very high resolution scan of it, if you know where I might be able to get one.
    David Forgacs

    • Janice G. Schimmelman says:

      Hi David, I was able to download William Johnson’s stereoview of the Cemetery at Melegnano from his website (with his kind permission) for my book on Jules Couppier, and through the magic of ‘PaintShopPro’ I was able to create a presentable image for publication, if it is printed to scale. It may not work if made large for an exhibition. I would be happy to share it with you if William is unable to provide you with a high-resolution scan, is agreeable to me sending an adjusted scan to you, and if you are willing to post your email address so I can attach a jpeg. To scan glass stereoviews properly requires a high-end scanner, two scans (one as a transparency, one not) that are adjusted separately and then layered (with one layer partially erased). Not difficult to do, but very time-consuming. Regards, Jan

      • David Forgacs says:

        Dear Jan, thanks very much for your message about this. I would be delighted if you could share the image with me. My email is I’d also be very interested to see your book on Couppier. Could you let me have the details?

  3. Janice G. Schimmelman says:

    Hi William,

    As I finish writing my book on Jules Couppier I keep returning to this website, the best on combat photography and the Franco-Austrian War. I noticed in one of your comments in 2012 that you gave a reader permission to use your webphotos in a publication. I would like to ask to use your view of the ‘Cemetery at Melegnano’ from this website with your kind permission. I would use the byline ‘Photograph courtesy of’ as you suggested or any other you would prefer. I have only been able to track 19 views out of what might be around 150 that Couppier made of the war (they range from numbers 650 to 794 although he may have skipped inventory numbers). So rare. I’m hoping to have the book ready by the fall. All best. Jan

    • Hi, Yes, you may use the photo. Congradulations on finishing the book. It always takes so much more work than you think. Please let me know when its out, as I would like to see it. I still review books for Choice magazine, a book review journal for academic libraries. I might even be able to review it for them; although I cannot guarentee that — as they, not the reviewer, select the books for review. I haven’t spent much time on this blog recently as I have been trying to complete the 19th century bibliography I’ve been working on, but I will be watching this blog page and posting more things on the it soon. Congradulations again. William.

      • Janice G. Schimmelman says:

        Thanks, William, for permission to use your view of the Cemetery at Melegnano in my book on Jules Couppier. The book will only have 5 Franco-Austrian views by him (6 with your view of the Cemetery), but it will include details and an Appendix listing the 19 views that I know of. Perhaps one of your Blog readers can help expand this list. I’ll let you know when the book is finished. My book on ‘The Glass Stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier’ is now in print. Previews of my Collodion Press books are available at so you can take a peak at it if you are curious. All best, Jan

  4. Jan Schimmelman says:

    Since making my initial comment about the authorship of the glass stereoviews of the Franco-Austrian War posted here in 2015, I found (much to my delight) that I actually own 4 views in the series (hidden in the collection by my late husband under ‘French anonymous.’ I think it is clear that this series was made by Jules Couppier for I also own 7 views in his Russian series made the year before (1858) with the identical format/presentation and with titles written by the same hand. There were only around a dozen French photographers who made glass stereoviews in the 1850s, and only 4 mentioned in 1855 in ‘La Lumiere’ as masters: Claude-Marie Ferrier, Charles Soulier, Athanase Clouzard and Jules Couppier. Ferrier did not go to Italy in 1859 (too busy setting up his new business with Soulier) but he did send his son Alexandre. His views were published as ‘Excursion sur le théatre de la guerre d’Italie photographiée pour l’usage du stéréoscope’ in 1860. Their presentation is very different. By this time Ferrier had long abandoned those handwritten labels (too labor intensive thus costly to produce). I am now working on my book on Couppier,, who in addition to making glass stereoviews of Russia, the Franco-Austrian War, and (of course) France, made a series of views in Algeria, a French colony. My book on ‘The Glass Stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier 1852-1908’ is available through To find it search for either ‘schimmelman’ or the ‘Collodion Press.’ No views of war, however.

  5. Janice G Schimmelman says:

    The remarkable group of glass stereoviews illustrating your webpage are not by Ferrier & Soulier. The numbers do not match his known views, neither does the presentation. They could be by Jules Couppier as the presentation is identical to some of his later views and the handwritting is similar (as far as I can tell from your scan). Also, perhaps more importantly Pierre-Marc Richard has identified one of them as being by Couppier (see I know Couppier mostly for his views of Paris, Moscow and St Petersburg. If you have duplicates of some of these war views, I would love to have the opportunity buy them. The black fronted views with (I assume) double-gold fillets are by Ferrier (before Soulier). You may be interested in my forthcoming book on the glass stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier. I have already published one of the early paper stereoviews of Ferrier. Both are (or will be) available on Just search for my last name. I am also planning a book on Couppier of which I have about 40 glass stereoviews. Oviously, there is till much to do on this. Jan Schimmelman

    • Thank you for this new information. It is great when someone who knows more about a certain aspect of the history of the medium takes the time to share that information and we have a better, more precise knowledge of the history. Its why I posted these little essays in the first place. I find it interesting that the image published on the musee-armee website is reversed from the glass stereo image I’ve posted. I’m assuming that its a paper copy. Thank you again for taking the time to share your knowledge with me and with whomever else reads this.

    • Sjaak Boone says:

      Jules Couppier can be the author of the stereo views of the battle of Solverino. But the catalogue of the Musée d’Armée speaks of “attribué” which means that it is not certain wether he was the photographer. I doubt if these views were a great commercial success for a publisher like Ferrier. I assume that the pictures were made as a study for a panorama painting. During the war of the Crimea some photographers like Louis Méhédin worked in commission for Colonel Langlois, who had ordered a panorama painting with the title “The siege of Sebastopol”. He opened for this painting a building at the Champs Elysees in Paris at the corner of the Rue d’Antin. That panorama painting was replaced in 1865 by a new one titled “The battle of Solverino”. Langlois died in 1870. Already in 1855 the photographer Disderi suggested that there should be a photographic department in the French army to document the battle scenes.

      Jules Couppier and Claude Marie Ferrier had visited Egypt in 1858. They published a series of glass stereographs, that were exhibited at the salon of 1859. So these photographers have collaborated. After the death of Jules Couppier in Amélie-les-Bains-Palalda (Pyrénées-Orientales) on april 14th 1860, Claude Marie Ferrier evaluated his stock of photographs and apparatus at F frs 11.388 (in a statement of 29 mai 1860). Couppiers widow , Anne Anna Thierry and their son Jules Charles Couppier lived then in Paris at 21 bis, rue de la Contrescarpe-Saint-Marcel.

      I agree that much research has to be done before we can attribute the authorship of the stereoviews to Couppier or Soulier. A source can be the depot legal in Paris. Denis Pellerin did much research about the stereoviews on paper, his work should be extended to the stereoviews on glass.

      Sjaak Boone

  6. Hi, I just wanted to comment on this post even though it was from quite a while ago. I am writer of historical fiction, and the fifth book in my Jack Lark series will be set against the battles of Magenta and Solferino. I was fascinated by these images and the posts that go with them. I had already discovered the articles sent by a correspondent of the Photographic News, but I had never seen these images. Quite simply they bring home the effect of the battle in a very evocative and powerful way. Thank you for posting such an informative article.

    I would also like to ask if I can reference your page in the Historical Notes that I write to accompany my novels. I am sure these images will be of much interest to my readers.

    Best regards
    Paul Fraser Collard

    • Once again I find that, as always, photographs MAKE IT REAL. In the early 1930s the economist Paul Taylor realized that photographs brought all those dry statistics about the migrants flooding into California to life and gave them an emotional edge; which is why he hired Dorothea Lange to photograph for his reports to the California legislature. Lange later became a key photographer for the Farm Security Administration and helped define the look of 1930s America.
      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately I have not yet read your books, but as an avid consumer of historical fiction, I will quickly rectify that lack.
      You certainly may reference this essay in your Historical Notes, I feel honored.

      • Thank you for this. I have posted a link to your website on my Facebook page. I will also be making a reference to it in the historical notes at the back of my novel, THE FORGOTTEN SON, which is set against the campaign in Northern Italy and specifically the battles of Magenta and Solferino. It will be published globally in English next year by Headline Books.
        Best regards
        Paul Fraser Collard

  7. C’est éternellement du bonheur de visiter votre site

  8. sjaak boone says:

    The battle of Solferino caused the founding of the international committe of the Red Cross. The swiss Henri Dunant saw the aftermath of the battle of Solferino and was very active in this movement. In Holland the military doctor Basting and the former naval officer Charles William Meredith van de Velde were supporting the initiative of Henri Dunant. Charles van de Velde toured through the Netherlands with a lecture about his travel through the Holy land. In 1864 international country representatives signed the Geneva convention. Dr Appia and Charles van de Velde were the first delegates of the Red Cross committee during the Danish-Prussian war. I would not be surprised if the Dutch members of the Red Cross committee used the photographs on glass by Ferrier of the Franco- Austrian war of 1859 as slides for the Magic Lantern.

  9. Giovanni Cerino-Badone says:

    Dear Mr. Johnson,
    I’m Giovanni Cerino-Badone and I’m writing from Italy. I’m an university researcher and I’m working with prof. Costantino Cipolla of the university of Bologna about the 1859 campaign in Lombardy. Your photographs about Melegnano are simply outstanding. In Italy is known only a bad quality version of the cemetery picture, usually publisched inverted. The other pictures of Melegnano with the french camp in the foreground ad the wounded’s convoy from Solferino are really great.
    Could we publish your photograph in a university article about 1859 campaign? Do you have other picture like these?
    Thank you in advance, Giovanni

    • I just saw your e-mail.


      For the next two days only someone is selling approximately 150 glass stereoviews on Ebay UK. It is unusual for that many glass views to be available at any time. There are two views of the second war for Italian independence for sale in this group.
      Ferrier & Soulier No. 1151. “Napolitans morts dans la batterie.”
      Ferrier & Soulier No. 1251. “Panorama de Solferino.”

      If you hurry you may be able to purchase them and then use them in any way you want. Go on Ebay UK then Collectables and glass stereoviews and they will appear. Or you click directly on the below mentioned address.


      Yes you may publish a copy of any of the stereo views that are on my website. I would ask that you print a credit under the photograph.

      “Photograph courtesy”

      However glass stereos are difficult to copy easily because the image is on a layer of glass sandwiched between two other layers of glass; and, in fact the scans that I put on my website are not as good as they could be, as I copied them with an inexpensive camera where I could not tell if the actual image was in focus when I was making the copy. I see that several of those scans are not in perfect focus and are less sharp than the original stereos. If you want to publish these images you should probably get better copy prints made by a professional photographer who can do the job correctly. I know a good photographer in Rochester, NY that I trust and, if you want to do this, I would give you his name and let you arrange the costs and details with him. I would bring him the views, etc. when you have made the arrangements.

      I have only one glass stereo view which may or may not be from the group of views published on my webpage. I acquired it at the same time as the other views more than forty years ago. It seems similar to the other views, but there was no label or title, so I cannot be certain that it is part of the same series. I am attaching a scan to this e-mail, and if anyone can identify the city and confirm any more about the picture I would be grateful. If you have any further questions or if I can help further please contact me at This e-mail address is more direct than the other and I will read it sooner.


      William Johnson


  1. […] combat photography during the franco-austrian war of Most of these glass stereo views were manufactured and sold between about 1855 and 1859; although some glass stereos were made even as late as World War I. Glass stereos were considered to be more beautiful and a more luxurious . On July 11, the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, defeated in battle and faced with the prospect of a revolution in Hungary, met with Napoleon III, who was badly affected by Solferino's large number of casualties and fearful that a . […]

  2. […] during the war, together with some examples, at Bill Johnson‘s Hold History in Your Hand here.  At the battle of Solferino some 40,000 were killed or injured in 15 hours, and the sight of the […]

  3. […] Franco-Austrian War of 1859, using rules from Neil Thomas’ ”Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878” […]

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