Major General Ambrose Burnside


Ambrose Burnside (1824−81) was a Union general in the American Civil War. Born in Liberty, Indiana, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1847. Unlike many generals from both the North and the South, he did not see action in the Mexican War of 1846−48. He resigned his commission in 1853 to manufacture a breech-loading rifle that he had invented, and then worked in the railroad industry. With the outbreak of the Civil War he returned to the army, and commanded troops in the capture of Roanoke Island and at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. From November 1862 to January 1863, during the Fredericksburg Campaign, he commanded the Army of the Potomac. He later fought under General Ulysses S. Grant in the Battles of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor (1864). After the war he served as governor of Rhode Island (1866−69) and U.S. senator from the same state (1875−81). His distinctive whiskers led to the coining of the word “sideburns.” The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016