Guilford, Vermont

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Maintained by the students of Guilford Central School

George Houghton: Civil War Photographer

By Gray Grandy, Stuart Strothman, Jane Potter, Zak Emond, and Amy Forbes

When the Civil War broke out in 1860, both sides responded. Both the north and the south rounded up soldiers—every town helped out, including our town of Putney. One of the men to go home and pack his things was the only professional Civil War photographer from Vermont, George Houghton, who was born in Putney and lived most of his life in Brattleboro. Houghton helped the north’s cause in his own way; he was present at many important parts of the war, including Gettysburg, and his photos brought the war home to the people of Vermont. Although he was there during many battles, he could not get photos of the action because of the speed and the weight of his camera. However, there are many pictures of men in their camps, and at other living establishments. The collection includes a number from the current site of BUHS, including a photo of the 1st Vermont regiment, showing their white tents against the backdrop of Wantastiquet, getting dinner ready, and some in line waiting for the picture to be taken; there is another of the hospital that was erected on the same site, which had a high rate of successful recovery compared to the hospitals further south (this one is by Houghton). He also has a photo of governor Ormsbee of Vermont with his staff and Lt. General Fuller at Devil’s Den in Gettysburg, the site of a particularly bloody battle, on July 3, 1888; of musket test firing; of a sniper; of a large array of soldiers lined up in front of their tents, awaiting battle; of Civil War officers; of men from the 18th Vermont relaxing, hanging out of mill windows and just sitting around doing their laundry in Wolf Run Shoals, Virginia; and of a family of slaves at home, their eyes showing deep concern and long experience. There are many more, including one of Houghton’s own camp; he took a lot of amazing pictures. As an historical note, some of the photos of soldiers in the collection may actually be by Larkin G. Mead, his assistant.

Recording
by Gray Grandy
He didn’t knock off any rebels,
But he was there
Watching
Recording
Through the lens of his camera.
Out of a traveling tent
A petite structure
Of white canvas
That carried his life.

George Houghton traveled with the men,
Smelling the smoke
Tasting the food
But did not know of battle
He knew of a camera
A large, clunky product
Slow to work
The photos he brought back were stories
Thousands of words
On fragile glass plates he saw
Many years ago

Through the lens of his camera.
Gazette Editorial StaffBlair Gravestoneinside school housedaisyschoolhouse