The Earliest Combat Photographs: 1863-1915

I have researched early military photography for a few years online and have found there is no conclusive list of the earliest combat photography and so I have set out to make one. Combat photography can be differentiated from other types of war photography in that the action of battle can be seen occurring in the photograph. The first war photography took place in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) by an anonymous photographer, but it wasn’t until the American Civil War (1861-1865) that the first combat photos were taken. Because of the limitations posed by the time and complexity it took to take a photo in the mid-to-late 1800’s made it difficult to obtain images during battles but a few of naval actions did emerge. There was also not a tradition of journalists and artists putting their lives on the line for an image. The overall amount of combat photography before World War One was small, but a few images did emerge from a few courageous and pioneering people. By the time of World War One governments saw the value in having large numbers of photographers to document conflicts for propaganda purposes and improved camera technology allowed combat photographers to routinely capture most iconic images of many conflicts. This video is dedicated to all of the photojournalists who have lost their lives while documenting conflicts.

First war photographs from the Mexican-American War:
Documentary excerpt showing first war footage from the Spanish-American War:
Possibly the first naval combat footage during the Russo-Japanese War:
Documentary about the first infantry combat footage from World War One in 1916:
First police siege footage from the Siege of Sydney Street in London in 1911:

This famous Antietam photo has been proven not to be of combat or from the the actual day of the battle:

Boer War Photograph Information:

1863 Fort Sumter Photograph Information:

1863 Morris Island Photograph Information:

1885 Battle of Batoche Photographs Information:

1904 Russo-Japanese War Photographs:

Philippine Insurrection Photographs Information:

Philippine Revolution (Tagalog War) against the Spanish photographs information:

Philippine-American War Photographs:

1911 Italo-Turkish War photograph of dirigles:

1913 Balkan War Photographs:

Le Miroir’s 1915 photo of shell exploding among French infantry dragoons:

Music is from the Gettysburg soundtrack by Randy Edelman and the Glory soundtrack by James Horner.

Tags: 1846, 1847, 1848, 1860, 1861, 1862, 1864, 1865, 1870, 1871, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1910, 1912, 1914, Puerto Rico, Cuba, San Juan Hill, USS Oregon, Russia, Russians, Germans, Eastern Front, rare, unpublished,

If you have information on more combat photographs that are pre-WW1 then please feel free to share and discuss them here. If you liked this then subscribe because I plan to release more videos like this in the future.There are many more links that I will gradually try to add.

41 thoughts on “The Earliest Combat Photographs: 1863-1915

  1. sarcastic pain says:

    Slow down! Your titles go by so fast even a speed reader couldn't read them, much less absorb them

  2. Burt Vincent says:

    I must be getting slow with age. I just start reading the caption and it's gone. I start to look at the picture and its gone.
    Too fast pace for me.

  3. Steve Tops says:

    If nukes existed back then …we wouldn't be here right now .

  4. Engelhafen says:

    I’m a very fast reader but your captions were too fast and very mismatched music for the topics.

  5. HistoryMarshal says:

    I think I found one from Antietam in September '62

  6. Steven Thompson says:

    Thanks for uploading these old war photos, I LOVE PHOTOS OF WAR! I have been into military history since I was a teenager and, after years of browsing and researching online, I've amassed a collection from various websites of over 10,000 from the Crimean war to present but they are mostly WWI to WWII, and although I recognize a few of these most are new to me, great stuff…. the captions are essential as I name each picture file I have based on who/where/when info so I get annoyed when I dont have contextual info on photos I see, the more specific the better

  7. Jay Winters says:

    Give us time to read it! Come on, man! Delete this and do it right. 👎

  8. D. Chance says:

    Good thing I took "Evelyn Woods speed reading course"

  9. Randy Schaff says:

    Not up long enough to read captions.

  10. This is all about americans..sticking their nose everywhere.

  11. Zachary Avila says:

    I don't give a shit about how fast the captions go, these photos are incredible.
    I screenshot 90% of them and do my own zooming in anyway. Love the video, great work 👍👍👍👍

  12. Francis Pearce says:

    its scary to know that we are looking at deceased soldiers. but we still honor them for what theyve done

  13. Jeff Caligari says:

    Aerial photo, 1904, balloon?
    Maybe cliffs.

  14. Claude wiwiam jertes says:

    sorry, not filipino rebelds…filipino patriots fighting agains spanish occupation, or filipino patriots fighting again US americans invaders…

  15. Thomas Watts says:

    Good thing I took a speed reading coirse.

  16. Great job to the REBELS for wanting to stand up against white supremacy.

  17. Flawless song choice. Thanks for putting this together. Also, to everyone that the title cards are too short… it’s easy to pause. I’d much rather them be short than obnoxiously long

  18. Mario Cisneros says:

    We , the United States stole Cuba and the Philippines from a weaker country . Hawaii too. Always never having enough .

  19. Mario Cisneros says:

    Never seen the first 3 photos . Wow ! Real naval monitors at sea in battle

  20. suiterd62 says:

    "We few, we happy few." I am the son of a World War II 10th Mountain Vet, a Vietnam Vet, my sons are veterans of the War on Terror as are two son-in-laws and a daughter-in-law. Our service includes just about every conflict our country includes in its history, including the French and Indian War. We are note hero's. We just serve America. God love our Military. DRS / RVN Vet.

  21. Michael Angelo says:

    What the hell is wrong with you . Is this a supposed to be a lesson in speed reading ? Total Ca Ca !

  22. burymedeep 2093 says:

    Slow down! I missed the battle!

  23. Christian D says:

    Folks if you want to slow down the video a bit (because the title slides go too fast), hit the "gear" (Settings) and set the Speed to .75 or .50.

  24. Patrick Byrne says:

    This is one of the crappiest productions I have ever seen!

  25. Chris Brown says:


  26. John Long says:

    Can you give an extra second so we can read !?

  27. zemog gomez says:

    The uploader assumed that we can read the caption within 1.5 second

  28. Did anyone see that poor little slave on steps at 3:00. He looks destroyed😞

  29. Hit like if you're watching this video in 2030.

  30. Scott Hilliard says:

    Wow….too fast.

  31. Don't have time to read the description, let alone look at the photo.

  32. Liverpool 11 says:

    Poor old Filipinos can't catch a break, first the Spanish, then the American's!

  33. Rory the Comrade says:

    Absolutely terrifying to think that all of these photographers risked their lives taking these photographs.

  34. john eric santiago says:

    How can they say we are rebel filipino in our own homeland xD

  35. Linda NWFirefighter says:

    No wonder Russia hates the Japanese

  36. Linda NWFirefighter says:

    Poor filopenos sure were invaded lots

  37. Tommy Bell says:

    Manipulating the masses to kill each other and make the elite money from wars was exactly the same THEN as it is today!

  38. MrGaableenz says:

    1870 pic is not from battle. It comes after battle. German troops (here prussians) are only "acting" here. In the foreground are prussians too! The surroundings with small house in the centre of pic two look similar today.

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