He photographed everyone from Abraham Lincoln to John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Ambrose Burnside, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. His extensive portfolio has been essential to our understanding of the Civil War.
Bradly rarely left Washington, but engaged photographers from his studio to photograph scenes from the Civil War. In 1862 he opened an exhibition of images from the Battle of Antietam entitled "The Dead of Antietam." Many images were extremely graphic, but were new to an American audience whose usual encounters with the realities of war usually were softened by the traditional use of "artists' impressions" in most publications.
Brady's studio generated around 10,000 plates during the war and he expected the government to purchase many of the photographs when the war ended, but was forced to file for bankruptcy when this expectation was not met. After the death of his wife and his own deteriorating eyesight, he died penniless in the charity ward of a New York hospital in 1896.
Teaching with Documents, from the National Archive:
Selected Mathew Brady Photographs:
The larger National Archives photostream: