On Sept. 19, 1862, just two days after the Civil War battle of Antietam, photographer Alexander Gardner began documenting the battle’s grim aftermath. One of his photographs depicted a milky-white steed lying on the field in an eerily peaceful repose.

“Dead Horse of Confederate Colonel; both killed at Battle of Antietam,” by Alexander Gardner (Library of Congress)

Gardner’s photographs both horrified and fascinated people. It was the first time in history that the general public was able to see the true carnage of war.

The horse is thought to have been the mount of the Sixth Louisiana’s Col. Henry Strong, an Irish immigrant, who was reported riding a white horse along the edge of a cornfield when he was killed by a Yankee volley.

The body of the horse became something of a landmark among the Union soldiers left on the field because of its strangely peaceful appearance.

Gen. Alpheus Williams wrote, “The number of dead horses was high. They lay, like the men, in all attitudes. One beautiful milk-white animal had died in so graceful a position that I wished for its photograph. Its legs were doubled under and its arched neck gracefully turned to one side, as if looking back to the ball-hole in its side. Until you got to it, it was hard to believe the horse was dead.”

Source: New York Times