What's the oldest photo and film footage of combat?

Oct 2015
I was looking at some photos from the battle of Verdun on the internet and the question occured to me: how old is the oldest photo and film footage that shows real combat? Is it from WWI or is it even older? Does anyone know of anyting that predates 1914, perhaps the Crimea war or even the American civil war?

A very dramatic photo from Verdun:
Last edited:


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
It depends how you define combat. As early as the Crimean War photographs were taken of camp scenes but the sensitivities of the day precluded gory and gruesome scenes. In the American Civil War many pictures were taken of dead bodies. Here's one that was famously staged:


At least one other photo exists of this same soldier lying elsewhere so this more dramatic scene was probably arranged by the photographer.

This photo of three Confederate prisoners captured at Gettysburg is genuine as far as I know and may have been taken within minutes of their capture.

Here's a few from the Second Boer War:


Potentially all four could have been staged if someone was willing to invest the effort.
Oct 2015
A very interesting documentary. Thanks. I would think part of the reason for the lack of photos of active combat pre-WWI is the time needed for the image to imprint on the plate in the camera.sorry, I don't know the correct words in English. The people in front of the camera simply had to stand still for a long time to get a good photo. That's why the people on the photos posted by Chlodio are standing still or prone on the ground. Thanks for the photos, by the way. The cameras were also big and cumbersome. This is even more true for movie cameras back then.
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