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General Ambrose Burnside, whose unusual facial hair led to the coining of the term "sideburns", 1865


Civil War Major General Ambrose Burnside, whose unusual facial hair inspired the coining of the term "sideburn".

Sideburns are patches of facial hair growing on the sides of the face, extending from the hairline to just below the ears, and worn with a bare chin. The word sideburn is a 19th-century corruption of the original burnsides, named after American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside, who was known for his unusual facial hairstyle that added thick sideburns through the mustache, but not the chin. Leaves it clean shaven.
Ambrose Everett Burnside (May 23, 1824 – September 13, 1881), as a Union Army general in the American Civil War, led successful campaigns in North Carolina and eastern Tennessee but was defeated at the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Crater. He was a common man against whom history has been extremely cruel. He was instrumental in securing early victories for the Union on the Atlantic Coast. He was a fair administrator and had a good strategic sense.

His shirt/tunic is open at the chest as it was the style in those days. He is likely to have a chest pocket which he also likes easy access to. According to the etiquette of the time, it was to wear clothes to button up your top jacket. All other buttons are optional.

This photo was taken by Matthew Brady, c. 1861-1865. Perhaps you are amazed by the resolution of this picture, a picture more than 160 years old.

Why are so many old photos presented in such high resolution? Old-school cameras were limited by the crystal size of the chemicals coating the photographic surface and the size of the glass plate for the negative (and the aperture, and focal length to properly expose and focus). Matthew Brady, the man who took this photo, was an American photographer who coordinated and sent photographers to document the war. The process of choice at the time was a wet plate process, which used glass plates for the negatives. Glass plates can be anywhere from 3 x 2 inches (7 x 5 cm) to more than 10″ on a side. A side effect of this process is resulting in an incredibly high resolution picture. Many of these glass plate negatives are part of the Library of Congress and National Archive collections almost entirely due to Brady's efforts. The Archive and Library of Congress has scanned the negatives and paper positives in its collections at high resolution, and made the digital images available to the public.

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