Monday, January 7, 2013

Some Sketches of the Civil War

Sketch artists during the American Civil War had no shortage of subject matter. Unlike their photographer counterparts, they could go any where at any time, and quite often did. Night time scenes are often depicted as are battle scenes, camp life and typical soldier portraits. They could convey a sense of urgency in their drawings that a photographer could only dream of. Some of the following sketches are hastily done “first drafts”. They would later appear in Harper's Weekly, Frank Leslie's Illustrated News, or The New York Illustrated.

As will be seen in the first example, the sketch artist, :
If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.” [1]

The above sketch is by Arthur Lumley.** after the Battle of Fredericksburg. He notes on the back that these pickets wore Federal overcoats “over the secessh” and had not been buried “up to Sunday”, a day after the battle. Waud does not say exactly which pontoon bridge is seen in the right background but that these men were killed while the Federals were building it. It is quite possible it is the Middle Bridge leading directly into town.


Camp Las Moras, CSA, March 1861 drawn by Carl G. von Iwonski, shows camp life early in the war. The description states that it is the first illustration received by Harper's Weekly. It is near Fort Clark, Texas and shows many of the men are Mexicans.

Ellsworth's Chicago Zouaves- 1861 drawn by Waud. This shows the zouaves going through one of their drills which were said to have been quite strenuous and at the same time very precise. Note the French Zouave uniform with kepi as opposed to another zouave uniform:

A Zouave Sentry also sketched by Waud. This one appears to be intended for a painting or color print to be rendered at a later time. Note the color coding for each piece of the uniform written on the drawing. Also note the turban. Zouaves liked standing out in a crowd, even among other Zouaves!

Another drawing for those interested in common soldiers:

This was drawn by Edwin Forbes, “Rebel prisoners and battle flags captured at Chancellorsville”. It does show the sundry types of headgear worn by the Confederate soldier, and does lend itself to the “ragged rebel” theme. Note the patches on the breeches of the man in the front rank, left side, and the man behind him has a patch on his coat. This also is a highly romanticized drawing. Note the Confederate battle flags waving in the breeze. It is unlikely the cavalry troopers would have had them unfurled even far behind the fighting. Imagine the reaction in the rear if a body of enemy soldiers, with flags flying, suddenly appeared in their midst! It has to be the Black Horse ! Not a likely scenario, but artistic license can be forgiven. The men at the lower left are making coffee. It is strange that this group appears smaller in scale when compared to the prisoners even though they are in the foreground.
An Officer Directing His Troops Into Battle. This is by John R. Chapin and depicts an unknown battle somewhere and illustrates the use of the artists friend, Chinese White, when smoke or clouds were present. It is a well constructed piece, showing the viewer everything the artist wants you to see without getting too crowded. It appears that a later print by Kurz & Allison may have been somewhat inspired by this piece. The Battle of Gettysburg was printed by them in 1884.
Notice the resemblance of the mounted officer, same pose only pointing with his sword. Also look at the right corner with men carrying a wounded comrade and what appears to be other wounded soldiers and prisoners. There are other similarities between the two. This print looks like the first on a much grander scale.
The sketch artists left us a visual record of events during the war. Some were soldiers themselves. Many drawings never left the artists sketch book to be seen by millions in the newspapers of the time or in later books on the war. They were talented and brave individuals
that often shared the privations of camp, battlefield, and hospital with their subjects. No one escaped their gaze as officers, privates, contraband’s, sutlers and citizens were sketched. Even after the advent of photography, the sketch artist was in high demand and still still reigned supreme in the newspapers and magazines during and after the war.

The Picket

1- New York Times, October 20, 1862 Brady's Photographs:Pictures of the Dead at Antietam, from
**Rebel Pickets, Dead in Fredericksburg” The LOC lists this drawing as being rendered by A.R. Waud but also directs you to it from a search of Arthur Lumley. It is hard to say who drew it.
Rebel Prisoners and battle flags captured at Chancellorsville,
An Officer directing his troops into battle.
Battle of Gettysburg, Kurz &Allison,

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