Sketching and Mapping Lincoln’s 1863 Reviews, pt.2: Could Different Theories Each be Right? (Plus, Additional Mysteries)

From Noel Harrison: This blog recently posted
two contemporary depictions of Abraham Lincoln’s Grand Review of
part of the Army of the Potomac on April 8, 1863: a panoramic
sketch by Harpers Weekly special artist Alfred
R. Waud and a map by an unidentified cartographer. These are among
the many new records appearing over the past year or two in the
Library of Congress’ online collections. Here again are
the map and sketch: Each is an extraordinary
document of the April 8 reviewing but is baffling for its apparent
incompatibility with the other, as I described in that earlier
blog-post. And since the time of that post, additional, related
mysteries have suggested themselves. Although the 8th was but one
of four days in April 1863 that saw Lincoln review troops
assembled in complete corps for inspection—at various locations in
Stafford County—it was the only day that saw him review more than
two corps. He reviewed the Second, the Third, the Fifth, and
the Sixth (as well as the army’s artillery reserve). Yet the
editors at Harper’s did not select Waud’s
panoramic sketch of April 8 for conversion to a woodcut.
Instead of focusing on that day’s blockbuster event and Waud’s
breathtaking depiction of it, Harper’s
pictorial reporting on the April review—published in its issue of
May 2, 1863—consisted of two woodcuts based on Waud’s sketches of
smaller spectacles that occurred on other days: the Cavalry Corps
passing in review before the President on April 6 (sketch at top in
John Hennessy’s post here),
and Lincoln and others watching the First Corps pass on April 9

Reviewing the First Corps on April 9, 1863.
First Corps commander John Reynolds probably bearded figure in
front at far left; next Second Corps commander Darius Couch, with
cigar; then Third Corps commander Daniel Sickles on opposite side
of Lincoln; and then a headless Joseph Hooker. Library of

While I understand the appeal of a close-up woodcut of the
faces of Lincoln and the other decisionmakers, I’m puzzled by the
Harper’s editors passing-up, for the companion
“spectacle” woodcut, the visual power of the converging infantry
columns and the incredible vista in the sketch of April 8. Perhaps
Waud’s Cavalry Corps sketch of April 6 recommended itself through
the dynamism of the horses and the smaller space required to
publish its more limited vista. (At the bottom of my list
of mysteries is the disappearance of Maj. Gen. Joseph
Hooker’s head from Waud’s April 9 depiction, above. Hooker’s
penciled cranium remained attached long enough for the
engravers to create the woodcut published on May
2 but vanished sometime later.) Perhaps, however, we can
remove what I believe is the most vexing of the mysteries—that
seeming incompatibility of the map and the April
8 sketch, appearing at the top of this post. In commenting
on my earlier post on the subject, historian John F. Cummings III
suggested that the terrain being traversed by the troops in Waud’s
sketch actually matches an area separate from and southeast of
the troop-positions shown on the map–an area closer to Army
of the Potomac Headquarters near the Curtis and King houses at
lower right on the map. Over the course of our long friendship,
John has demonstrated superb instincts in matching Civil War-era
sketches and photographs to modern terrain, and I usually agree
entirely with his interpretations. Yet I was unwilling to discard
the map’s plotting of troop positions as a document of Lincoln
on-the-spot, in the act of reviewing soldiers on April 8, 1863. My
faith in the map was sustained by my re-discovery, thanks to a tip
from another friend, D.P. Newton of the White Oak
, of a sketch map discovered previously in the
collections of the New York Public Library. That map, probably a
preliminary version of the Library of Congress map reproduced
above, shows the exact same troop positions for the four army corps
around the Burton, Sthreshly, Little, and Fitzhugh houses. Unlike
the more finished (and larger) Library of Congress map, the New
York Public Library version bears the specific legend “Map showing
review of the 2d, 3d, 5th, + 6th Corps by the President April 8.
1863 scale 3 inches to the mile.” Not long after learning of this
document, however, I found another, which may render my beloved
maps and John Cummings’ beloved sketch compatible: a letter penned
the day after the April 8 review by Captain Charles A. Phillips of
Battery E, Massachusetts Light Artillery: The troops were
drawn up…each corps in three lines of a division each, each
division of three brigades in line of battalions and each battalion
in column closed en masse.

About 11 o’clock the President and General Hooker rode up
with the usual cavalcade behind, and Scott, Spear, and I fell in
with the staff, having made up our minds that this was the only way
to see the review. The President rode a dark bay horse, which he
has ridden all the time. General Hooker on his usual, tall, white
horse. Two little boys about 8 and 12, I suppose junior Lincolns,
followed the President.
The 2d Corps was the
first reviewed, and the President rode down in front of the 1st
Division, and we pelted after him. As we rode along, I began to
have some idea of the pleasure of riding in a cavalry charge. Half
way down the line we came to a ditch and mud hole, and I expected
to see somebody stuck, but the cavalcade all got through somehow,
and away we went down the line, round the flank, and up the second
line. More ditches and mud, but we pelt along up this line, down
the third and round in rear, and the Corps is reviewed. Then we
travel through the 5th Corps in the same way; the cavalcade
diminishing in numbers all the time; then the 3d Corps was finished
up in the same way.
Then the President and
General Hooker took position by the colors, and we, the staff,
formed behind them…. [W]e sat patiently for two hours, while three
corps passed in review. There was the usual variety of officers and
men, but a description would be uninteresting unless from a better
pen than mine.
Phillips’ letter provides confirmation,
from the perspective of a member of Lincoln’s extended entourage on
April 8, of the three-division alignment for each corps shown on
the maps. The letter also suggests a key point that to my knowledge
has never been made before now in interpretive discussions of that
day’s review: it was a two-phase event
composed, first, of Lincoln reviewing troops while he was in motion
and they stationary, and then, after he moved to some
geographically separate point at or near a flag, of the troops in
motion before the now-stationary President.  Here he is on
horseback, I think, in a detail from the Waud sketch of April
8: In this
interpretation of Lincoln reviewing the Second, Third, and Fifth
Corps, the map would document the first half of the event, while
the sketch would document the second half. By day’s end,
Lincoln would have likely reviewed the component-units
of each corps twice. The
President had reviewed the Sixth Corps and the Artillery
Reserve earlier that morning (an event not witnessed by
Captain Phillips). Provost Marshal General Marsena Patrick’s diary
records that the Sixth and the artillery were reviewed “at Sickles
Head Quarters”—the Fitzhugh family’s “Boscobel” estate (map-detail
below). A member of the Sixth penned this description of the event
after the war, confirming that Lincoln also reviewed that corps in
two phases. The reviewing ground was a plateau, slightly
rolling but sufficiently level to admit of good marching. The
reviewing stand, a knoll somewhat elevated, could be seen by the
Confederates…. After the President and General Hooker and staff had
ridden down the front of the line and returned by the rear, they
took position on the rise selected for the reviewing stand, which
was about the centre of the line. The ladies who accompanied Mrs.
Lincoln were grouped about her in carriages to the left of the
stand. When all were satisfactorily placed, the march past began.
When the signal was given the brigade on the extreme right marched
by platoon to the front, and, wheeling to the left, marched down
past the President…. As each brigade marched to the front its place
was immediately filled by the next in line, so that one line was
moving to the right while the other was moving to the left past the
reviewing stand.
As John Cummings
has recently made an extensive study of Waud’s April 8 sketch, and
writes a blog
devoted to Civil War history of the Fredericksburg area, I defer to
him for a plotting, when time allows, of its location on the
modern-day landscape. Meanwhile, we have hopefully made two key
reference documents more complementary and less conflicting. And it
seems that a landmark event in the developing relationships
between countless Federal soldiers and their Commander-in-Chief
was more protracted, or immersive, than we thought previously.
A week after the April 8 review, a Vermonter in the Sixth
Corps wrote of seeing that day an “unusual paleness” on
Lincoln’s cheek, and an “expression of care…as he passed by
where we were standing…I had a chance to see his face fully.” I
close with a rarely seen illustration of one of Lincoln’s Stafford
County reviews (below) by William Robinson Leigh, best known as an
artist of Southwest landscapes, a fashion designer, and an
implacable foe of Modernist painting. While Leigh’s picture lacks
both the eyewitness immediacy of a wartime sketch and
identification with a specific day of the April 1863 reviewing, it
is notable for accompanying a May 1899 McClure’s
article by Ida M. Tarbell. (Her extensive
historical work on Lincoln preceded her more famous efforts as a
muckraking journalist and critic of the Standard Oil Company.)
Her interpretation of the Stafford
County reviewing emphasized Hooker’s disappointing
performance in the upcoming campaign, of which, she
wrote, Lincoln had a
“foreboding” that allowed for “no rejoicing in his
face” as he watched the troops pass in April 1863.  
For a
recent account of the events of April 8, 1863 in the
context of Lincoln’s other reviews that month, and his visits
to the Fredericksburg area during the war overall, I highly
recommend Jane Hollenbeck Conner’s book, Lincoln in
Published in 2006, it is available
at Chatham as well as the park bookstores at Fredericksburg and
Chancellorsville. Of the sources I quote above, the published
version of Marsena Patrick’s diary is well-known and needs no
further explanation. The other soldier-writings, in order of
appearance above, appear in: the History of the
Fifth Massachusetts Battery
(1902); the
History of the First Brigade, New Jersey
(1910); and Hard Marching Every
Day: The Civil War Letters of Private Wilbur Fisk,
(1992). Noel G. Harrison


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