A Rarely Seen Panorama of Fredericksburg, and the Pictorial Legacy of Henri Lovie


from: Harrison

Note: for magnifications, click the photos and maps below, scroll down to right corner of dark-screen version, then click on “View full size” link.

Among the contemporary drawings of the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, I find a little known panorama by artist-eyewitness Henri Lovie easily the most ambitious. With Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, he depicted in a single sketch the fighting at both ends of the battlefield that day–principal combat sites separated by four miles at the extremes. Lovie’s drawing measures four and one-half inches in height and nearly five feet in length. Beyond its own artistic power, it served as the main reference for a pair of grand-finale pictures in a striking sequence of eight wood engravings, or woodcuts, of the Fredericksburg campaign. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper published the eight over the course of five issues and four weeks, basing the other six woodcuts mainly on Lovie’s sketches as well and even incorporating the pictures into its editorial critique of the campaign. I only recently noticed his December 13 drawing in the digitized collections of the New York Public Library. The Library’s link to it and the means to magnify or download a high-resolution copy are here.

The right end of the sketch includes the only known—to me, at least—eyewitness rendering that looks northwest at the fighting outside Fredericksburg and in front of Marye’s Heights. For orientation, I made preliminary, estimated identifications of selected landmarks:

Detail from Henri Lovie, Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Annotation and color contrast by Noel G. Harrison.

(I share this portion of the sketch, and those below, to advance the educational purpose of this blog, and in accordance with the New York Public Library’s posted belief that the item is in the public domain under the laws of the United States.)

The left end offers what I believe is the only eyewitness sketch of the fighting in the opposite, southern zone of the battlefield that includes, albeit faintly, the Confederate artillery defending Prospect Hill as well as many of the Federals confronting the hill from east of the Richmond Stage Road:

Detail of Henri Lovie, Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Annotation and color contrast by Noel G. Harrison.

Lovie (1829-1875, born in Berlin, Prussia) sketched from a vantage point on the edge of the bluffs on the Stafford County (east) side of the Rappahannock River and near the pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing:

Detail of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Battle of Fredericksburg December 13, 1862 2:00-3:00 P.M., Map 4 of 5, Historical research by Frank A. O’Reilly, Illustrated by John Dove, Revised and produced by Steve Stanley (2001). Courtesy Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Directional arrow at upper left; north is toward right on map. Lovie-related annotation by Noel G. Harrison.

Lovie created the sketch as the reference picture upon which Leslie’s artists in New York based a woodcut published in their newspaper on January 10, 1863. (Bear in mind that a lag of at least two weeks separated his sketching of any Fredericksburg-campaign scene from the appearance of its woodcut counterpart in the newspaper.) I found the January 10 woodcut only in fragmentary form, but it is striking nonetheless:

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 10, 1863.

Leslie’s editors added a supplemental description on another page of the January 10 issue, specifying the time of Lovie’s scene as “about 3 o’ clock in the afternoon” of December 13. (See John Hennessy’s 2012 blog post here for a mysterious, intriguing woodcut—evidently a later, cropped version of the January 10 Leslie’s picture.)

I suspect that the panoramic sketch also served as the basis for a second now-obscure, Lovie-based woodcut published in Leslie’s issue of January 3, 1863 with the caption TERRIFIC CHARGE OF THE UNION TROOPS (SUMNER’S DIVISION), UPON THE REBEL FORTIFICATIONS, ON THE TERRACE BEHIND FREDERICKSBURG, VA., SATURDAY, 3 O’CLOCK P. M., DECEMBER 13.—FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST, HENRI LOVIE. My initial encounter with the woodcut was in a copy of a Civil War Times Illustrated special edition (published in December 1965 and later reprinted as a sales item for National Park Service bookstores) on the 1862 battle of Fredericksburg:

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 3, 1863.

Evidently, Leslie’s engravers adapted this January 3 woodcut from the far-right background of the same Lovie sketch used for the January 10 woodcut. Many of the landscape elements at the right end of the sketch—the northern zone of the battlefield—reappear in the January 3 woodcut. (See first annotated detail, above, for comparison.) The on-or-about “3 o’clock” timeframes for both woodcuts likewise indicate their shared origin.

Along with a visually absorbing portrayal of the landscape, Lovie’s panoramic sketch gives us a sweeping overview of military operations. In the supplemental explanation of its woodcut-counterpart of January 10, Leslie’s editors noted the preliminary, partial publication by newspapers of a “recent report of the Committee of Investigation”—actually of testimony before the United States Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War inquiry into Federal decisions and actions at Fredericksburg. Yet the Leslie’s editors went on to maintain that “a glance” at the January 10 woodcut “will enable the public to account for the unfortunate result better than voluminous reports.” The captions of the January 10 woodcut (the January 3 woodcut offering only a single caption) followed Lovie’s notation on the sketch and directed readers’ glances to the decisive effect of Confederate artillery: “Rebel batteries on the hill which opened a terrific fire and forced us back” in the Prospect Hill area of the battlefield, and “Strong line of Rebel batteries back of Fredericksburg” and “Rebel batteries cross firing the field back of Fredericksburg, over which our storming parties charged” in the Marye’s Heights area.

The latter assertion, of cross-firing outside the town, certainly accorded with the experience of the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry, one of the Federal regiments gone to ground in front of Marye’s Heights when Lovie sketched the scene from afar. Advancing from Fredericksburg and towards the heights earlier in the day, the Pennsylvanians, in the words of their commander, “suffered terribly from an enfilading fire from the enemy’s batteries on our right and left, as well as from the front.” Confederate Colonel Henry C. Cabell later offered his own perspective on the effectiveness of the bombardment of the left (southern) flanks of the 145th Pennsylvania and other attacking Federal regiments: his gunners positioned immediately southwest of Marye’s Heights exploited “an oblique and almost enfilading” field of direct and indirect fire. Without their use of it, Cabell claimed, the Union advances from the town “could not have been effectively checked” solely by the Confederate cannoneers and infantry positioned along the heights proper.

Farther to the left on the sketch, Lovie added a notation identifying Union formations shown moving down to the pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing as elements of BG Daniel E. Sickles’s division:

Detail of Henri Lovie, Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Annotation and color contrast by Noel G. Harrison.

Sickles’s after-action report, submitted on December 18, 1862, would provide a perspective from among his men whom Lovie had sketched and who likewise had gazed out over the river. Sickles described both that panorama and their mood beginning around 2:10 p.m. on December 13—“the most animating and critical period of the battle,” in his words—when he received orders to cross the Rappahannock:

From right to left, excepting an interval in the center, our whole line [on the opposite side of the river], extending several miles, hotly engaged the enemy, pressing forward with vigor and occasional success. The heights on the north bank of the river, where this [Sickles’s] division was massed, commanded a view of the entire field, and it was easy to sympathize with the enthusiasm which the troops evinced when they saw the head of our column directed toward the river.

In The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, historian Francis A. O’Reilly acknowledges Sickles’s “gloryseeker” aspect but also the general’s accuracy in sensing at his overlook near Henri Lovie’s an important juncture in the fighting, worthy of Lovie making special note of the movement of Sickles’s division, even if one not leading to Union victory. Once across the river, the division indeed played a key role in thwarting a Confederate counterattack that had responded to one of those instances of the Federals, in the general’s words, pressing forward with vigor, in particular along Deep Run north of the Prospect Hill sector of the battlefield. According to O’Reilly, Sickles’s “fortuitous arrival…prevented a more grievous situation,” but the enemy’s “powerful counterstroke” that Sickles’s division helped blunt left “shaken” Union Left Grand Division commander MG William B. Franklin and Sixth Corps commander MG William F. Smith. Thereafter, O’Reilly adds, they “maintained a strict tactical defensive” despite orders to the contrary from Army of the Potomac commander MG Ambrose E. Burnside.

The historical merits of some aspects of Lovie’s sketch and its derivative woodcuts notwithstanding, the pictures fell short of accurately representing military operations on the afternoon of December 13. The sketch doubtless reflected misunderstandings compounded by the artist’s distance from actual combat; panoramic vistas could be illusory as well as alluring. Lovie offered little indication of the dramatic, seesaw fighting along Deep Run and around Bernard’s Cabins. With the notation that he penciled above Prospect Hill—“Rebel Batteries on the hill which opened a terrific fire at sunset and forced us back”—Lovie obviously sought to convey to the Leslie’s editors and engravers a sense of the battle’s course after his main timeframe of 3:00 p.m. However, both this notation and its derivative caption accompanying Leslie’s January 10 woodcut missed the principal cause of that forcing-back in the Prospect Hill sector, well before “sunset”: defensive realignment and then counterattacks by Confederate infantry. Also, neither the sketch nor its notation indicated that the operations there had involved intense, close-quarters infantry fighting on the hill itself and at other locations west of the Richmond Stage Road and the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. Ironically, a Confederate barrage that did occur near sunset drew a Federal artillery response so fierce that MG Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson cancelled a major, planned infantry attack.

For me, however, Lovie’s broader artistic legacy covering the Fredericksburg campaign, and his editors’ ambition in publishing it, outweigh these shortcomings. The three Leslie’s issues appearing between December 13 and December 27, 1862 had offered readers a powerful sequence of six earlier woodcuts—three and probably a fourth based on sketches made by Lovie, one based on a sketch made by Edwin Forbes (in May 1862 but repurposed by Leslie’s in December), and one based on a sketch likely made by either Forbes or Lovie. The six woodcuts included as a common, unifying feature the Rappahannock River along Fredericksburg’s riverfront from the area around the foot of Hawke Street and Chatham on the opposite bank of the Rappahannock, site of the Upper Pontoon Crossing bridges built by Union engineers on December 11, 1862, upstream to Bridgewater Mill, opposite the town of Falmouth on the river. (See map above for locations, in green.) The six pictures took Leslie’s readers through preliminary events of the December battle, essentially supplying a backstory for the two additional, Lovie-based woodcuts published on January 3 and January 10, 1863:

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 13, 1862: THE TOWN OF FALMOUTH, ON THE RAPPAHANNOCK, OPPOSITE FREDERICKSBURG, HEADQUARTERS OF GEN. BURNSIDE, AND THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC—FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST [EDWIN FORBES, MAY 1862]. “The river here is about 600 feet wide, and is very often fordable. A mile to the east the railroad passes from Aquia Creek to Richmond. The bridge…has not been repaired, the army intending to pass over on pontoon bridges.”

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 20, 1862: FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA, AND THE REBEL BATTERIES AND PICKETS, AS SEEN FROM FALMOUTH HEIGHTS, HEADQUARTERS OF GEN. BURNSIDE—FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST, HENRI LOVIE. “[I]n the center of which is the stream, which in dry weather is easily fordable.”

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 20, 1862: THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC AT FALMOUTH—NATIONAL PICKETS ON THE BANK OF RIVER BELOW [ABOVE] DESTROYED RAILROAD BRIDGE—FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST [probably Edwin Forbes or Henri Lovie]. “Indeed, so late as a month ago, it offered no obstacle to our army, as our readers can see—the bed of the river being thickly strewn with large pieces of stone.”

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 27, 1862: BOMBARDMENT OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA., BY THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, COMMANDED BY GEN. BURNSIDE, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11—FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST [probably Henri Lovie].

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 27, 1862: “THE FORLORN HOPE”—VOLUNTEER STORMING PARTY, CONSISTING OF PORTIONS OF THE 7TH Michigan and 19th MASSACHUSETTS, CROSSING THE RAPPAHANNOCK IN ADVANCE OF THE GRAND ARMY, TO DRIVE OFF THE REBEL RIFLEMEN, WHO WERE FIRING UPON THE UNION PONTONIERS, DECEMBER 1[1]—FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST, MR. HENRI LOVIE.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 27, 1862: THE PASSAGE OF THE RAPPAHANNOCK BY THE GRAND ARMY OF THE POTOMAC AT FREDERICKSBURG, VA., MIDNIGHT, [THURSDAY], DECEMBER 1[1].– FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST, MR. HENRI LOVIE. (Lovie evidently prepared the sketch for this woodcut in two halves. The left is now here and the right here.)

In the eight woodcuts and accompanying, explanatory texts published across four weeks and five issues of the newspaper, December 13, 1862-January 10,1863, Leslie’s editors, it seems to me, offered, first, an at-a-“glance” sense of the opportunity that in their view a fordable river at Falmouth held out to the Army of the Potomac when its advance elements arrived there in mid/late-November 1862 and then, culminating in the woodcuts published on January 3 and January 10 and based on Henri Lovie’s art, the consequences of failing to seize that opportunity. Leslie’s first post-battle editorial, published on January 3 (the December 27 issue offering only a summary of telegraphic news of Fredericksburg with minimal analysis), raged at the spurning of the fording-option as well as at the subsequent delay of the pontoons:

When Gen. Sumner’s command, the advance corps of the army, reached Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, the force of the enemy occupying that town was small, and there would have been little opposition to its capture, and little obstruction to an advance in the direction of Richmond. It has been stated that the water in the Rappahannock was at that time so low that Sumner might have crossed the river at once, had he not been forbidden to do so [emphasis original] by his superior in command. At any rate he did not cross, and we all know that a precious month was lost opening a road for supplies by way of Aquia Creek, and in getting forward the pontoons for bridging the Rappahannock, now swollen by rains. During that month the rebel Generals concentrated their whole force at Fredericksburg, and erected there formidable works, against which our army was hurled in vain. If Gen. Burnside could have crossed the river two weeks ago, there would been no doubt of his success. But he was delayed, as the result has shown, until it was “too late.”

It is alleged, as we have already said, that he was delayed by the incapacity and inefficiency of those whose duty it was to have furnished him with the means of crossing the river and subsisting his army. If so, there is no punishment too severe to be inflicted on the delinquents, and nothing should shield them from its stern infliction. Whether high or low, in the Cabinet or out of it, they should be summarily and rigidly dealt with. The blood of our brothers, poured out unavailingly before the rebel batteries, demands swift justice, and the gaping wounds of our thousands of wounded plead for exemplary punishment.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, February 14, 1863: woodcut of caricature by William Newman.

The editorial in the next issue, of January 10, revisited Fredericksburg as a secondary topic but adopted a conciliatory approach in the wake of dissemination of the Joint Committee testimony. The Leslie’s editors now made no reference to a lost fording-opportunity, writing instead that the “great mistake” lay with “the too rapid movements of General Burnside… Had he disguised his purpose of advancing by way of Fredericksburg for a few days longer,” the Federals would have reached it at the same time as the pontoon bridges and “occupied the city and the heights commanding” without offering the Confederates an advance prompt to concentrate there. The editorial added,

[T]he whole tone of the earlier reports of the rebel Generals shows that they barely escaped a complete rout, and that they dreaded the result of a renewal of the attack on the following day [December 14]—an attack which Gen. Burnside tells us he thinks would have been successful, but which he did not feel himself authorized to make against the opinion of his Generals.

For their January 10 edition, then, the editors and their engravers may have returned to Henri Lovie’s panoramic sketch of December 13 to abstract an illustration that avoided a close-up portrayal of the mayhem among Union troops so dramatic in the woodcut published with the scathing January 3 editorial and abstracted, as I argue above, from the same Lovie sketch. Yet even in the January 10 issue, the Lovie-based woodcut (the last that Leslie’s would publish depicting combat during the battle) and its captions suggested bleak prospects for a renewed Union effort on December 14 by highlighting unfavorable terrain and Confederate artillery dominance. And one month later Leslie’s returned to its blistering critique of Union military and civilian leadership at Fredericksburg, this time through a woodcut of a caricature, above, by artist William Newman.

Noel G. Harrison

Sources, in order of appearance of topics (italics)—Lovie’s panoramic sketch and use by Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (hereafter cited as Leslie’s): The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862,” (Leslie’s office-stamp at lower left corner). New York Public Library Digital Collections, at http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/6eaed3cc-75d6-1df6-e040-e00a18065bf1 ; preliminary identifications of Marye’s Heights-area landmarks except for swale, Jones House, and RF&P Railroad Hazel Run crossing: Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Battle of Fredericksburg December 13, 1862 2:00-3:00 P.M., Map 4 of 5, Historical research by Frank A. O’Reilly, Illustrated by John Dove, Revised and produced by Steve Stanley (2001), (hereafter cited as “FSNMP, Battle of Fredericksburg, Map 4 of 5”); Noel G. Harrison, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, Volume Two (Lynchburg, Va. 1995), pp. 100-105, 123-127, 134-147, 149-52, 172-82, 182-85, 275-276, 279, 280-282, 289-291; preliminary identifications of Marye’s Heights-area landmarks—swale, Jones House, and RF&P Railroad Hazel Run crossing: Edward Sachse & Co., View of Fredericksburg, VA, 1856, at https://npsfrsp.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/full-compressed-small.jpg; FSNMP, Battle of Fredericksburg, Map 4 of 5; Map of Fredericksburg, Va., and vicinity (1862), Library of Congress, at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3884f.cwh00124/ ; Positions of Humphreys’ Division Battle of Fredericksburg Decr 13th 1862, National Archives and Records Administration, RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G130-1, at https://i1.wp.com/unwritten-record.blogs.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/RG77_CWMF_G130-1.jpg?ssl=1 ; preliminary identifications of Prospect Hill-area landmarks: William W. Blackford, Sketch of The Battle of Fredericksburg Dezember [sic] 13th 1862, Library of Congress, at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3884f.cwh00123/ ; Harrison, pp. 95-100, 217; Francis Augustín O’Reilly, The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock (Baton Rouge, La., 2010), p. 132; Lovie background: “Henri Lovie (1829-1875)” at https://beckercollection.bc.edu/henri-love ; variant woodcut shared on blog in 2012: John Hennessy, “A reminder: Mysteries and Conundrums–Killing Fields. Monday October 1,” Mysteries and Conundrums, September 25, 2012, at https://npsfrsp.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/a-reminder-mysteries-and-conundrums-killing-fields-monday-october-1/ ; publication date of January 10 woodcut and supplemental description in Leslie’s: Leslie’s, January 10, 1863; January 3 woodcut and later republication: Leslie’s, January 3, 1863; Edward J. Stackpole, “The Battle of Fredericksburg!” Civil War Times Illustrated, December 1965, pp. 34-35; Committee on the Conduct of the War and Leslie’s claims of pictorial veracity: Leslie’s, January 10, 1863 (quotations); George C. Rable, Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2002), p. 353; Leslie’s assertion of Confederate artillery dominance in Marye’s Heights area, and eyewitness confirmation: Leslie’s, January 10, 1863 (first and second quotations); Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Ser. I (hereinafter OR), 21: 239 (third quotation), 586 (fourth quotation), 587 (fifth quotation); Sickles on the view and the battle: OR, 21: 379 (quotations); O’Reilly on Sickles and the Deep Run fighting: O’Reilly, pp. 361 (first quotation), 363 (second, third, fourth, and fifth quotations); Confederate infantry response west of Stage Road key to Union repulse: OR, 21: 92-93, O’Reilly, pp. 165, 182-183, 201, 204, 212, 216-217, 228, 237-239, 355; Jackson’s cancellation of attack near sunset: O’Reilly, pp. 425-428; the six woodcuts predating the January 3 woodcut: Leslie’s, December 13, 20, 27, 1862; May 1862 date for Forbes sketch: Edwin Forbes, View of the town of Falmouth, Va., looking up stream, Library of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004661608/ ; January 3 and 10 editorials: Leslie’s, January 3, 10, 1863; William Newman caricature and background: Leslie’s, February 14, 1863; Rufus Rockwell Wilson, Lincoln in Caricature… (New York, 1953), p. 216.

Note: Leslie’s coverage of the campaign included woodcuts of at least three additional scenes (published on December 6, 1862 and on January 3 and 17, 1863) of the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg and Falmouth, other than the eight I describe above. For a 21st-century interpretation of the Federals’ river-crossing options and delays, see O’Reilly, cited above, pages 30-33, 35, 44-51, 53.

3 thoughts on “A Rarely Seen Panorama of Fredericksburg, and the Pictorial Legacy of Henri Lovie

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. I so treasure the opportunity to view and understand these original documents! Thank you so much for your hard work!

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