High-Ranking Skedaddle: a Previously Unidentified Sketch of Spotsylvania?

From Noel Harrison:

The following sketch appears among the many pictures recently added to the Library of Congress’ digital collections. The Library identifies the artist, Alfred R. Waud, the principal subject, Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George Meade, and the year, 1864, but neither the location nor the specific date. The sketch probably appears here for the first time in an interpretive venue:

A high-resolution version is here.

Waud’s handwritten caption reads:

Narrow escape of Genl Meade Some cavalry dashing out of the woods suddenly upon the genl & his attendants came very near cutting off Their retreat and making a capture of the party. Prominent near the genl., Col. Michler on a rough track or farm road that wound along the foot of a tree covered knoll out from which came the rebs to cut them off.
Continue reading


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

Continue reading

A Stafford County Photograph and Sketch Give Faces to Wartime Freedom

from: Harrison

How soon after the summer of 1862 did Northern photographers resume documenting the Fredericksburg area’s wartime scenes? Considering this general question led me down an unexpected path to a particular part of a particular month in 1863, and to a certain area of Stafford County. The story I found was one of different artistic media that had converged to record and popularize an iconic tableau of freedom but, ironically, left its date and location unidentified.

(In the current absence of known photographs of the Confederate occupation of the area in May 1861-March 1862, a series of views of the Union occupation during the summer of 1862 holds distinction as the earliest-known photographic window onto local wartime landscapes. To my knowledge, no such images verifiably dated to December 1862 have been found.)

An oft-published image of the still-smoking ruins of the Phillips House in Stafford, which caught fire on February 14, 1863, marked an early post-battle resumption of local photography that, thanks to the drama of the blaze and consequent recording by various writers, is dateable to within a day or two:

Yet it’s hard to imagine that the lapse in photo-documentation of outdoor scenes in the Fredericksburg area continued through an event as attention-grabbing as the December 1862 battle. After the summer of 1862, did the camera lenses really remain uncapped until mid-February 1863?

Previously, I devoted a series of posts to another candidate for the distinction of earliest post-battle photograph of a local landscape: a stereograph depicting a flag-of-truce exchange, amid no less than 160 spectators, on the Fredericksburg riverfront. Although I would be delighted if this image turned out to document the post-battle truce crossings there on December 17-18, 1862, my current suspicion is that the actual date will prove to be sometime in February or March 1863, as suggested in different records at the Library of Congress, and when truce crossings indeed also occurred.

In an article published in the journal Fredericksburg History and Biography, I considered a third photograph as the area’s earliest outdoor-view following the December battle. Let’s revisit that image in order to update research, and to take advantage of the opportunities for higher-resolution analysis of pictures afforded by this blog.

In its issue for January 31, 1863, Harper’s Weekly devoted an entire page to a woodcut-illustration (below left) of formerly enslaved people. The caption titled the woodcut “CONTRABANDS COMING INTO CAMP IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE PROCLAMATION.” Harper’s noted that the woodcut was based upon a sketch (below right) by special artist Alfred R. Waud, bearing his manuscript caption, “An arrival in Camp—under the Proclamation of Emancipation.” On a separate page in the same issue of Harper’s, Waud noted that the picture was intended to document the “beginning of the effect of the President’s Proclamation of Freedom”—the Emancipation Proclamation that Abraham Lincoln signed and issued on January 1, 1863:

Continue reading

An Artwork Both Breathtaking and Baffling: Alfred Waud Takes the Long View in Stafford County

from: Harrison

The many striking works of Harper’s Weekly special artist Alfred R. Waud include this sketch of one of the Army of the Potomac’s Stafford County reviews in 1863.  The sketch’s appearance on this blog probably represents its first-ever publication in an interpretive venue:

(Higher-resolution versions are available here.)

The scope of Waud’s extraordinary picture, and its identification of the reviewed troops as the “Infantry of the Army of the Potomac” generally, suggest that his subject was the largest of the reviews, held on April 8 under the gaze of President Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln may be astride the horse slightly advanced from all the others on the rise at lower left.

Continue reading

Edwin Forbes Leaves Us a Colorful Stafford County Mystery, in Black-and-White

From Noel Harrison:

For me, few eyewitness artworks better match the written accounts of the bleakness and tedium of Civil War life than this sketch by special artist Edwin Forbes:

His drawing depicts one and perhaps two brush shelters, and occupants, of a Federal picket station situated in Stafford County on Potomac Creek, somewhere upstream from its gorge crossed by the famous “Beanpoles and Cornstalks” railroad bridge.

It’s March 13, 1863. In a diary entry for that day, a soldier in one of the regimental camps guarded by the picket line noted, “A little snow this morning—some clouds—clear this evening.”

On the one hand, Forbes accurately captures the eternal, overarching reality of soldier life: the “wait” part of “hurry up and wait.” The sketch’s undistinguished setting, moreover, characterized the terrain along at least a third of the length of the picket line that surrounded the Army of the Potomac’s camps in southern Stafford in November 1862-June 1863. Much of the line extended between low, brushy hills north and west of the Rappahannock, far from the diverting vistas (and banter with enemy pickets) that duty along the river and its high bluffs afforded.
Continue reading

An unseen sketch of Fredericksburg, December 1862

From:  Noel G. Harrison (originally published as part of a larger post over at Fredericksburg Remembered):

The vast Civil War output of special artist Alfred R. Waud (pronounced “Wood”) includes this sketch of Fredericksburg during the December 1862 battle.  The discussions of the sketch on this blog and on Fredericksburg Remembered probably represent its first appearances in interpretive venues despite its status, at least in my opinion, as one of the most powerful artworks in Waud’s entire portfolio: 

The specific date and location within Fredericksburg are not identified by the online catalog for the Library of Congress, where the sketch resides.

Erik F. Nelson, a senior planner with the City of Fredericksburg, has observed that the heavy smoke suggests a moment early in the Federals’ December occupation and shortly after the cessation of their bombardment:  sometime in the late afternoon or evening on December 11. 

With regard to possible location, the window- and door placements on the partially rendered building at left bear some resemblance to those of the Wallace House and Store. That once stood at the corner of Caroline and William streets (more recently the “Ben Franklin”-store corner) and appears in the right foreground of a different battle illustration from the Library of Congress collections–a frequently published sketch drawn by special artist Arthur Lumley on the night of December 12:

Rarely seen today, however, is the word-sketch that Lumley, a native of Ireland, added to the back of the same piece of paper (spelling original):

This night the city was in the wildest confusion sacked by the union troops = houses burned down furniture scattered in the streets = men pillaging in all directions – a fit scene for the French revolution and a discrace to the Union Arms – This is my view of what I saw.

A Key Landmark Vanishes from the Fredericksburg Battlefield…Too Soon for Photographing but Not for Sketching

from:  Harrison

I always savor the irony of a Civil War-era “outsider,” whether a soldier or a civilian, a writer, sketch-artist, or photographer, creating what turns out to be the most detailed of all the known portrayals of a building destined to vanish from the landscape.

The war was extraordinary in part for bringing national and enduring fame—even international renown—to countless, ordinary sites and structures that would otherwise have received little if any notice, even on the local level.  In peacetime such places gained, at most, only fragmentary documentation in census- and legal records, insurance policies, or the occasional notice in a diary or newspaper.  The events of 1861-1865, however, brought scrutiny by strangers with fresh eyes, sharpened still more by the awareness that a particular building could mark the boundary between life and death, or even success and failure of national import.

And a further irony presents itself:  the very Civil War events that brought the attentions of strangers and their heightened sensitivity often destroyed the places they documented vividly…soon after that documenting was achieved.

Working from John Keyser’s eyewitness, black-and-white sketch, a Philadelphia lithographer produced a vivid, color depiction of Stratton’s Wheelwright Shop complex—its principal building shown with dark roof at upper center in this detail from “Charge of Kimball’s Brigade in the Battle of Fredericksburg.”  Yet a comparison with the sketch and other contemporary pictures, below, reveals artistic license and distortions in the color version.  (Note Brompton at upper right and the millrace at bottom for orientation.)  Courtesy Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University.

Working from John Keyser’s eyewitness, black-and-white sketch, a Philadelphia lithographer produced a vivid, color depiction of Stratton’s Wheelwright Shop complex—the large building with dark roof at upper center in this detail from “Charge of Kimball’s Brigade in the Battle of Fredericksburg.” Yet a comparison with the sketch and other contemporary pictures discussed below reveals major distortions in the color version. (Note Brompton at upper right and the millrace at bottom for orientation.) Courtesy Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University.

Such was the case with Allen Stratton’s wheelwright shop, situated on what in December 1862 became the Bloody Plain at the outskirts of Fredericksburg.  Stratton’s enterprise consisted of two principal, wooden structures likely housing a blacksmith’s forge, a carpentry shop, and a stable/storage area, and perhaps linked together by a smaller connector-structure.  (I will refer to the shop in the singular for the purposes of this discussion.)  Of these two principal components, one fronted Fair Street, and one fronted both Fair and a stretch of Telegraph Road also known as the “Court House Road” (modern-day Kirkland Street in that vicinity) opposite Sisson’s Grocery Store.

On the eve of the Civil War, Fair Street extended a short distance beyond and south of the wheelwright shop, and past Allen Stratton’s brick dwelling, to or near the Fredericksburg fairgrounds’ north gate.  (Fair Street, modern Littlepage Street, now extends south entirely through the densely-subdivided site of the former fairgrounds to an intersection with modern Lafayette Boulevard.)  I’ve annotated a survey map, dating from 1856, to show the street- and building locations on the eve of the war (with north pointing right):
Stratton’s Wheelwright Shop was definitely standing by 1856.  It appears as a hazy, two-component building on the Sachse chromolithographed panorama of Fredericksburg (below), which also dates to that year.  The shop is largely interchangeable with dozens of other white structures appearing elsewhere on the chromolithograph.  (Note that Stratton’s brick dwelling, built around 1858, has not yet appeared on the landscape.)

Continue reading