The Civil War Connections Blog

More Than Just A Pretty Picture

Hello readers, long time no see!  I was recently sent on a quest by the education department to research some famous names from the Age of Exploration, but I thought I would take a break and come back to the nineteenth century.  If you have been following our blog for a while, you will no doubt be familiar with Harper’s Weekly; an eclectic magazine printed in New York that presented readers with short stories, cartoons, and news on all sorts of subjects. One of the most interesting elements of the magazine is the multitude of illustrations that fill the pages of every issue.  During the Civil War, such images allowed the public to catch a glimpse of bloodied battlefields, gallant generals, and the common soldier without clamoring behind breastworks or traveling with the rank and file.  However, the men who were responsible for sketching the pictures did travel with the soldiers in the field and in some cases shadowed major armies led by the most newsworthy generals.   

Such was the case with Alfred R. Waud, an artist-journalist who penciled scenes from numerous battles into history.  Born in London, Waud perfected his artistic talent at what is now known as the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy of Arts.  After immigrating to the United States in 1850, he leant his talents to The Carpet-Bag (a magazine based in Boston) and eventually the New York Illustrated News.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, his latter appointment would send him to cover the movements of the Army of the Potomac; an assignment that would garner attention from our favorite publication, Harper’s Weekly.  Waud joined the staff of Harper’s at the end of 1861 and continued to follow McClellan’s army from battle to battle, enduring every attack and change in leadership.[i]

Waud, Alfred R.

Alfred Waud by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Library of Congress.

Below are some examples of Waud’s work.  His sketches were published in many forms ranging from their original designs bore into etchings to paintings and illustrations based on his images.  Like the photographs of Gardner or O’Sullivan, Waud’s sketches open a portal to the past for present day historians.  Not only are they beautiful, but informative, and ultimately provide a view of battles unlike the typical narrative provided by journal entries or letters. 

Colonel Burnsides brigade at Bull Run, First and Second Rhode Island, and Seventy-First New York Regiments, with their Artillery, Attacking the Rebel Batteries at Bull Run. Sketched on the spot by A. Waud

Colonel Burnsides brigade at Bull Run, First and Second Rhode Island, and Seventy-First New York Regiments, with their Artillery, Attacking the Rebel Batteries at Bull Run. Sketched on the spot by A. Waud. Library of Congress.

 

Spare cartridges
“Spare Cartridges.” Library of Congress.
 
Kearney [sic] at Battle of Williamsburg
“Kearney [sic] at Battle of Williamsburg.”  Library of Congress.
 

[i] John M. Cunningham. “Alfred R. Waud.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Web. 5 Jul. 2012. < http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/637773/Alfred-R-Waud>.