Photo Essays

Winslow Homer's Civil War

Posted 8/19/2019 By The Civil War Monitor

After the outbreak of the Civil War, 25-year-old artist Winslow Homer traveled to the front to sketch scenes of the conflict's participants and engagements for Harper's Weekly, the country's premier illustrated newspaper. Though young, Homer, who had sketched for Harper's for years before the start of hostilities, had already established himself as a skilled illustrator with a keen eye for detail. By war's end, he had produced some of the most iconic views of the Civil War, providing Harper's Weekly readers with a behind the scenes look at the four-year struggle. Below are a handful of Homer's illustrations, all of them published in Harper's. After the war, Homer would expand his skills to include painting, at which he also excelled. He died in 1910 at age 74.

 

In the leadup to the outbreak of the war, Homer sketched a number of important scenes for Harper's readers, including this one of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States on March 4, 1861.
After the fall of Fort Sumter, Homer—like many other artist-correspondents—captured scenes of troops heading off to war. Here Homer shows the departure of the 79th New York, a Scottish-American militia regiment, through the streets of New York City.
This Homer sketch appeared in the June 8, 1861, issue of Harper's Weekly with the caption "The advance guard of the grand army of the United States crossing the Long Bridge over the Potomac, at 2 a.m. on May 24, 1861."
This double-page Homer illustration, titled "The Songs of War," provides visual represenation for several of the war's more popular tunes.
"A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac," one of Homer's many sketches of camp life in the Union army.
Homer accompanied the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, during which he produced a number of sketches, including these of the Union advance on Yorktown, Virginia. 
Union cavarymen overrun a Confederate position in this Homer sketch of combat during the Peninsula Campaign.
Homer not only caputred the ferocity of combat in his sketches, but also its effects. In this illustration, a Union surgeon and other members of the army's medical staff treat Union wounded as a battle rages nearby in 1862.
In "Our Women and the War," Homer reminded readers of the diverse roles that women played in support of the war effort—both at home and at the front.
One of Homer's better known Civil War sketches is this illustration of a lone Union sniper titled "A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty."
Union soldiers are shown celebrating Thanksgiving in camp in this Homer sketch from November 1862.
In "Pay Day in the Army of the Potomac," Homer depicts a number of scenes associated with the troops receiving their monthly wages.
Several sentries remain alert as a Union army column pauses for a needed rest during the Overland Campaign in 1864 in this Homer sketch titled "Army of the Potomac—Sleeping on Their Arms."
Families eagerly greet returning Union soldiers in this Homer sketch titled "Home from the War."
Several months after war's end, Harper's published this Homer illustration of a young woman and her beau—a Union veteran whose arm had been amputated from a wound received in battle—on a carriage ride in peacetime. The conflict might have been over, but as Homer reminded Harper's readers, those who had served still bore its scars.

 

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