Captain James Hope, a professional artist, was 43 years old and a member of the 2nd Vermont Infantry. Hope had taken part in a dozen engagements prior to Antietam, but disabled by illness, he was assigned to sideline duties as a scout and mapmaker. He recorded in his sketchbook the battle scenes before his eyes, and then after the battle converted his sketches into a series of five large paintings.
The paintings were first exhibited in his gallery in Watkins Glen, New York. After Hope's death in 1892 the gallery was closed and fell into disrepair. A flood in the 1930's destroyed much of his work and severely damaged the battle panoramas.
The Antietam scenes were purchased by an art collector and hung in the eaves of a church for many years where the paintings were further damaged by birds and rodents.
In 1979, the National Park Service purchased the paintings and began a rescue effort. With ladders, scaffolding, sweat and and effort, Park Service curators struggled to remove the paintings that were nailed to the wall with 6 inch spikes. Each painting weighing well over 200 pounds had to be delicately lowered, stabilized and packed for their trip to Maryland. Now painstakingly restored, the Hope paintings provide us one veteran's vision of the Battle of Antietam.
Last updated: April 10, 2015