Image of painting titled The Provision Train


Soldiering was 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror
Civil War Soldier's Letter

Art depicting conflict has a long tradition, from murals and stelae of the ancient world to contemporary armies engaged in mechanized and deadly encounters.  Works of art in this genre cover a wide range of military topics.  They present heroic scenes of soldiers in combat, defeated enemies, bound and humiliated hostages, and the aftermath of battle.  Naval engagements were a popular genre.  Accurate renditions of uniforms reflected a keen interest in the military and were also popular.  

The artworks in this gallery are not all heroic visions of warfare.  Several present the more human aspect of conflict.  They depict officers, enlisted men, and townspeople within the landscape engaged in daily and sometimes mundane activities.

There are several renditions of the Revolutionary War hero, General Washington.  In one he is portrayed on horseback leading his troops into battle.  Another, by James Peale, presents the general with detailed attention to his uniform.  The artist included two uniformed and armed men, James and Charles Willson Peale, who stand behind Washington’s right shoulder under a tree, possibly as a reference to the brothers’ Revolutionary War experience.  A column of uniformed soldiers, one carrying the French flag, is seen in the right mid-ground.

For the average soldier during the Civil War, army life was hard.  Torn from the comforts of their homes, men and boys of military age were suddenly subjected to rigid discipline, strict routine, poor diet, sickness, and inadequate shelter.  During these long periods in camp, soldiers found ways to express themselves through art and other pursuits.  Sketching with pencil or pen allowed absent husbands, brothers, and sons to enclose scenes of camp life in letters home to family and friends.