Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The Morning After - May 13, 2014 - Where Alfred Waud Sketched, 150 Years Ago Today
May 13, 2014, 6:34 A.M.
Above, an embellished sketch by newspaper artist Alfred Waud, was drawn May 13, 1864, when the location was actually free of engaged troops. What Waud would have come upon was a field strewn with bodies of the dead and the associated debris of war. Harper's Weekly's "special artist" was an accomplished landscape artist and he accurately depicts the ground before him. The viewer can click the image and examine more closely the mastery of his craft. Notice that the bodies of the dead are of a slightly larger scale and are placed on the paper in a sketchy, quick hand. The figures of the soldiers doing the fighting are executed with more refinement, filled in after Waud would have returned to a conducive work space. It is also interesting that he included a conference of seemingly unfazed officers in the right foreground. Although Waud, and the other newspaper special artists of the day are characterized as having crawled toward an engagement and sketched a battle as it unfolded, I have no illusion that he would have done so at this hot a location. This sketch was later turned into an engraving and published in the June 11, 1864 issue of Harper's Weekly on pages 376-377.
On October 11, 2009, I enlisted the assistance of National Park Service historian Eric Mink to confirm the location from which I believed Waud had made his base sketch. I established a static camera position with the camera on a tripod, and then directed Eric to assume various poses in the approximate locations of the figures Waud created from his skilled imagination. In all, Eric kindly repositioned himself sixty-three times across the landscape, including the distant prolongation of the Federal line that created the "Bloody Angle", the area where Waud depicted the heavy billowing of gunsmoke at middle right. As seen above, I then digitally combined all the "Erics" into a finished piece.
A few years later, a rubberized mulch trail was installed across the position of the kneeling Union soldiers, along with an interpretive sign utilizing Waud's drawing.