Gettysburg Reenactment Sketches
Read More Below the Images
Working as a Battlefield Illustrator Re-Enactor, Union and Confederate Units were followed throughout the 3-day event and care was given to produce action sketches just as the artists did during the Civil War. And, it was truly challenging "work"; keeping up with troop movements, quickly identifying locations from which to draw, selecting noteworthy content, and aiming for speed and accuracy. These raw sketches are simple, loose, and capture live action as it progressed. Note the numbers written in the corners of the sketches; these are how many minutes it took to get in place, and identify and sketch an event, or to produce a non-event practice sketch.
Civil War Battlefield Illustrators did what photography - still in its infant state - could not do; capture live action. Typically, a rough sketch with annotations was produced on location, then details were added from memory or the abundant live props around them after withdrawing from the main event - in a tent, wagon, or elsewhere. Once completed to taste the sketches were curried by horse or other means to a newspaper where a team of engravers converted the image for mass printing. In this way Civil War live action was made available to a waiting public - making the Civil War the first war that live battlefield action could be followed as it unfolded. An indicator of just how popular illustrated newspapers with battlefield scenes became is that some newspaper issues exceeded 300,000 copies.
Photography could not be reproduced in the publications of the time - and were usually only portraits, landscapes, and after-battle still images seen in galleries in buildings. Some or parts of the raw re-enactment sketches shown have been further developed into detailed drawings in the Gettysburg Series on this website. Can you find where? Personally, I like these raw sketches - warts and flaws and all; as they have a direct character all their own. Producing battlefield sketches requires sweat, skill, savvy, experience, speed, accuracy, and an intimate knowledge of military movements and protocol. A Battlefield Illustrator would usually be armed with a revolver, carry their own equipment on foot or horseback, and their whereabouts would be known to the various units they traveled with - all necessary for survival and production. Each Battlefield Illustrator carried their own choice of equipment. For the 150th Gettysburg, I carried a .44 Cal Revolver, Canteen, Leather Haversack, and Leather Portfolio with period-style paper, pencils, and other art supplies; and dressed the part. For a brief time, I was a Combat Correspondent in Vietnam and produced for the Stars And Stripes Magazine - so I had some idea of what to expect at the 150th Gettysburg. Combat experience, ample training and experience as an artist, teacher, and professor added depth. But, what stood out the most at the 150th Gettysburg was the challenge of producing in tough fast-evolving conditions - and how much more difficult it would have been during the real Civil War with one's own life at peril. As an artist and history buff I truly appreciate what Battlefield Illustrators did at that time. Hats off to the Blue Gray Alliance for making this experience possible!