J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Art in the Realm of War



On a recent trip to Disneyland, my son and I went to California Adventure and participated in a class on how to draw Disney characters. It was loads of fun and very interesting to see how artists create cartoon characters. I hate to admit it, but my kiddo outdid my drawings. His were way better!


Seeing these creations firsthand reminded me of how many artists conributed their talents during the War Between the States. Not only did well-renowned painters of the time create magnificent works of art, but soldiers documented their experiences as well. Photography was a fairly new invention, and thousands of tintypes were made during the Civil War. But many artists contributed their talents, too, by conveying portraits, paintings, drawings, and scenerios during the war.


Not all drawings were professional, but most of them effectively expressed what each soldier was observing (and sometimes feeling) at the time. From First Bull Run (First Manassas) to Chickamauga to Appomatox, artists, both professional and ameteur, were on the scene to portray their experiences.


Now, a century and a half later, it’s easy to get caught up in the over-stimulating world of the internet and photoshopped images. Seeing freehand drawings created by soldiers who endured the horrors of the war is not only amazing, but also endearing.


I have seen some of these drawings firsthand. The most impressive is at the Graffiti House in Brandy Station, Virginia. It is an amazing, and somewhat spooky, insight into what the soldiers experienced during the war. The Graffiti House is a work in progress, because the Brandy Station Foundation is constantly uncovering more concealed art that has been buried under decades-old sheetrock and wallpaper.


I urge you to visit your local art gallery. So much of our rich history lies in the paintings and drawings of these institutions.




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