Winslow Homer Bivouac Fire


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Winslow Homer Civil War Art:

A Bivouac Fire

The illustration at right is a Winslow Homer illustration of a Civil War Bivouac Fire.  It is from the December 21, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly.  The illustration is captioned, "A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac." The illustration represents a priceless historical piece for the serious student of the Civil War.

Homer - The Bivouac Fire

December 21, 1861 -  A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac (Click on image for Enlarged View)

The illustration presents an incredibly detailed historical view of Civil War life in a Union Camp. The piece gives a feeling for what it was like for soldiers to sit around the campfire at night.  In the enter of the illustration, a black man can be seen dancing around the campfire, and another black man plays the fiddle.  It is unknown whether the black men were free or slave . . . it was not unusual for Northern officers to own slaves.  The soldiers can be seen sitting around the camp fire, enjoying the entertainment.  In the foreground several soldiers can be seen playing cards.  It is interesting to look at the "kitty" in the card game, in that it includes an I.O.U. . . . apparently, one of the players has already lost last months wages, and is not playing with next months paycheck.  Some men are seen relaxing with a pipe, and even reclining against one another.  In the background, we see a more serious site . . . soldiers standing picket duty, as a reminder that despite the festivities, there is a war on.

Winslow Homer's Signature can be distinctly seen in the lower left corner of this leaf.  The image also show's Homer's unmistakable artistic style.  Notice how prominently the bayonets appear in the image.  the viewers eye is drawn to the soldiers sharp and ominous bayonet.  Homer creates an image of warmth and fellowship around the fire, but the protruding bayonets refuse to let the viewer forget what may lay in store for these men in the morning.

A Note to our Readers

We acquired the images above for the purpose of digitally persevering them on this site for all to enjoy.  With the digital archive complete, we are making the original, 140 year old illustrations available for purchase.  By selling these original illustrations, we are able to acquire more material to archive on this site.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the original Harper's Weekly leafs on this page, contact The leafs are available for a price of $250 a piece, and the proceeds will go to continue to expand the resources on this site.




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