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.
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
leafs are available for a price of $250 a piece, and the proceeds will go to continue to expand the
resources on this site.