Winslow Homer Civil War Art:
The Bayonet Charge
The Civil War was perhaps one of last wars in which men
were asked to leave the position of their trenches and charge square on into
enemy lines. As the men would charge, many would fall from gun shot
wounds from relentless fire from the enemy lines. Perhaps these were
the lucky ones, for they would be spared what would come next. During
an infantry bayonet charge, after the loss of life and limb from gunshot as
the men charged across the field, comes a unique instant.
July 12, 1962 - The War for the Union -
The Bayonet Charge (Click on Image for an Enlarged View)
That instant is the point in time where the two lines
come into contact with each other. At this point, all parties have
no doubt already fired their weapons, so their rifles and pistols are not
loaded. It is the instant in time when men begin driving their bayonets
into each other at close range. Perhaps the most horrific and
terrifying instant that could possibly ever exist in time. Hundreds,
perhaps thousands of men coming into contact at the same instant, with the
sole purpose of slaughtering each other in a very close and personal way.
Winslow Homer captured, perhaps better than any other, the singular horror
of that moment, in this image titled "The War for the Union - A Bayonet
Charge". This image compliments nicely his work from the previous
The Cavalry Charge.
These twin sisters of horror, the
Cavalry Charge and the Bayonet Charge, represent Homer's undiluted
presentation of the horror of war. It is hard to imagine how disturbing
these images must have been for those at home reading the paper, who had
loved ones in the war.
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.