The Civil War Bayonet Charge


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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.

Winslow Homer- The Bayonet Charge

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 week, entitled The Cavalry ChargeThese 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 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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