5 December 2006
Where the Muse points, you shall go.
I was in my local library Sunday and saw this volume* displayed on the wall. I was immediately drawn to the book by the face on the cover; also thinking, at first, that it was Harry’s tousled Senator Jim Lane. By the time saw it was otherwise, it was too late: the book was in my hand and I was browsing.
The man on the cover is one of America’s first photographers, Robert Cornelius, from an 1839 daguerrotype self-portrait. He obviously wasn’t worried about his hair either.
So much for the chase. How about the catch? What did I find in this lovely picture book?
This Antietam battle sketch I’d not seen before, and I thought I knew most of the special artist’s work on the battle. Now in the Library of Congress collection, it’s by Dublin-born artist Arthur Lumley (1837-1912), an artist I did not know. Lumley’s handwritten caption reads
“the fight in the cornfield; the Irish Brigade driving the rebels out, on the right wing “.
If he drew this action in The cornfield and “right wing” is correct, then these men are probably not of the Irish Brigade. If, instead, it’s a cornfield near the Bloody Lane, then “right wing” is wrong. Lumley was apparently confused. Or perhaps eager to see fellow Irishmen wherever he looked. Or maybe he wasn’t actually on the spot.
In any case, he was not new to the Army of the Potomac that September of 1862. He had been with the Army as special artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper [article about] since at least December 1861, and was probably in the employ of a competitor, the New York Illustrated News by Antietam.
What a treat for me, to find this Antietam scene just by chasing that intriguing face.
Lumley’s other wartime images in the online collection at the Library of Congress cover the period from late 1861 through the Fredericksburg Campaign of December 1862, so it seems fair to assume he was with the AoP for at least that long.
Biographical information and pointers to his art from askart.
*The book Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (1997) is something of a “greatest hits” collection of images in American History from the US Library of Congress, and has hundreds of other fascinating pictures, both sweet and sour, spanning the last 400 years. I warn you not to pick it up.