2 February 2007
I have some follow-up to the last post, about General McClellan dashing over the field during the battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862. Happily more battle illustration is required in accompaniment.
This is one of the five famous Hope Paintings, a series of very large panoramic views painted by battle veteran James Hope working from sketches he made during the battle. These were first exhibited to the public in or after 1872 at his Watkins Glen studio.
The Park Service notes describe this picture:
… burning Mumma Farm is seen on the left, and Gen. George McClellan is riding with his staff on his only visit onto the battlefield that day at about 2:00 pm. On the right, Richardson’s and French’s Union Divisions advancing on Bloody Lane.
Is this further evidence of McClellan’s whereabouts on the field or artistic interpretation?
I notice a similarity in the depiction of the McClellan group in the Hope painting and the Forbes engraving from The Century, as shown last post. Here are details from each:
There goes the General, racing ahead, with one staff officer near behind, the rest in a trailing clump. An obvious difference, however, is that Forbes (1886) pictured the group ahead of a large body of troops in line of battle–with the inevitable cheering and throwing of hats–whereas Hope (c.1872) had them alone on a more peaceful field.
I wonder if Forbes took inspiration from Hope and added the troops for dramatic effect? He was helping to sell magazines, after all, and I would assume (without real evidence) that he had seen Hope’s Antietam series.
Another possibility is that Forbes’ view is more accurate and that Captain Hope heard stories, but didn’t actually see the General on the field September 17th–including him allegorically.
All this is really just a tease, although fun to play around with.
Thanks to some excellent pointers from Harry and others, and expectation of further research tonight or tomorrow, I ought shortly be able to put General McClellan more specifically on the field the day of the battle in context with events and surroundings.
I would like to learn how truly he is (or isn’t) represented in the art of Forbes and Hope.