A Union soldier is standing alone in the pouring rain wearing a disgusted look on his face and aiming his eyes and rifle at the ground in an etching called "D--n the Country."
Limping and frail, a wounded Confederate soldier, appearing to stare out of the painting, leans on a comrade for support as they make their way from the battlefield in a work titled "The Wounded Civil War Soldier."
"The Wounded Civil War Soldier," painted by a soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia, and "D--n the Country," sketched by a member of the Massachusetts Light Artillery, are two works in "The Artist's View," a collection of works by Civil War participants on display until March 1987 at the Fort Ward Museum in Alexandria.
The exhibit, which includes etchings, paintings, carvings and political cartoons, offers an inside look at the world of the Civil War soldier. Most of the work was done by "special artists," or so-called specials, who were hired by northern newspapers to travel with the troops and produce on-the-scene sketches of battles and everyday camp life.
Along with having the ability to sketch quickly and spontaneously, specials, according to Harper's Weekly artist Theodore Davis, had to have "a total disregard for personal safety and comfort."
A process called wood-block engraving allowed these artists' work to appear in newspapers just weeks after the event. The sketches would be forwarded to newspapers, where a staff artist would draw the scene in reverse on a wood block. The block was then given to an engraver, who carved away the wood around the drawn lines.
The most famous of these specials were Alfred Waud, Winslow Homer and Edwin Forbes, who did battle scenes. Forbes and Waud were the only artists present at the Battle of Gettysburg, but Forbes' famous battle scene, "Pickett's Charge, Battle of Gettysburg," was actually done after the Confederate forces had withdrawn. Forbes had to seek shelter behind Union lines at Cemetery Ridge during the actual charge, according to the museum.
A soldier's leisure time is also a predominant theme in the work of the artists. Confederate soldier Conrad Wise Chapman, for example, depicted the life of soldiers in camps and fortifications.
Chapman's sketches offer a unique look at the everday routines of soldiers off the battlefield. Chapman was nicknamed Old Rome because he was reared in Italy. According to the museum, he was encouraged to capture the daily events of drilling and guard duty by comrades who would shout "Old Rome, catch it."
Another Confederate soldier and artist, William Sheppard, also depicted the daily life of troops at leisure. In his paintings "Sunday Morning, 1861" and "Reveille," Sheppard shows simple scenes of camp life, such as soldiers polishing their boots, shaving and being awakened by the bugler.
Along with the battlefield and camp artists, art was also generated by prisoners of war. There are miniature leather boots, acorn thimbles and a chess set that was made of the wood from a pontoon bridge.
Probably the most provocative of the carvings are rose-shaped earrings and a brooch carved from beef bone by a northern soldier incarcerated in Libby prison in Richmond. An examination of the intricate jewelry indicates the boredom and solitude of the prisoner as well as the pain of separation from the carving's would-be recipient.
Not all of the artists were concerned with showing the activities and tribulations of soldiers and prisoners of war. Adalbert Volck -- a Baltimore dentist, steadfast secessionist and blockade runner -- used his political cartoons to criticize northern leaders, to portray Union troops as ruthless aggressors and to perpetuate what he felt was the righteousness of the South's cause.
One of Volck's etchings, titled "Passage through Baltimore," satirizes Lincoln's decision to reroute his pre-inauguration train ride through Baltimore because of assassination rumors. He portrays a disguised Lincoln hiding in a boxcar and terrified at the sight of a cat.
In contrast, Volck depicts the dignity and righteousness of southern leaders in a cartoon of Stonewall Jackson leading his men in prayer.
But by far the most graphic and gripping piece on display, and part of the reason "The Artist's View" so vividly reveals the realities and personalities of the Civil War, is Volck's "In the Wake of War."
In it, a southern man screams at the sky after returning home to find the body of his naked wife lying dead next to an empty cradle and his house destroyed by Union troops, as vultures look on their fresh prey and rats scurry through the rubble. A book lying open in the foreground of the sketch reads "By their deeds ye shall know them."