Images from the Storm: 300 Civil War Images by the Author of Eye of the Storm

Images from the Storm: 300 Civil War Images by the Author of Eye of the Storm

by Jr., Charles F. Bryan, Robert Sneden
     
 

The Civil War legacy of Robert Knox Sneden is an unparalleled treasure trove of words and pictures. The publication of the bestselling Eye of the Storm in the fall of 2000 first brought his memoir to light, accompanied by a sample of his artwork. In all, however, he crafted some 900 watercolors and sketches. Now, with the 300 watercolors, sketches, maps, and

Overview

The Civil War legacy of Robert Knox Sneden is an unparalleled treasure trove of words and pictures. The publication of the bestselling Eye of the Storm in the fall of 2000 first brought his memoir to light, accompanied by a sample of his artwork. In all, however, he crafted some 900 watercolors and sketches. Now, with the 300 watercolors, sketches, maps, and diagrams in Images from the Storm, his artistic legacy can be appreciated on its own terms — an achievement equal in magnitude to his writings, and unsurpassed by any other Civil War soldier-artist. Images from the Storm presents the best of Sneden's art throughout his odyssey of combat, capture, imprisonment, and deliverance, a pictorial record of the war that puts the viewer in the shoes of a Union soldier as nothing else can.

Sneden aimed for vivid detail and documentary accuracy in his maps, landscapes, battles, and scenes of camp life. He sketched the camps and surroundings of the Union army, the siege of Yorktown, the battle of Williamsburg, the approach of the army to within sight of the church spires of Richmond, and the tumultuous fighting retreat of the Seven Days' battles as the Union army shrank before a relentless Confederate offensive. He drew dozens of maps and sketched daily life around Washington, D.C., before his capture in autumn 1863.

For the next thirteen months, Sneden was a prisoner of the Confederacy. In a drafty tobacco warehouse in Richmond, he sketched prison life and Confederate scenes before being packed with others aboard cattle cars for a jolting train ride south. In a remote corner of rural Georgia, he survived the outdoor prison at Andersonville and drew some of his most astonishing images of camp life and its suffering. When Andersonville was evacuated, he continued to make secret pencil sketches of Confederate prisons in Savannah and Millen, Georgia, and in Florence and Charleston, South Carolina.

Finally freed in a massive prisoner exchange in Charleston harbor, he returned home to New York at Christmas 1864. He made little use of his architectural training thereafter, but devoted himself to compiling his memoir of the war and converting his pencil sketches into watercolors. A solitary man who never married, Sneden died at an old soldiers' home in Bath, New York, in 1918. His watercolors and his story were forgotten for nearly a century. Images from the Storm reproduces the best of Sneden's art in sharp colors, so we can appreciate fully the mastery of a miniaturist who saw it all, and sketched whenever and wherever he could.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As a follow-up to Pvt. Robert Knox Sneden's illustrated contemporary Civil War memoir, published last year, Images from the Storm: 300 Civil War Images by the Author of Eye of the Storm arrives this fall. Alongside excerpts from the memoir appear maps, watercolors, sketches and engravings by the cartographer and soldier. Many of the drawings date to Sneden's year as a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison. His work wavers between skilled illustration and "folk" artistic imagery though even these latter display his ability in rendering perspective, proportion, etc. Scholars of American art and of the Civil War will benefit from these visual documents, but anyone interested in American history will respond. (Oct. 4) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Following last year's favorably reviewed Eye of the Storm (LJ 7/00), the publisher now offers 300 more sketches from the collection of Pvt. Robert Knox Sneden. Sneden was a member of the 40th New York Volunteers who witnessed and obsessively recorded much of the Civil War. In November 1863, he was captured by John S. Mosby's partisan guerrillas and endured several prisons until he was freed by a prisoner exchange in 1864. An aspiring draftsman and architect before the war, Sneden could not resist recording what he observed, eventually filling 5000 handwritten pages with nearly 1000 watercolors and maps. After the war, in poor health and his career as an artist languishing, he continued to color and refine his sketches until his death in 1918. His words and images, a unique record of the Civil War, were discovered in a Connecticut bank vault and purchased by the Virginia Historical Society in 1994. The editors, who all work for the society, have enlarged many of the miniature drawings so that readers can appreciate Sneden's detail. We see large vistas of encampments, aerial balloons, detailed maps, smoky battles, executions, and more, all annotated by the artist. A required work for any Civil War, art, or Americana collection. Joseph Hewgley, Nashville P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This is the second volume of Union Private Sneden's work compiled by the Virginia Historical Society. The first one came to the attention of the Society in 1993 in the form of several scrapbooks of artwork. The subsequent discovery of a "memoir based on a diary" brought the full body of the collection to 900 watercolors and maps supported by a 5000-page memoir. Eye of the Storm (Free Press, 2000) featured selections from the memoir illustrated by a smattering of Sneden's maps and artwork. The reverse is true of Images, which presents 300 works with accompanying memoir excerpts and/or editorial notes. Sneden was 29 when he enlisted in 1861; his skills as a draftsman (and amateur artist) landed him on Gen. Heintzelman's staff as a cartographer. He was present for the Battle of Second Manassas in 1862, was taken prisoner by Mosby's Rangers in 1863, and spent most of 1864 as a POW, ending up in Andersonville before returning to his native New York. Throughout the war years he was a dedicated diarist and sketcher; in later years he transformed these sketches into watercolors. Beside their sheer numbers and eyewitness value, these "images" are significant for their scope, which runs the gamut from an 1861 view of Mt. Vernon to the shanties and gallows of Andersonville. This is a worthy addition to any collection since it not only supports military and American history as well as 19th-century American art and cartography, but should also attract browsers.-Dori DeSpain, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743223607
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
09/25/2001
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
10.36(w) x 10.32(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

The Civil War art of Robert K. Sneden, which lay dormant for over a century, has only recently become known through two collections. Last year in his memoir, Eye of the Storm, 80 images were published; at the same time an exhibition of some 100 images began traveling the country on a yearlong journey. Yet the entire collection of surviving Sneden materials — not only watercolors but also landscape sketches, engravings, and maps, numbering nearly 1,000 images — has until now been seen only by a handful of scholars. Taken together, it is a magnificent opus; as one reviewer of the memoir put it, Sneden's is "a one-of-a-kind pictorial record history" of the War between the States. It is the largest extant collection of Civil War art. There is no exaggeration in saying that it is also one of the best collections of soldier art about war ever found.

Images from the Storm offers more than 300 of Sneden's creations, a historical panorama portrayed by an accomplished northern draftsman. Many of these images are of scenes that were captured by no other artist or photographer. Sneden's maps, drawn in many cases from his own firsthand observations, are magnificently detailed and decorated. His watercolors drew on his experiences in Washington, in the Peninsula and Second Bull Run campaigns in Virginia, and finally in prisons at Richmond and Andersonville — and in each of those places he sketched almost daily. After the war he spent years painstakingly coloring and polishing his sketches, and also painting imitations of scenes viewed only at second hand, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. His eye for detail was clinically accurate, his ability to pack details into miniaturized sketches astonishing.

Some three dozen of Sneden's sketches were used in his time as the basis of engravings reproduced here. Most, however, he quietly and obsessively created for his own mysterious purposes — he may have intended publication, but we cannot know for sure. A few of Sneden's paintings measure as large as six by ten inches, but most are smaller, and are shown here with magnification. The total number were originally divided about equally between his illustrated memoir and his larger-format scrapbooks.

Meet the Author

Charles F. Bryan, Jr. (above, center), is Director and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Tennessee and has written on the Civil War in East Tennessee and the Peninsula Campaign. He is President-Elect of the American Association for State and Local History and is writing a book on historical organizations and fund-raising. He was coeditor with Nelson Lankford of Eye of the Storm (2000).

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