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- Winslow Homer was one of a number of artist reporters who worked for Harper’s Weekly Illustrated Magazine during the U.S. Civil War. These artists produced images that helped convey news of the war to mostly Northern readers on the homefront. At times, the artists worked from sketches they made while traveling with the U.S. (Union) Army. The sketches were then sent back to New York to be engraved for printing.
- Harper’s was the most popular illustrated magazine during the years of the Civil War. The magazine was headquartered in New York City, the center of print technology and readership at the time, The print industry in the South was much more limited in scale and reach.
- Sharpshooters were a new, elite rank of soldier during the Civil War. Under the leadership of Hiram Berdan, these skilled marksmen utilized recently developed telescopic sights to increase the range and accuracy of their rifle shots. Sharpshooters were both feared and admired, as the images and characterizations of them published in the popular press of the time reveal.
More to think about
The role of sharpshooters during the U.S. Civil War introduced an offensive, tactical role that some (including Winslow Homer) saw as tantamount to murder. From this perspective, sharpshooting was a troubling facet of a war with an incredibly high death toll. Images like Homer’s print (and related painting) reflected Americans’ fascination with and fear of the evolving technology of war. Consider more recent conflicts in which the U.S. has been involved. Discuss how the news media conveys or contributes to the moral anxiety of the time about the tactics and technology of war through visual imagery.