winslow homer civil war paintings
Before moving to New York in 1859, Homer lived in Belmont, Massachusetts with his family. His uncle’s Belmont mansion, the 1853 Homer House, was the inspiration for a number of his early illustrations and paintings, including several of his 1860s croquet pictures. The Homer House, owned by the Belmont Woman’s Club, is open for public tours.
After Homer’s high school graduation, his father saw a newspaper advertisement and arranged for an apprenticeship. Homer’s apprenticeship at the age of 19 to J. H. Bufford, a Boston commercial lithographer, was a formative but “treadmill experience”.  He worked repetitively on sheet music covers and other commercial work for two years. By 1857, his freelance career was underway after he turned down an offer to join the staff of Harper’s Weekly. “From the time I took my nose off that lithographic stone,” Homer later stated, “I have had no master, and never shall have any.” 
It also shows, she added, “the presence of the absence” — a scene that speaks to a fact of life following the war. It was an immense killing field, with a death toll of 750,000.
Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Artist-reporters had to be more than merely good draftsmen. They had to be astute observers, have an instinct for story and drama, the ability to sketch quickly and accurately, and no small amount of daring, as they faced battles, injuries, starvation, and disease first hand. The work was both dangerous and exhausting.
“ Homer, like other war correspondents, considered what he did to be a public service and felt as though he endured some of the same kind of experiences as soldiers did,” said Orgeman. “When Homer was stationed in Yorktown on the front, he was unable to eat for three days, along with all of the soldiers. According to his mother, he was completely changed by that experience.”
Below we present, for your consideration, the 1862 works of Winslow Homer.
The Undisputed 1862 Civil War Collection
Homer was mostly a self-taught artist whose talent was readily apparent from the start of his career. It was matched by his determination to develop his skills independently and to his own liking. As evidence of this, Homer declined to join the staff of Harpers, preferring instead to contribute to the paper as a freelance artist. For Homer, the Civil War provided an unusual opportunity to explore and practice the nuances of his profession, while rendering a service to those who valued his art as a documentary of the war.
Between 1861 and 1865, Homer made several trips to the war front in Virginia. Armed with a letter from Fletcher Harper, the editor of Harpers Weekly, identifying him as a special artist, Homer was able to move through the lines and gain access to the Army of the Potomac. Early in April 1861, he was in Alexandria and witnessed the embarkation of the army aboard steamers that would ferry it to the Peninsula near Richmond in preparation for General George B. McClellans long-awaited spring offensive. A drawing he made of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry—the only Union regiment to carry lances—gave witness to Homer’s eye for the unusual and the dramatic.