Civil War Art – Howard Pyle

31 01 2009

In my continuing quest to show that Civil War art doesn’t have to suck, I ran acorss these here.  N. C. Wyeth was a pupil of Howard Pyle.  Here are a few of Pyle’s CW illustrations – click on the thumbnails for large images:

I Thought of You When I Was Falling It Was a Comrade From His Own Regiment The Charge The Midnight Court Martial They Talked it Over - With Me On a Horse Generla Lee on His Famous Charger "Traveller" Lincoln's Last Day

Left to right: I Was Thinking of You When I Fell; It Was a Comrade From His Own Regiment; The Charge; The Midnight Court Matial; They Talked it Over – With Me On a Horse; General Lee on His Famous Charger “Traveller”; Lincoln’s Last Day.



11 responses

31 01 2009

Sigh…They don’t paint ’em like that anymore, do they? My guess is that the mass production methods of today have diluted the purity of Civil War art, leading to mundane print after mundane print from John Paul Strain and the like (roughly the CW equivalent of Panama City airbrushed T-shirts).

Also, it’s possible that the ambiguity of these prints, both in content and in paint texture, doesn’t sit as well with modern viewers. Using Strain as an example, all the fine details are there, all the figures are clearly portrayed, both backgrounds and foregrounds are in neat, precise order, and there isn’t a sense of dread looming over them, as there is in say, the second image. I guess most modern artists want their war scenes “non-threatening”. As for the picture of the impending lynching of a Union trooper…obviously that wouldn’t go over well today at all. People would cry “Racism!” and “Jim Crow!” from morning to night, even though the victim isn’t black.

Question: was it Pyle who painted the famous Vicksburg scene of two women and a Confederate soldier covering in the trenches, while a shell with a lit fuse sputters directly in front of them? Another fine example of something that most people nowadays just don’t seem to want to have hanging on their walls.


31 01 2009
Harry Smeltzer


I don’t think “realism” was ever something folks looked for in art with a martial focus. Military art has always focused on the glorious aspects of battle, not blood and guts. So I disagree with those who claim this is a characteristic of modern works. As for the threatening aspect you mention, I’ve never given it much thought. But, we need to keep in mind that Wyeth and Pyle were illustrating specific bits of literature – the picture was meant to accompany the text.

Not sure about the Vicksburg picture. I’ll keep an eye out for it.


8 08 2013
Chris Evans

It has been a while but I’d like to comment that it was Pyle who painted the Vicksburg scene that the original poster was talking about.

For some reason I can’t find it in color only black and white:

Pyle also did the rather awesome painting of the charge of the Minnesota regiments at the Battle of Nashville:



31 01 2009

I’ve always been drawn to the cavalryman in the center of The Charge. His expression is about what I would imagine it really would be among horsemen in that situation. The emotion and battle rage is just there (I’m hearing something here… it must be from Full Metal Jacket… “let me see your war-face!”). Perhaps the one other cavalry image that comes close is Troiani’s Comanches. The only problem I have with Troiani’s print, however, is that there is one horseman in it that looks rather bug-eyed.


1 02 2009
Harry Smeltzer

“The Charge” is very similar to the illustrations of P. C. Hains’ 1911 article in Cosmo. I think Pyle died shortly before that issue hit, but it’s possible they may have been a couple of his last works. I have to check on that.


5 02 2009
The curious evolution of “The Haunted Tank” « Cenantua’s Blog

[…] at the image below… Stuart looks wayyyy cooler than he did in the 70s, let me tell you! Hey Harry; now, this, THIS(!) is Civil War art at its […]


17 02 2009
Chris Evans

Here is a very funny and good article on the state of modern civil war art. This is the link:
Jonah’s website at is a great humorous look at the Civil War in history and memory.
I just wanted to pass this along because I think his humor and writings are very underrated in the Civil War Online community.


3 11 2009
Three Years Blogging « Bull Runnings

[…] of Bull Run is a distant second with 3,212.  The most viewed post written this year has been Civil War Art – Howard Pyle with 711, followed closely by Civil War Art – N. C. Wyeth with 686.  Seems like a […]


7 11 2009
Chris Evans

These images are just great! The one with the officers lit by the candles is very atmospheric. I also like the painting of Robert E. Lee. The cavalry charge battle scene is just excellent too. Please post more like these if you come across them. They have so much more heart and soul than most modern Civil War art.


13 08 2010
Nursing the wounded | KNOXVILLE 1863, the novel

[…] Via Bull Runnings. […]


26 12 2017
Christmas, 1864. A Union Christmas: Washington, D.C. Civil War Christmas, Part 10 | The Late Unpleasantness: A Civil War Blog

[…] The Battle of Nashville in mid December 1864 sealed the Confederacy’s fate. (Attack on Shy’s Hill by Howard Pyle). […]


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