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Image of The Army of the Potomac - A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty

Winslow Homer , (Feb 24, 1836–Sep 29, 1910)

The Army of the Potomac - A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty

1862
9 1/8 in. x 13 3/4 in. (23.18 cm x 34.93 cm)

Medium and Support: Wood engraving on wove paper
Credit Line: Purchased as the gift of Warren P. Snyder (PA 1936)
Accession Number: 1990.6

Commentary

In 1861, Hiram Berdan of New York recruited and trained the first unit of
Union sharpshooters. Required to place ten shots within five inches
of a bull’s-eye at 200 yards with a Sharps rifle, sharpshooters were first
employed by the Union during the peninsular campaign, a major operation
launched in southeasternVirginia from March through July of 1862.
Here, Winslow Homer portrays an isolated sharpshooter perched in a
tree aiming at a distant target. This dramatic illustration highlights
the power and efficiency of this new military tactic while suggesting a
compelling narrative beyond the image’s frame. Homer later reflected on
sharpshooters in a letter to friend George G. Briggs on 19 February 1896:
“I looked through one of their rifles once when they were in a peach
orchard in front of Yorktown in April 1862—.... I was not a soldier—but a
camp follower & artist, the above impression struck me as being as near
murder as anything I ever could think of in connection with the army & I
always had a horror of that branch of service.”

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