07/29/13

Sidney E. King: Premier Historical Artist

 

Gallant charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, June 18, 1864

Historical art prints of famous scenes from the War Between the States and other conflicts are all the rage now. Countless paintings by such fine artists as Don Troiani, Rick Reeves, Dale Gallon, Dan Nance, Mort Kunstler, Dale Gallon, Keith Rocco and others are readily available to history buffs. Thoroughly researched and superbly rendered, these works have done much to help us visualize how a particular battle or historic event may have played out. They have also helped refine our understanding of how the average fighting man of the time might have truly looked.

Yet, well before all the artists listed above came along there was a fellow by the name of Sidney E. King. If the name is not familiar, many of his works will be. They grace most of the National Park Service historic sites in the eastern United States. In fact, during his lifetime, King produced over 200 mural style paintings for the NPS. His story is an interesting one.

Born in Massachusetts in 1906, King knew from early on he wanted to be a painter. Those plans were nearly thwarted by the Depression. After losing a studio he had established the young artist eventually found a job as a sign painter. During WWII King camouflaged combat planes at Quantico, VA and designed aircraft insignia. Settling near Fredericksburg, VA, he continued to paint and eventually found gainful employment with the National Park Service. After that, his work commissions came fast and furious from many directions. King soon firmly established himself as an outstanding muralist noted for his meticulous research and historical accuracy. He proved a master of oils, acrylics, and water colors.

"Shoot and be damned!" The capture of Ft. Gregg, Petersburg, April 2, 1865

“Shoot and be damned!” The capture of Ft. Gregg, Petersburg, April 2, 1865

King became perhaps best known for his series of paintings of the Jamestown, VA settlement which were on display as early as 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II visited the US on the colony’s 350th anniversary. He also produced an outstanding series for the Yorktown National Battlefield Park. His Civil War related works include numerous murals for the Richmond, Petersburg, Manassas, Kennesaw Mountain, Gettysburg and Fredericksburg Battlefield Parks. Several of those paintings accompany this blog post. They are highly detailed and show actual occurrences and participants of the battles depicted.

King is also known for painting the largest mural ever to be rendered in the United States. Titled “Creation,” it measures 400 feet long by 75 feet high and covers the encircling walls of the dome on Mormon Temple Square in Salt lake City, Utah. He also illustrated many magazine articles and books including W. W. Hassler’s Colonel John Pelham: Lee’s Boy Artillerist and A Pictorial History of Jamestown by J. Paul Hudson.

Until the age of 92 the prolific Sidney King continued to paint six days a week and held two shows a year at his studio near Bowling Green, VA. He also taught art at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, VA. When he passed away at age 95 in Caroline County, VA, a true prodigy was lost.

So, next time you visit an eastern National Historical Park take a look around. There you are sure to find at least several superbly rendered paintings with the bold signature “S. E. King” standing as fitting memorials to this wonderful but little known historical artist.

The capture of Casey’s Redoubt at the Battle of Seven Pines, May 31, 1862

The recapture of Ft. Steadman, Petersburg, March 25, 1865

The recapture of Ft. Steadman, Petersburg, March 25, 1865

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bob Williams

07/22/13

The Homefront Connection

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One vital but often overlooked source of clothing for the Confederate soldier in the field was, generic viagra click of course, the “folks at home.” In fact, except for elaborately dressed militia companies that existed in various locales prior to the war, home produced clothing was the rule rather than the exception until state and Confederate manufacturing facilities could swing into high gear.

References to clothing from home in contemporary letters are frequent. On August 2, 1861 a Georgia private made this request: “I wish Ma would send me a coat; let her make it of gray woolen cloth she once made me a hunting coat from . . . It must be a jacket, buttoning all the way up the front military fashion, with a short collar to stand up; buttons either brass or silver, oval shape, nearly half inch in diameter; put a short tape 1/3 inch wide upon the shoulder, running front to back. Let it be warm, pockets inside and on both sides.”

Another Georgian in the 35th Regiment placed an even heavier order to help him survive the upcoming winter of 1862-63: “[Send me] 1 close bodied coat made in uniform style. 2 pairs of jeans pants lined. Be careful not to make them too large. 4 shirts, 2 nice and 2 plain. 2 pair of drawers. 3 or 4 pair of socks. One pair of heavy home made boots as the winter is severe . . . Also a head cover to sleep in. My pants and coat I want made of gray cloth or one pair of the pants gray and the other pair brown. Also a good heavy vest. You may think it strange of me for sending for so much but I am tired of being unclothed.”

One enterprising Virginian even set up an 1860’s version of Men’s Warehouse by selling his home made clothes. To his wife he wrote” I have sold my pants, vest shoes, and drawers for sixty-one dollars so you can see I am flush again . . . You will have to make me more pants and drawers, if you can raise the material make two pair of pants and four pair of drawers and I will have a pair of pants and two pair of drawers for sale and in that way will get mine clear . . . If you could make up a good supply of pants, vests, shoes, and drawers I could be detailed to come after them.”

This mailing of clothing was not always one-way. An Alabama soldier soldier sent some of his government-issue clothing home, commenting: “I send you a couple of shirts and a pair of drawers. Use them as you please. I had rather wear your make. The reason I drew them was that they are so much cheaper than you can make them. You can use them in making clothes for the children.”

The practice of wearing home made clothing persisted throughout the war. Even as late as 1863 an English observer noted: “I was told that even if a [Confederate] regiment was clothed in proper uniform by the government, it would become parti-colored again in a week as the soldiers preferred wearing the coarse homespun jackets and trousers made by their mothers and sisters at home.”

By Bob Williams

07/22/13

A Common Militia Belt Plate

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Independent state militia companies were very much a part of early American life in the years immediately following the Mexican War. As such, buy viagra cialis a number of enterprising and reputable businesses provided stock and custom uniforms and equipage to many of these organizations. Some units were extremely prestigious and wealthy; others were not. It is therefore not surprising that many unique accouterment items of varying quality were produced which later saw field service on both sides during the Civil War.

While the various styles of militia belt plates run into the dozens, best viagra pharmacy one particularly interesting two piece design seems to have been adopted with some frequency by military organizations on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. This “standard” buckle is of the interlocking pattern, viagra with an ornately scrolled Victorian design on the wreath, and a spread winged eagle on the tongue. It is neither particularly attractive nor very well made. Its maker is unknown. Nevertheless, it was extremely popular design among many well-appointed New England Militia companies, and others. Photographic evidence shows at least some members of the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, 18th Massachusetts Infantry, 44th Massachusetts Infantry, and 8th New Hampshire wearing this plate. There is also a museum piece documented as being worn by a soldier in the “Volunteer Maine Militia.”

On the Southern side, this same plate is seen upon the person of a member of the Petersburg City Guard (later of the 12th Virginia Infantry) and an unidentified North Carolina infantry lieutenant. They appear to have seen use both as sword belt plates and on enlisted men’s waist belts. An excellent example on its original belt is in the Gettysburg NBMP museum collection.

This style plate was extremely popular with many military bands. However, instead of the eagle motif, such monikers as “Boston Brigade Band,” “German Band,” “Band, 2nd R. I. V.,” and “Woodstock Coronet Band” (later part of the “Stonewall Brigade Band”) were displayed on the tongue portion. Other variants of this plate had specific company names inscribed on them, including “Richardson Lt. Guard,” “Charleston City Guard,” or the “Sutton Light Infantry.” The tongue portion of a “Richardson Lt. Guard” [5th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, a 9 month regiment] pattern was dug from a Federal camp on Hilton Head Island many years ago. One specimen with assumed North Carolina provenance bears the letters “GLG” and is attributed to the “Gaston Light Guard” of New Bern.

Various examples of these type plates are not uncommonly found in camp and battle sites up thru the mid-war period. They comprise a unique part of mid 19th Century militaria and of this country’s militia heritage.

By Bob Williams