Upon Closer Review: Two Works by Winslow Homer

Homer 1864 One

Many of you may have learned that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art recently put a rather large number of images online, including this rather familiar one showing several Confederate prisoners being presented to Francis C. Barlow outside Petersburg on June 21, 1864 … or so they say.

Here’s a video discussing the painting:

I’m not sure I buy the Reconstruction angle (and Barlow was not exactly a fan of Reconstruction in later years, believing that Florida went Democratic in the disputed election of 1876). Moreover, there were no black units in the Second Corps.

Let’s take a look at it in some more detail.

Homer detail

Many of you know Barlow visually from one of several photographs or from this monument at Gettysburg (I took this picture on the afternoon of July 1, 2013, the day Barlow was seriously wounded at Gettysburg).


Snazzy dresser.

Had the commenter looked a little more closely at the painting, he would have seen that the Union soldier in the foreground of the painting came from the 61st New York Infantry, which Barlow had once commanded (none other than Nelson Miles took over for him, although by 1864 LTC Oscar Broady was in charge, and the regiment’s final commander, George W. Scott, filed this report in August).

The 61st New York saw some action on the day in question (June 21, 1864); there’s also a claim that the proper date for this image should be May 12, 1864, during Barlow’s assault on the Mule Shoe (in which the 61st New York also participated), but the scene does not resemble that day.

As for the Confederates, well, outside of this picture …

… Homer’s Confederate POWs may be the best known trio in Civil War memory. One of them may still be alive:

ZThat was too easy.

Homer offered another image of Petersburg that raises some interesting questions.

“Defiance: Inviting a Shot Before Petersburg” was done in 1864, according to its current owner. Look first at the central figure:

defiance 2

He bears some resemblance to this figure from the 1866 painting:

Defiance double

But that would be overlooking the real story contained in this painting:

defiance 3

Oh, no … here we go again …

As I was finishing assembling this post, I came across a discussion of the painting here. Much of it proves supportive of what I’ve presented above (you can download a PDF of the article from here).

3 thoughts on “Upon Closer Review: Two Works by Winslow Homer

  1. Noma May 22, 2014 / 1:45 pm

    “Reconstruction…a time of healing.” Just have to wonder whether the art critic in the video ever read very much about Reconstruction…

  2. Doug Didier August 5, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    Book I’m reading on the banjo man is blackface minstrel. While looking around, guy on top doing a jig.

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