Research Exercises: Winslow Homer’s Watching the Shot

homer watching the shot

Poking around the internet at the convergence of two of my research interests … Winslow Homer and the 5th New York Infantry … along with a Facebook post from Diane Monroe Smith, brought me to a rather interesting website which explores one of Homer’s lesser-known works, “Watching the Shot.”

I have reason to doubt that this painting combines all the elements claimed by the researcher. The mention of Antietam seems a distraction, for bridges at Antietam look far different. Nor would one easily recall an action where Francis C. Barlow and the 5th New York were in close proximity. Indeed, let’s set Antietam aside: the 5th New York was in reserve at Antietam behind Middle Bridge, still recovering from the devastating losses it suffered at Second Manassas. Nor do I think this piece portrays High Bridge in Virginia: that’s a much higher bridge than offered here, and of course the 5th New York was not present at a battle that took place some 23 months after the regiment went home. But maybe someone here has a different opinion or a better one. In any case, enjoy.

11 thoughts on “Research Exercises: Winslow Homer’s Watching the Shot

  1. James F. Epperson July 20, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    Could it be on the Peninsula? You know much more about the 5th NY than I do, but that looks like a Peninsular bridge. I don’t think Barlow is an issue—weren’t he and Homer friends?

  2. Mark Snell July 21, 2016 / 9:20 am

    I agree with James. Perhaps it portrays the opening shots of Gaines’ Mill, where the 5th NY took a pounding???

    • John Foskett July 22, 2016 / 7:47 am

      Not sure what the bridge is about if that’s Gaines’s Mill.

  3. Jerry Greenfield July 21, 2016 / 1:33 pm

    I can only imagine that this was Homer’s imagination of the scene as described by his friend Barlow since I don’t believe Homer himself was at any of the actual battles. I understand the Zoave soldiers depicted were often portrayed because of their aggressiveness and brightly colored uniforms. Of course, many artists often portray effective realism without concern for historical fact.

  4. bob carey July 22, 2016 / 3:25 pm

    It could be of a depiction of the wagon bridge next to the railroad bridge in Farmville Va., but as you say the 5th NY was not in service at this time and any members of the 5th who re enlisted after their tour was over with the 5th were assigned to the 146th NY of the Army of the James who did participate in the Appomattox campaign. This unit however was not in the vicinity of the bridges during the small fight that took place there. The topography does look about right however.
    If this painting is of the 5th NY then it almost has to be on the Peninsula perhaps depicting Porter’s Corps “redeploying” from Gaines Mill to Harrison’s Landing, it could be the 5th crossing the Chickahominy or White Oak Swamp.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2016 / 3:56 pm

      The 146 NY was with the V Corps during the Appomattox campaign (1st Brigade, 2nd Division). So was the 5th NY Veterans Volunteers.

      • bob carey July 23, 2016 / 1:00 am

        Oops,
        This is what happens when you rely on your memory at my age.

  5. Mike Musick July 23, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    Since we are invited to offer an opinion, allow me to opine that this painting is not by Winslow Homer. It was apparently discovered in a flea market in Pasadena, California, in 2003, and the attribution to Homer seems more a matter of wishful thinking and confirmation bias than accurate identification. The value of a Homer is vastly greater than that of a Civil War-themed work by an unknown artist, and the desire to make this painting out to be more than it is would certainly be understandable. Homer was a master at accurately representing the scenes, uniforms, and equipment of the war in a compellingly realistic manner. This work fails signally in that regard. Stylistically, it is orders of magnitude beneath the achievements of the master.

      • Jerry Greenfield July 23, 2016 / 7:27 pm

        I’m not familiar with that particular painting. However, there is a description of it on the internet with some comment about the portrayed people in it. The painting is displayed with certain parts circled and discussed. Sounds legit to me.

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