Aquia Landing, Va. April 27, 1863. One pen and ink drawing, 7 x 10 1/2 inches (sight), and one pencil sketch, 6 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches (sight), each in recent matching frames, 11 1/2 x 15 inches; plus pp. letter on folded folio sheet. Slight soiling and smudging to sketches. Short tape repairs to two closed tears at top margin of letter, minor separation at fold (text not affected). Very good overall. Item #WRCAM56150
Two drawings by an unnamed artist, submitted as potential accompaniments for articles in HARPER'S WEEKLY, which was well-known for the copious Civil War illustrations that supplemented its text. Such illustrations were usually either drawn by reporters or artists sent into the theater by HARPER'S or, less often, by soldiers in the field. These two works were done by a Union Army Division Post Master and are accompanied by a letter from his commanding officer submitting them for publication.
The first work, done in pen and ink on paper, is entitled, "Aquia Landing on the Potomac River Va. The main depot of Supplies for the Army of the Potomac," and depicts a river scene with steamers and sailing vessels along with a pier in the middle distance, with a supply train approaching in the foreground, which is observed by two soldiers. In the foreground are delicately drawn trees and shrubs; in the background one can see more ships and the other side of the river (possibly Simms Point). In early March, 1862, the Confederates abandoned Aquia Landing, a strategically important post on the Potomac River, and Union forces quickly seized the point. The Union Army used the wharves and storage building at Aquia Landing until June 7, 1863 when the army headed north for the Battle of Gettysburg, and again used the facilities in 1864 during the Overland Campaign.
The second work is a pencil sketch titled, "Army Bakery in charge of Capt. James Gillette Commissary of Subsistence to Genl. Geary's Division." One medium-sized and two small cabins are at the left side of the image with barrels and a large cauldron nearby; presumably this is where the bakers prepared bread and other items for baking. On the right side of the image is a large wooden lean-to sheltering at least nine ovens. Two bakers are carrying trays of bread and one stands near an open oven with a large peel. To the right of the lean-to is a tent, partially open and filled with loaves of bread, with three more bakers loading in loaves. In the background are bare trees, suggesting this scene is set in winter.
The accompanying letter on "Office of the Commissary of Subsistence" letterhead, is from Capt. James Gillette to John Bonner, then editor of HARPER'S WEEKLY. Gillette writes that he encloses three sketches (of which two are included here): "These sketches were made under my own supervision by our division post master, are as accurate in detail as any I have seen." Gillette then describes additional material he has enclosed and notes, "Some time since a few sketches of scenes in Richmond, furnished by my experience, found place in your weekly eliciting from you the request that I should occasionally forward to your address such representations of military scenes as might be of interest. Hence these enclosures which in truthfulness cannot be excelled."
James Gillette (1838-81) enlisted as a private and rose quickly through the ranks. By this time, he was Captain and Assistant Commissary of Subsistence for the 2nd Division, XII Corps under Gen. John W. Geary. For his meritorious service, he was breveted lieutenant colonel, U.S. Volunteers, and for gallantry at the battle of Chancellorsville, he was breveted major in the regular Army. John Bonner (1829-99) was one of the best known newspaper writers in America at this time. He started as a writer at the NEW YORK HERALD, and then moved on to be an editor at HARPER'S. After the Civil War, he made a small fortune on Wall Street, and then lost it in a most dramatic fashion. He drifted west, working for the LEADVILLE CHRONICLE and LEADVILLE NEWS in Colorado, and the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE and SAN FRANCISCO CALL, among other Bay Area newspapers.
An attractive pair of original Civil War drawings from a Union soldier in Virginia in the middle year of the war, accompanied by the letter from the Army Commissary officer submitting them for publication to HARPER'S WEEKLY.