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Camp of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry Volunteer Regiment, Near Corinth, Mississippi, May 11th 1862, 1862
Conrad Wise Chapman (1842-1910)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
16 7/8 x 23 7/8 inches
Signature Details: CWC Corinth / 3 KY REG / May 11 1862
Status: Private Collection, Florida

Conrad Wise Chapman was a member of one of nineteenth-century America’s fine arts family dynasties. The Virginia Chapmans---John Gadsby Chapman (1808-89) and his sons John Linton (1839-1905) and Conrad Wise---were southern counterparts to the Peales of Pennsylvania and the Weirs of New York.  Both individually and working as a family team, the Chapmans created some of the most recognizable, representative artworks of the Civil War, all of them from a strongly southern, pro-Confederate point of view.  Conrad W. Chapman’s “Camp of the 3rd Kent[ucky Regiment]” is one of the artist’s largest surviving paintings, and bears most of the attributes of a Chapman work.  It depicts the Confederate States Army and especially enlisted men in sympathetic lights; it was created from field sketches at least two years after the events of May 1862 that it represented; and the painting was reproduced as an etching and a chromolithograph to disseminate Chapman’s pro-South vision of domestic harmony amid the boredom and terror of the Civil War.  Indeed, Conrad’s father, John Gadsby Chapman, prepared the etching from the painting, thereby accentuating the Chapman family’s collective commitment to creating and preserving through fine art the memory of the Confederate States’ Lost Cause.  

Chapman painted “Camp of the 3rd Kent[ucky Infantry Regiment] after 1864 when he and his family were living in Paris, France, but he utilized drawings and oil sketches he had made in spring1862 while serving as a private in Company D of that regiment.  Chapman inscribed the date, May 11, 1862, on his large, finished version of the work but that date reflected the date of the events depicted in the painting, not its date of completion.  Conclusive evidence for this 1864 or later date is found within the painting itself.  For, Chapman included a self-portrait (the solitary figure on the left margin, resting on his musket) that was based upon an 1864 photograph of him taken in Paris, France.  The photograph itself is a studio photo now in the Chapman Family Collection at the Valentine Museum, Richmond.  The barefoot figure in the lower right engaged in plucking a chicken reportedly bore the features of the artist’s father.

Two versions of the oil painting exist today, as well as an oil sketch of one of the groups of figures in the work.  The larger version of the work is in private hands and is the subject of this essay.  The smaller version, titled “Confederate Camp, 3rd Kentucky Infantry at Corinth, Mississippi” (10 x 16 inches) is in the collections of the Mansfield State Commemorative Area, Mansfield, Louisiana.  Examination of printed and digital versions of the two paintings fails to determine with authority which version of the painting is the source for John Gadsby Chapman’s etching titled “Third Kentucky Confederate Infantry at Corinth-May 11, 1862.  From the Picture by C.W. Chapman of the Paducah Co[mpany],” circa 1867, in the collections of the Boston Athenaeum (accession number 2215, 1952.9) or of a larger chromolithograph version of the work titled “Confederate Camp during the late American War.”  This version was chromolithographed by M. & N. Hanhart and published in London in 1871 by Louis Zimmer.  This color version differs from both previous paintings and the etching by having images added both to the right and left margins of the scene.  One of the chromolithographs is also part of the collections of the Boston Athenaeum (accession number 2000.12).  According to a label affixed to this version, the work was “After a painting by C.W. Chapman, Ordnance Sergeant, 59th Virginia Regiment, Wise’s Brigade.”  The label indicated that other C.W. Chapman works were to have been reproduced as chromos and sold by subscription (see Library of Congress copy, LC-USZC4-3352).  Although John Gadsby Chapman is believed to have created etchings from eleven of his son’s paintings, “Confederate Camp” appears to have been the only one reproduced in color and in large size.  Another copy of the 1871 chromolithograph is found in the Eleanor S. Brockenbrough Library, Museum of the Confederacy. 

In 1861 Conrad Wise Chapman was living with his parents and brother in Rome, Italy, where he and his family were training as artists.  A strong supporter of the Confederacy, he left Rome using a subterfuge to deceive his parents and traveled to the United States intent on joining the Confederate States Army.  He made his way to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and in September 1861 enlisted in Company D of the 3rd Kentucky infantry Volunteers.  With the 3rd Kentucky, he participated in the Battle of Shiloh or Pittsburgh Landing, April 6-7, 1862, where he suffered a head wound.  After a month’s recuperation he rejoined his regiment in Camp near Corinth, Mississippi, less than twenty-five miles from the Shiloh battleground.  During early May 1862 he made sketches and possibly oil studies that he later used in his finished paintings.            

Chapman transferred to the 46th Virginia Infantry Regiment and then to the 59th Virginia regiment (Wise’s Brigade) with the rank of ordnance sergeant.  In September 1863 Chapman’s regiment was ordered to South Carolina to participate in the defense of Charleston and the South Carolina coast.  During this term of service Chapman created his most famous works, thirty-one small oil paintings that depicted Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie and other batteries that ringed Charleston Harbor.  Among them are his “Confederate Submarine Boat H.L. Hunley,” “The Bombardment of Fort Moultrie, November 16, 1863,” and “Evening Gun, Fort Sumter.”  “The Bombardment of Fort Moultrie” is one of the artist’s largest works and is in the collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC, while the remainder of his smaller-scale depictions of the Charleston forts and batteries are in the collections of the museum of the Confederacy.  Together, these works constitute a remarkable visual record of the lives and activities of soldiers stationed in these large and small forts, of enslaved African Americans laboring to construct and maintain the forts, and even visitors and sightseers to the installations.  The degree of detail and the verisimilitude which these works contain demonstrate the artist’s distinctive talents as a painter, his powers of perception, and his dedication to the Confederate cause.  Another Charleston-are painting, “Church Flat Camp, Dec. 10, 1864 [sic; 1863,” depicts the camp of the 46th Virginia Regiment south of the metropolis, from which it defended the city and the Charleston and Savannah Railroad.        

In April 1864 Chapman obtained a six months furlough from the Wise Brigade that permitted him to visit his family in Rome, Italy.  He traveled in company with Roman Catholic Bishop Patrick N. Lynch of Charleston, who had been dispatched by Confederate States president Jefferson Davis to represent Confederate interests to Pope Pius IX in Rome.  While in Rome Chapman labored to turn his sketches and studies---his visual arts “journal of the siege of Charleston”--- into finished works.  He also likely transformed his Kentucky Regiment camp sketches into the large finished work, “Camp of the 3rd Kent[ucky Regiment].  This post facto work accounts for some of the ambiguities that surround the completion dates of many of Chapman’s wartime paintings and also for the postwar dates of those that were published as prints. 

His furlough exhausted, Chapman left Rome in December 1864 to return to Confederate Virginia.  He sailed from London in February 1865 just as the Confederacy was in its last months of existence.  Unable to enter any southern ports he and a group of Confederate sympathizers landed at Bagdad, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, with the intention to travel overland and rejoin the conflict.  The April 1865 Confederate Army surrenders at Appomattox Court House and Bentonville, North Carolina, dashed Chapman’s hopes.  For the rest of his life, the artist remained “unreconstructed,” unwilling to pledge allegiance to the victorious United States and discontent to live in the defeated Confederacy.  Chapman suffered periodic bouts of depression that may have been symptoms of his Shiloh head wound or despondency at the Confederate defeat.  Despite his health problems, his exile from Virginia and the lost Confederate States, and poverty, Chapman had a distinguished post-Civil War career painting landscapes and genre scenes in Mexico and in Europe.  He and his family members systematically transformed his field sketches and oil studies into enduring visual representations of the Confederacy and of the face of nineteenth-century warfare. 

References

Bassham, Ben L. Conrad Wise Chapman, Artist and Soldier of the Confederacy.  Kent, Ohio: Kent State          University Press, 1998.

Neely, Mark E., Jr. and others.  The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause.  Chapel Hill, NC: University of         North Carolina Press, 1987.

Library of Virginia. “Father and Son: The Works of John Gadsby Chapman and Conrad Wise                 Chapman.”  www.lva.virginia.gov/echibits/Chapman, accessed March 24, 2013.

Holtzer, Harold. “A Lost Confederate Painting is Discovered.” From the Civil War Times, February 1996, p.       18 at www.mlsandy.home.tsixroads.com/Corinth_MLSandy/h006htm, accessed March 24, 2013.

This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

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