Discussion Artistic License?

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Brigadier General
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Aug 16, 2015
We've all seen them: paintings, prints, battlefield drawings, and sketches. They're in books, on-line and in museums. They are often used to illustrate an action or a battle. Sometimes we get our whole perception of the event from them.
But how accurate are they?

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Vizitelly [Frank Vizitelly (1830-1883), Southern correspondent and artist for the London Illustrated News], the English artist... arrived very sheep-faced, long after the battle [Chickamauga]. He took me aside with: "Colonel, I am in an awful mess. I must send drawings and a picture of this great battle to my paper somehow. Cannot you help me?" We were at the time not very far from a little field that had a scene during the fighting which struck me, even then, as somewhat picturesque. This open field crowned with thick woods at one side, through which frowned half a dozen Federal guns and a brigade of ours moving up in beautiful order to capture it. I said as much as this to Vizitelly, and sent him to look at the spot. He returned, on fire with his artist's fancies, and shut himself up for several days. Then he emerged with drawings, and much letter-press of what he had actually seen; and principally a very large drawing beautifully finished of the so-called "Little scene". But heavens! all resemblance had ceased. Instead of the slight affair, three solid lines of infantry were moving across a great stretch of ground against hundreds of guns that were devastating our troops in fire and smoke. In the central portion there was the wounding and fall of a great officer and the closing in of the soldiers to protect him. "What think yo?' said the proud Vizitelly. "Splendid, but nothing like it took place." "No matter, it might have happened, and besides all battle pictures are drawn with such freedom." Who is the general just falling? "That, sir, is General Hood, drawn the instant of being shot." "But my good Vizitelly, Hood was not within a mile of that little field I gave you." "No matter, he was shot, no one will deny that; and I must have a great interesting center for my picture. You fellows are altogether too particular. This goes by first underground chance, and you will see it in the London Illustrated News. And so I did in the quiet sitting room of a Northern friend later on.​
<G. Moxley Sorrel, At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer. (New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1905), pp. 204-205.>


First Sergeant
Aug 13, 2013
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Vizetelly was a good sketch artist and war correspondent. Unfortunately he was with Hick's forces in the Sudan when they were wiped out by the Mahdi's fighters.
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