Julian Scott: Fifer, Medal of Honor Recipient, Civil War Artist

John Hartwell

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Born in Johnson, Vermont on February 14, 1846. Julian A. Scott was 15 years old when, on June 1, 1861, he enlisted as a fifer in Company E, 3rd Vermont Volunteer Infantry.

After spending the Summer and Fall of 1861 rather quietly along the Potomac, the 3rd Vermont, now part of the famous Vermont Brigade (2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps), was moved by water to the Penninsula. The April 16, 1862 action at Lee’s Mills was part of the early probing of Magruder’s line along Warwick Creek, south of Yorktown.

Following an artillery bombardment, McClellan visited the front, and told 4th Corps commander Brig. Gen. William F. “Baldy” Smith to cross the river if it appeared the Confederates were withdrawing. By afternoon that seemed to be happening, and at 3 p.m. Smith ordered forward four companies of the 3rd Vermont under Capt. Harrington. They crossed the creek, partly on the mill dam, and routed the remaining rebel defenders from their rifle pits. But, much of the Union ammunition had got wet during the river crossing, and when Cobb’s reinforced Georgia Legion launched a counter attack on the pits, the Vermonters were hopelessly outnumberd, and forced to withdraw across the river with heavy casualties.

Brig. Gen. General Smith later reported: “Among the four companies of skirmishers of the Third Vermont who crossed the creek, there were more individual acts of heroism performed than I ever read of in a great battle.”

One of the regiment’s casualties was William Scott (no relation to Julian), better known to History as “the Sleeping Sentinel:” who had been court-martialed back in August for that offense and sentenced to death. President Lincoln pardoned him and ordered his return to duty. According to legend: “His comrades raised him up, and heard him with his dying breath amid the shouting and din of the fight, lift a prayer for God's blessing on President Lincoln, who had given him a chance to show that he was no coward or sneak, and not afraid to die.’”

On July 23rd, AoP Headquarters passed on to all regimental commanders a War Department circular calling for “a list of officers and enlisted men deserving of promotion or other reward.” The report of Lt. Col. W. G. Veazy, commanding the 3rd Vermont, would include: “Julian Scott, fifer. Gallant conduct at Lee’s Mills, April 16 1862, displayed in crossing the creek under a terrific fire of musketry several times to assist in bringing off the wounded.” Young Scott was not among the skirmishers who had crossed Warwick Creek that morning. But, it is reported, having heard “that many of his comrades were killed and wounded, he started for the scene.” According to Vermont in the Civil War, by Col. G.W. Benedict (1887), Scott “went twice across the creek to rescue wounded men. Aided by Ephraim Brown he was carrying Private John Backum, who was shot through the lungs, away from the scarp of the rifle pits when Brown was disabled by a shot through the thigh. Young Scott carried Backum across the river on his back, and returning helped Brown over, each of them being men larger than himself.” The Creek was described as “chest deep, about 30 yards across.”

Julian Scott remained with his regiment until the 4th of July, when he was “detailed as a nurse at Camp Hospital, Harrison’s Landing.” By the end of August, we find him ar U.S.A. General Hospital, David’s Island, New York. Records have him there until the Spring of 1963. Company muster rolls have him Absent “detailed as nurse.” While Hospital muster rolls list him as “Patient.”

An order from the Adjutant General, dated April 20, 1863, says simply: “The Secretary of War directs that on receipt of this order you discharge Private Julian A. Scott, Company ‘E,’ 3fd Regiment Vermont Volunteers, and report your action in this matter and the date thereof to this office.” No explanation is given. He was duly discharged on April 28. Some later newspaper stories claim that he was then transferred to the staff of Gen. ‘Baldy’ Smith, and that he was “wounded later in the war and discharged as disabled.” This is not supported by the record, nor did he ever assert them himself.

Almost two years after his discharge, in February 1865, Julian Scott’s youthful heroism was given due recognition with the award by Congress of the Medal of Honor. Two other men of the 3rd Vermont were likewise recognized for their actions at Lee's Mills.

After his discharge Julian Scott enrolled in the National Academy of Design in New York, and was mentored by famed artist Emanuel Leutze. He showed great talent, particularly at military subjects. He then spent two years in Paris and Stuttgart, Germany, continuing his education. Scott's first studio was in New York City but he soon moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, his home for the remainder of his life.

In 1869, he had painted what is considered the first of his large monumental canvases:
rearguard.jpg
“The Rear Guard at White Oak Swamp,” a print of which would appear in the Century magazine’s Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, and by 1871 newspapers were calling him “already the premier military artist of this city” (New York). That same year, his native state gave him a $10,000 commission for a painting to be displayed in the State House at Montpelier, depicting Vermont Regiments at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Soon newspapers across Vermont contained the notice:​
ScottCCreekMr72.jpeg
The result of this commission, completed in 1872, is a huge ten by twenty foot painting
Cedar Creek.jpg
There followed a large number of Civil War subjects, some of them monumental in size, others more intimate in scle. Some of these I will include in subsequent posts.

During the mid-1870s, Scott turned his hand to a series of historical paintings for the centennial of the American Revolution. Still later, in 1889-90, he visited Arizona and New Mexico as a Commissioner appointed by President Harrison to report on the condition of the Navajo and Moqui Indians. He painted some 40 paintings and many drawings of Native American subjects, prints of which accompanied his official Report, published as part of the Eleventh Census Report on Indians Taxed and Untaxed, and also in Edna Dean Proctor's Song of the Ancient People (1892).
song.jpeg

[from Song of the Ancient People]​

Throughout his career, however, Scott's principal works were of Civil War scenes and portraits.

It is believed that his extensive travels in the Southwest damaged his health, and led to his final sickness, and death at the age of 54, in Plainfield, New Jersey, January 4, 1901.

Julian Scott’s paintings hang in great museums all over the world, including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan, and many, many others.


See:
Titterton, Robert J. (1997). Julian Scott: artist of the Civil War and native America: with 97 illustrations. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co.
 
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John Hartwell

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sedgwick.jpg

Perhaps Julian Scott's most famous painting: "The Death of Sedgwick", which depicts the moment right after Union General John Sedgwick was killed by a sharpshooter in May 1864. The painting is often reproduced in modern day books about the Civil War, and the original still hangs in the Plainfield New Jersey Historical Society headquarters in the historic Drake House.​
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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I like these a lot. Not only are they painted exquisitely but there is emotion, an understanding to them... as if the artist had been there.

And he had.

(For some reason I like the second of the drummer boys paintings the best, followed by the Zouave)
 

John Hartwell

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John Hartwell

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I have seen some of these paintings before, but not all of thee. I like these. He at least knew his subject well. Thanks for the great thread @John Hartwell. I think I like the Pueblo Indians painting the best. All are outstanding and then some.
Glad you enjoy them. There are a lot more of his Indian paintings at the two links I included at the end of Post #10.
Also look at his illustrations in Song of the Ancient People. (NB: it's a slow download, color pdf)
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Gosh he knew his stuff, thanks so much for giving us his windows on the war. Wish so much modern artists on the topic would sit with his work for awhile. Agree, there's emotion running through these pieces.

Guessing there's an awful lot of discussion on Sedgewick's death painting- which is Martin McMahon, is he the officer speaking while gesticulating? Read somewhere he'd made a comment on the types of bullets being shot their way when the general just looked at him, the wound fresh, and both went down when McMahon tried to catch Sedgewick. Always made the scene even worse in my head.
 
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#15
Scott had bouts of alcoholism in his later life that may have contributed to his death. I know he died in poverty.

It is possible/likely that he painted a self-portrait in one of the various drummer boy paintings reproduced above - I am not sure which individual(s) would be the likely portrayal of Scott.
 

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