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American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

Civil War Drawings

Drawings made during the Civil War, primarily found in the Documentary Drawings Collection, enable researchers to examine original art work contemporaneous to that cataclysmic event, as well as works made in its aftermath. Most are from the Morgan Collection of Civil War drawings (more than 1,600 drawings, 1860-1900), which includes works by artists such as Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes. Sometimes referred to as "eyewitness drawings," ranging from quick sketches to more finished works of art, the drawings capture scenes on the battlefield and off and were intended for use in illustrated newspapers such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper as the publications attempted to portray war news for the reading public.

Alfred R. Waud, artist. African American soldiers mustered out at Little Rock, Arkansas. 1866. Civil War Drawings. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Women do not appear prolifically in the collection, but it includes a few scenes of women on the home front or interacting with the military and some sketches that include African American women in their quarters or on the move toward Union territory.

Searching the Collection

Descriptions for drawings that have been incorporated into the Documentary Drawings series, most of which have been digitized, can be found in the online catalog, where the collection is listed as "Drawings, Documentary." Civil War drawings can be retrieved by searching the phrase “Civil War drawing collection” in combination with names or subjects.

The content of the drawings have been indexed in considerable detail, so close looking when mention is made of women may reward the viewer with new perspective on women's involvement in an event often thought of primarily in terms of male soldiers.

Some drawings acquired more recently can be found in more generally described groups; on-site researchers can view these materials by making an appointment in advance.

For Further Information

Sample Images