Winter-Quarters in Camp—The Inside of a Hut

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Winter-Quarters in Camp—The Inside of a Hut
1863
Winslow Homer
1836-1910
published by Harper's Weekly January 24, 1863
Wood engraving on paper
9 3/16 x 13 7/8 in. (image); 10 3/4 x 15 5/8 in. (sheet)
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Arthur and Hilda Wenig
2001.798

For the most part, Civil War battles did not take place in the winter. What did soldiers do then? Published in Harper's Weekly on January 24, 1863 in the depths of winter, Winslow Homer’s portrayal of a large group of soldiers resting inside a hut shows them stoking the fire to keep warm, and hanging up wet clothes to dry. What is happening in the top right corner? Why do you think that some of the men are upset? Homer’s illustrations conveyed to the public that camp life could sometimes mirror civilian life with everyday activities such as sleeping, dreamily staring into the fire, reading, playing games, or having heated discussions. Seeing soldiers engaged in these everyday activities reminded readers of their common humanity. Homer’s image of the space inside of a simple hut is very realistic. He captures the light and shadows of the fire very well. And he shows the soldiers—can you count how many?—in all different kinds of poses. Some lay this way and that; others talk loudly and make gestures. Who belongs to the shoes you see on the far left? Everyone is packed closely together, reminding us how hard it was to be part of the army in its winter quarters.

Questions:
1. Compare this image to Thanksgiving in Camp. What similarities do you observe about how soldiers spent their time when not engaged in battle?

2. If you were one of the soldiers in this image and were going to write a letter home to your loved ones about the being at war during the winter, what would you say?

Further reading:
Coco, Gregory A. Civil War Infantryman: In Camp, on the March, and in Battle. Gettysburg:Thomas Publications, 1996.

Portland Museum of Art,.“Winslow Homer Illustrations.” Accessed February 29, 2012. http:/www.portlandmuseum.org/exhibitions-collections/illustrations.shtml.
(For more details on the image click on “Zoom in on 250 Illustrations.”)

Simpson, Marc. Winslow Homer: Paintings of the Civil War. San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: Bedford Arts, 1988.

Stein, Gloria Sananes. Civil War Camp Life. Xlibris, 2008.

Tatham, David. Winslow Homer and the Pictorial Press. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003.


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