TWO PEN AND INK DRAWINGS BY ALFRED WAUD / HORATIO WAIT OF BLOCKADING SCENES OFF MOBILE 1863

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Item Code: 557-12

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Working as a special artist for Harpers Weekly from late 1861 through 1865, Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891) is one of the best-known Civil War artists. In postwar years he was connected with Century Magazine, which published numerous accounts of the Civil War by participants, supplemented by engravings from photographs or sketches done at the time, many of which were gathered into the highly regarded, four-volume set, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. We offer two original pen and ink drawings done by Waud and signed by him in the lower left of each “A.R.W.” Both were redrawn by Waud from sketches made at the time by Horatio L. Wait (1836-1919,) serving as a U.S. Navy paymaster. Wait, “had an unusual facility with pen and brush” in the words of a biographer who noted that many of his sketches, “will be found reproduced in naval histories without credit.” One of these drawings, that of the mail ship, has a note on the back reading, “Redrawn from Sketch book #1 p.8 / Lent by H.L. Wait.” Both drawings later appeared in Wait’s article, “Reminiscences of the Blockading Service,” in an 1898 issue of Century. Wait’s ship was involved in engagements with Confederate shore batteries and in pursuit and capture of several blockade runners, but he also stressed the immense task of maintaining a blockading fleet off an enemy port for a long time, with all the supply problems and daily grind that implied, such as the hazardous but essential delivery of mail by sea, and scouting and guard duty in picket boats, who not only probed Confederate defenses and watched for blockade runners, but warned against sorties by Confederate ironclads, etc.

The first drawing is captioned at top left “Receiving The mail” and depicts a small side wheel steamer in rough seas, with smoke coming from its stack and crew members fore and aft. A figure at the upper cabin of the afterdeck hands a large (mail) bag down to another on deck below him, while oarsmen of long boat work keep alongside and standing figure at front reaches out with a boat hook to hold on to the railing or grab the bag when handed out to them. A small flag flies from a foremast and a larger US ensign streams from the rear. At right rear another vessel, seen head-on, rolls in the waves. At bottom is the description, obviously from Wait, "Receiving the Mail off Mobile from the Quartermaster's Tug 'Sykes.'" The condition is excellent, the ink dark and the scene dynamic. In addition to the handwritten note on the reverse, it bears an ink stamp from the art department of the Century Company, a various inventory and size notes for its reproduction by Century. This measures 11 x 14 inches overall.

The second drawing is captioned, “On advance Picket Duty” at top with the expanded description at bottom right that the scene was “off Mobile 1863.” (The captions of both drawings were those to be used in publication.) This is likely a self portrait by Wait. It shows a rather relaxed looking officer reclining against and partially over one gunwale of long boat as it rolls in the waves, anchored offshore, with a lighthouse in the distance at left. There is more to it than first meets the eye: looking into the boat, the heads and caps of his crew are visible as they huddle under tarpaulins in the bottom of the boat to keep warm and dry, and possibly get some sleep, while the officer (his rank indicated by coat and cap) keeps watch. What seems clearly to be a rifle leans against the gunwale next to him, either for self defense or to fire an alarm shot. Either oars or rifles, or both, are visible among the sleeping crew. A memorial biography of Wait noted that in addition to his other duties, “He also passed many nights on picket and scout duty, in all kinds of winter weather, in open boats, watching for the blockade runners or the rebel iron-clads, which threatened to dash out and destroy the wooden Union fleet. During the great winter gales these picket-boats were sometimes driven ashore and the crews drowned or captured and sent to Andersonville where they regretted not having been drowned…” As with the other drawing, in addition to the caption there are various size and inventory notations, as well as a Century Company art department stamp on the reverse. The overall size is a tad over 11 by 14 inches.

Both drawings passed into the hands of American Heritage and were later sold through Christies. Both drawings were published The American Heritage Century Collection of Civil War Art, 1974 on p. 395: the picket boat as plate 606 and the mail ship as plate 607, and were later auctioned by Christies in 1988.

These are very crisp renderings of interesting and dynamic naval scenes by one of the war’s top artists. They have a great immediacy and a would be a nice addition to a Civil War navy display, especially being made from sketches by an navy officer on the spot, and likely in the boat.  [sr] [ph:m]

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TWO PEN AND INK DRAWINGS BY ALFRED WAUD / HORATIO WAIT OF BLOCKADING SCENES OFF MOBILE 1863

Working as a special artist for Harpers Weekly from late 1861 through 1865, Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891) is one of the best-known Civil War artists. In postwar years he was connected with Century Magazine, which published numerous accounts of the Civil… (557-12). Learn More »

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