“Civil War Connections, an art exhibit featuring Civil War-themed watercolors paintings done by 13 Belfast-area women, is display at the Belfast Free Library through Monday, Aug. 3.
The women belong to the Mid-Coast Art Guild, which according to member Linda M. Jewell meets weekly from September to June. Members take turns presenting programs and workshops, she said.
In 2014, the Mid-Coast Art Guild members discussed creating paintings that focused on the Civil War. “We all went to Fort Knox last summer to the [Civil War] re-enactment to get our creative juices flowing,” Jewell said.
Each artist painted a different scene and “did her own research,” Jewell said. After finishing their paintings last winter, the artists met and did their own framing.
The Civil War painting exhibit opened on July 1 after the 13 paintings were hung in the lobby of the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St., Belfast. Besides the paintings, a notebook placed on a stand contains information from each artist about her particular painting.
For example, Nancy Blatz painted “Sugar Loaf – AKA – Little Round Top,” depicting two Federal Signal Corps soldiers standing on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. The hill “was the southernmost signal station on the Federal front,” Blatz wrote. “It had a full view of the battlefield and could contact all the other signal stations.
“Since [Little Round Top was] heavily wooded with Big Round Top behind it, the white signal flag showed up well,” she wrote. “The signal corps remained on this spot throughout the Battle of Gettysburg and a few days after [and] was driven off twice during the attack on the hill.
“This signal station was the first to spot Pickett’s Charge as it came out of the swale that was hiding them (Confederate soldier) from view” on July 3, 1863, Blatz said.
The research done by Susan Gilbey turned personal for her painting, “Letter From Shiloh.” A great-grandfather, William Gibb, served as a surgeon with the 15th Iowa Infantry Regiment, which fought at Shiloh in April 1862 and Vicksburg in summer 1863.
“I have copies of the letters his wife wrote home when she visited him at the siege of Vicksburg,” Gilbey said. “I also have a copy of the letter which he wrote home from Shiloh. When I read the letter, I could picture the young surgeon in his tent, writing home to his wife as he waited for another load of wounded to be brought back from the battlefield.”
In the April 9, 1862 letter, Gibb writes, “We have just fought the hardest battle ever fought on this continent – about one hundred thirty thousand on a side. There are about thirty thousand killed and wounded on both sides. I am in a great hurry as I only have a few minutes to write. The battle was fought at Pittsburg Landing. The wounded are being conveyed to this place for safety and comfort…”
In her painting, Gilbey flowed the hand-written letter around a surgeon writing a letter while sitting at his desk in an Army camp.
Donna Hanish painted “Angels of the Civil War,” which depicts two nurses caring for a wounded soldier (the strategically placed crutches indicate the man’s injuries) tucked into bed in a military hospital.
“At the beginning of the war, Union Army leadership realized that they needed more medical staff and decided to accept women nurses to fill the gap. Dorothea Dix (of Hampden) was chosen as the first superintendent of U.S. Army Nurses in June, 1861,” Hanish writes “Over 3000 women served as Army nurses.”
Judy Simpson visited a Civil War re-enactment at Fort Knox on July 28, 2014 “to learn about the war and to find something interesting enough for me to want to paint …
“I took quite a few pictures, but one that really caught my attention was of a young ‘boy soldier.’ It appeared that the boy was dressing in a Confederate uniform and was being help by his mom,” wrote Simpson, who could not “help but wonder what that mother was feeling as she buttoned the jacket of that tattered gray uniform.
“As I did a little research, I found a few accounts of young ‘boy soldiers” who were actually involved in the Civil War,” wrote Simpson, who painted “Boy Soldier.”
Jean Nolan drew up a famous incident of the 1862 Maryland Campaign for her painting, “Barbara Fritchie Didn’t Do It!”
Local lore claimed that Barbara Fritchie, an elderly resident of Frederick, Md., “defiantly displayed the Union flag to antagonize Stonewall Jackson’s troops as they passed through Frederick,” writes Nolan. Historical research has revealed that Fritchie was sick that day, according to Nolan.
Mary Quantrell was the actual flag-waver, “the real-life heroine, according to Christopher Haugh, a Frederick County official, who spent six years researching the matter,” Nolan writes.
Linda Jewell painted “Zouave Strategy Session,” depicting five Union Zouaves in their regimental camp. “The first time that I saw a photograph of a Zouave unit, I was reminded of the ‘Arabian Nights’ stories,” Jewell writes.”
“I was amazed that the men could fight a war in those fancy clothes, but they did,” she writes. “Zouaves were known for their colorful Arab-inspired uniforms and their marching drills. Zouaves were found in both the south and north.”
“Civil War Connections” art exhibit can be viewed any time the Belfast Free Library is open. The hours are 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday; 9:30-6 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 12 noon-8 p.m., Wednesday; and 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday.
Brian Swartz can be reached at email@example.com. He would love to hear from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.