National Geographic : 2012 May
EDITOR'S NOTE ART: PRINT COLLECTION, MIRIAM AND IRA D. WALLACH DIVISION OF ART, PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS, NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS Henri Lovie sketched this scene of Rebel troops at the Battle of Munfordville in 1862. The men who made these sketches had a mission. Special Artists The action at the Battle of Munfordville in 1862 was so fast and furious it could not be captured by the slow, bulky cameras of the day. But Henri Lovie could and did capture that Kentucky conflict with pencil and sketchbook. Lovie was one of the "special artists," illustrators embedded with both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. This month we share the seldom seen sketches of Lovie and his brave colleagues. Their work and the stories behind their art have become a passion for Harry Katz, au- thor of our piece. Katz has spent years locating their sketches and bringing their experiences to light. "Specials were trying to portray the war as pub- lishers wanted, the generals demand- ed, and the public expected, but it wasn't working out that way," he says. "War and death were meant to be por- trayed with dignity and respect. But this scene blasts convention off the page with explosive graphic power." Katz discovered what it took to be a special artist in a quote from Theodore Davis, who covered the entire war: "Total disregard for personal safety and comfort; an owl-like propensity to sit up all night and a hawky style of vigilance during the day; capacity for going on short food; willingness to ride any number of miles horseback for just one sketch, which might have to be finished at night by no better light than that of a fire." The men who made these sketches had a mission. Like the war correspondents who followed them into the field in decades to come, they witnessed and recorded a terrible conflict for all to see.