American artist Alfred R. Waud is an important figure, noted for works he did as an artist-correspondent during the American Civil War. The first-hand sketches drawn at the battles and events were sent by couriers directly to the publishers employing Waud. Often these were the most immediate and only images available to the American public of events during the war. Those images and Waud’s historic significance to the era are immense.
Born in England, he studied at the Government School of Design at Somerset House, London with the intent of becoming a maritime artist, and fell in with professional theater groups and began painting sets. He immigrated to the United States in 1850 following this profession. Soon he had established himself in Boston, illustrating books and a periodical, The Carpet-Bag.
By 1860 he was employed as an illustrator for the New York Illustrated News, and sent on assignment to cover the Army of the Potamac, the main Union force in Virginia. From the First Battle of Bull Run up to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Waud covered all aspects of the war. He was one of two “special correspondents” present at the Battle of Gettysburg. He joined Harper’s Weekly in 1861, working alongside Winslow Homer under the direction of Thomas Nast. His brother William Waud joined the staff in 1864. His peers recognized him as the best sketch artist working the war, and published that statement in Harper’s Weekly in 1865.
The majority of Alfred Waud’s surviving artwork resides in a collection bearing his name in the Library of Congress, principally from a bequest of J. Pierpont Morgan.