Art on Sunday #13
Fort Sumter before the Civil War by Bvt. Brigadier General Seth Eastman.
(Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives)
Here, the fort in Charleston, S.C. is intact, but it is surrounded by choppy waters and threatening clouds. The wrecked sailboat in the foreground further foreshadows the coming violence.
Fort Sumter was “one of a series of coastal fortifications built by the United States after the War of 1812— a war that had shown the gross inadequacy of American coastal defenses. The fort belonged to what has come to be known as the Third American System of coastal defense, embodying ‘structural durability, a high concentration of armament, and enormous overall firepower.’ “ (Fort Sumter – Anvil of War, US National Park Service 1984).
Eastman was a career infantry officer and accomplished artist, graduating 22nd out of 46 in the 1829 class at West Point. In 1833, he was assigned to the United States Military Academy at West Point as an assistant instructor of drawing (as used in mapmaking and illustration) where he served for seven years. Between 1849 and 1855 he served in Washington DC as a illustrator for “Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States”, published in six volumes between 1852 and 1857. He was placed under orders to the Secretary of the Interior, September 1867, to February 1870 during which he completed a series of nine paintings for the U.S. House of Representatives depicting American Indian life. In 1870 he was commissioned by Congress to create a series of paintings of important U.S. fortifications. He completed 16 paintings before his death in 1875 and was finishing the 17th, West Point, when he died.