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Forbes' Civil War etchings, plate 20: Fall in for soup; circa 1862-1864 | by Penn State Special Collections Library
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Forbes' Civil War etchings, plate 20: Fall in for soup; circa 1862-1864

Edwin Forbes was only twenty-two years when Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper hired him as a staff artist to cover the Union Army of the Potomac. From the occupation of Manassas in 1862 until the siege of Petersburg in 1864, Forbes produced first-hand drawings of battlefield preparations, camp life, marches, night watches, patrols, and skirmishes. Forbes eschewed epic battlefield scenes and portraits of famous generals (though the latter became quite profitable sellers in later years); his attention instead was drawn to the lot of the common foot soldiers and enlistees who suffered the brunt of the war.


Forbes returned to New York City in 1865, and until his death in 1895 he parlayed his portfolio of wartime drawings and combat observations into his main livelihood. His original field sketches provided the foundation for stunning published editions of engraved etchings covering his vast portfolio. The four etchings digitally reproduced here for exhibition are part of a series of 40 plates originally published in a portfolio dating from 1876, and they include Forbes’ simple factual commentary of Civil War scenes he witnessed.


Forbes, Edwin (1839-1895). Life Studies of the Great Army. A historical work of art, in copper-plate etching, containing forty plates, illustrating the life of the Union Armies during the late Rebellion. New York, E. Forbes, 1876, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University


Gift of John Eakin, 2010


Penn State's Special Collections Library


Legacy of Civil War era celebrated by University Libraries' exhibit

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Taken circa 1863