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Before the days of action-shot photography, artists visited battles sites to capture the scene with their skilled hands. Those illustrations were then reproduced in publications such as Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly. One set of images strikingly illustrates how an on-site visit could translate to an accurate depiction of a battle scene. A particular bridge at Bull Run hampered the retreat of Union troops from Bull Run. Compare the photograph of the bridge with the lithograph.
Frank Leslie's, whose namesake had come from Great Britain in 1848, claimed to have over eighty contributing artists. Harper's Weekly, a competitor, employed British-born Alfred Waud in 1862, while his brother William worked for Leslie's until mid-1863. Like embedded reporters of today, the artists had close calls, met generals and politicians, and were not always accurate or appreciated by the troops and commanding officers.
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Caricatures and cartoons found their way into the art of war as well. Thomas Nast provided many of those, as well as drawings, for Harper's Weekly. Winslow Homer made lithographs of photographs by Matthew Brady and drawings of his own for Harper's. Currier and Ives, Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, were part of the picture as well. Currier earned fame for his work prior to the war. Ives, married to Currier's sister-in-law, had a knack for knowing what the public wanted, and Currier made him a business partner in 1857. During the war, they produced images of both land and sea battles.
One artist had a unique story. Frank Vizetelly, brother of one of the founders of the Illustrated London News, had a nose for war and a talent for depicting it, covering military actions in Europe for the News. Frank then came over to the United States to do the same for the Civil War. However, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was not pleased with how Vizetelly presented the fleeing Union Army after Bull Run. Stanton revoked Vizetelly's permit, so Vizetelly went to the Western Theater. He applied for a permit again several months later, but was denied. Vizetelly went to the Southern side. There, he was accepted. Until the war ended, Vizetelly portrayed his admiration for the South.