Civil War Weekend is only hours away, and in a nod to those activities, this week PHW dives into the oldest printed document in our collection, a copy of the Illustrated London News (Canadian Edition) from January 7, 1863. The first thing, you might rightly ask, is why PHW would have this in our collection. A cryptic handwritten note directs you to the middle of the paper, at which point you find a two page spread of sketches documenting the war in America. The paper writes:
Our Special Artist and Correspondent at the head-quarters of the Confederate army of Northern Virginia has forwarded to us some Illustrations, which we have been fortunate enough to receive. This, it seems, is far from being the case generally, many of his sketches and letters having been intercepted. . . . Indeed, our Special Artist on one occasion recently ran a great risk of being taken prisoner, having galloped past a cross-road only a few minutes before a Federal scouting-party dashed through.
The two sketches supplied by this unnamed artist feature Jefferson Co., Virginia (now West Virginia). The third is a sketch of the Confederate flag, along with a story:
When Banks, commanding the Federals, was attacked by Jackson last spring and driven pell-mell through the streets of Winchester, Miss Laura Lee, of that city, boldly stood forward on the street amidst the flying bullets and waved this little flag of her own make, cheering on the Confederate soldiers as they charged through the flying ranks of those who had covered her and her fellow-citizens with abuse for months. More than one Confederate fell at her feet as they swept triumphantly past, and, still waving her little flag in one hand, with the other assisted the wounded men. This lady is a fair type of all her Southern sisters – womanly, but brave in her country’s cause, and now praying by the dying beds of those brave men who have fallen victim to patriotism.
The final image of the set is from a different, also unnamed artist, depicting men claiming exemptions from the draft in New York in the fifteenth ward in November of 1862. The paper records that “there has been a great rush” to claim exemptions, which were granted for those under age 18 or over 45, physical disability, color (“no negroes or mulattoes being accepted”), “alien birth and non-naturalized” status, or “membership in the scholastic and clerical professions.” The most numerous exemptions were granted to non-naturalized citizens, with allegedly 50,000 exemptions being granted.