The Graduate Center - City University of New York

Theodore R. Davis, "How a Battle Is Sketched," St. Nicholas (1889)

In this article, written 24 years after the Civil War for the children’s magazine St. Nicholas, former Harper’s Weekly "special artist" Theodore R. Davis recollects the hazardous and inventive ways that pictorial journalists reported the battlefront. While photography was still in its infancy—unable yet to capture action or to be cheaply reproduced in periodicals or books—artists' battlefront sketches were a major source of visual news of the war’s people, places, and events. Davis, who was 21 at the start of the war, was typical of this new type of reporter, recording direct observations or collected stories in rough sketches and notes that were dispatched to newspaper offices in New York where they were made into wood engravings and printed as illustrations in weekly publications such as Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and the New York Illustrated News (the South had no comparable pictorial news resource).

Creator: Theodore R. Davis

Date: July 1889

Publisher: St. Nicholas 16: 661-68.

Source: American Social History Project