"Floyd's Comman, Gauley Bridge, Virginia" by William De Hartburn Washington William De Hartburn Washington (1834– 1870)
Floyd's Command, Gauley Bridge, Virginia
Oil on canvas
44 x 36 1/8 inches
Museum purchase; 1999.008

This painting depicts an event that occurred early in the Civil War on November 1, 1861. Confederate General John B. Floyd placed a cannon on high ground overlooking the Gauley River in West Virginia (then still Virginia). The Confederates planned to shell a camp of Union soldiers, which can be seen beyond the river in the distance. Washington created the painting from sketch he made at the scene. Instead of presenting a scene with soldiers in the throes of an attack, the artist presents a stage-like setting and arrangement of figures. The men are arranged in very casual, yet heroic positions, almost as if they posed for the painting. The sunlight highlights the figures and the foreground landscape of the scene, while in the distance, Washington employed atmospheric perspective, depicted the background landscape and Union camp in bluer and paler colors, further enhancing the action in the foreground of the painting.