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Francis H. Schell (1834-1909)

Destruction of the U.S.A. gunboat Hatteras by a Rebel Cruiser off Galveston, Texas

Francis H. Schell was an artist, illustrator, and lithographer in Philadelphia before coming to New York where Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper hired him as a “special artist” in 1861. First sent to cover the Federal occupation of Baltimore after the riots there in April, he then followed the Union campaign at Fortress Monroe and Great Bethel on the North Carolina coast in early 1862 focusing often on drawing small details and minor incidents that would be memorable to soldiers. When the North Carolina campaign bogged down in a stalemate, he was reassigned to General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, and he witnessed the confrontation with General Robert E. Lee’s army at the battle of Antietam Creek, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The experience led Schell to capture the realities of battle without idealization or bravado. In addition to drawing battle scenes and details of camp life in a finely detailed style, he was interested in capturing the images of “contrabands”, former slaves who dug trenches and did odd jobs for the army. In all, Leslie’s published 211 of his wartime drawings, and he became its art director after the war until he formed a lithography partnership with Thomas Hogan that continued for 30 years. He also did illustrations for Century magazine, and his drawings were included in Beyond the Mississippi (Hartford, 1869) and Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (1884-1887). The Becker Collection contains drawings done by Schell in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana between 1861 and 1863. See works by this artist.