Publisher: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
Gettysburg: Repulse of Longstreet’s Assault
This engraving, based on the artist's painting of the same name, depicts the immediate aftermath of the massive assault known as Pickett's Charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) during the Civil War. John Badger Bachelder was a New Hampshire–born landscape painter intent on creating an image of the war equal in popularity and historical importance to Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851). He decided that Gettysburg would be his subject and through his research became the battle's unofficial historian. In promoting his own work's importance, he also became a kind of public relations man for Gettysburg, promoting it, even in 1863, as the decisive battle of the war and later coining the phrase "High Water Mark of the Confederacy" to describe Pickett's Charge. He consulted with a number of Union and Confederate soldiers in order to craft, in his words, a work that "has not its equal in America, for correctness of design or accuracy of execution." He specifically cited the endorsement of Confederate general James Longstreet, who took "great interest in the painting" and sent Bachelder "a fine letter endorsing its accuracy," during a period in which Longstreet's tactical decisions at Gettysburg were an ongoing object of popular criticism. Bachelder's painting never exceeded Leutze's, but his impact on the cultural memory of Gettysburg has been nothing short of profound, if not always as historically accurate as he would have hoped.