In Front of Yorktown Artist: Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910)

ca. 1863–66

American Paintings and Sculpture

On view, 2nd floor, American Art before 1900

As an artist-correspondent for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War, Winslow Homer accompanied General George McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, the first major Union army offensive. Here he shows five soldiers on picket duty at night. Such small groups were sent ahead of the main camp on the dangerous mission of raising an alert if the Confederate troops advanced. Warmed by the campfire, two men sleep, while the others are lost in thought. Homer’s careful placement of the tree puts the viewer in the position of a hidden observer, silently spying on the unaware men.


Oil on canvas


13 1/4 × 19 1/2 in. (33.6 × 49.6 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Samuel Rossiter Betts, B.A. 1875

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Samuel Rossiter Betts (1854–1931), New York; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1930
  • Lucretia Hoover Giese and Roy Perkinson, "A Newly Discovered Drawing of Sharpshooters by Winslow Homer: Experience, Image , and Memory," Winterthur Portfolio 45, no. 1 (Spring 2011), 84, fig. 20
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 3, 73, 156–57, 324, no. 94, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

View IIIF manifest

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. Visit to learn more

Linked Art

API response for this object

Linked Art is a Community working together to create a shared Model based on Linked Open Data to describe Art.