Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Drawings by an imprisoned Civil War private

Sotheby's is selling 19 drawings made in 1864-65 by John Jacob Ommenhausser, a Confederate private from Virginia imprisoned in Maryland. The drawings provide a fascinating glimpse into Civil War prison life. Many of the guards pictured are African-American; poetic justice, I'd say. In all, Ommenhausser filled four sketchbooks. The drawings being auctioned on Jan. 26 are the only ones still in private hands. Please click on the detail shots to read the captions. In the top drawing, prisoners accede to the demands of the guards. "Double quick sahi or I'll blow a hole through you," one guard says. "Now git-down on your knees and pray for Abraham Lincoln." The prisoner replies, "Oh Lord, bless Abraham Lincoln." The Point Lookout Prison Camp was located where the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay meet. The second drawing shows prisoners trying to procure crabs. "Say! I'll give you a big chew tobacco for this crab." In the third drawing, a guard tells two prisoners to fall in line or risk getting shot. "Oh me! I'm nearly frozen to death," one prisoner complains, while the other says, "And I'm nearly broke down, I can hardly draw my breath." The last drawing shows a guard asking about noise in the sleeping quarters. "No ones making noise, it's only a man talking in his sleep," a prisoner answers. The estimate on lot 466 is $60,000-$80,000.

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