It’s always fun to find new tidbits in the course of research, and while working on my new book about the Mine Run campaign, I found a particularly cool piece that I was excited to share. This image, a watercolor of New Hope Church on the Mine Run battlefield, appears in The Great Battle Never Fought in black and white. It’s the first time it’s been published as part of the Civil War literature. However, I wanted readers to be able to see the painting as it originally appears in color:
Of the three avenues of march the Army of the Potomac followed on November 27, 1863, the V Corps spearheaded a column advancing along the Orange Plank Road through the Wilderness. Confederate cavalry tried to contest the movement, but the weight of Federal infantry proved decisive.
New Hope Church sat on the south side of the road, a few miles west of Parker’s Store and a few miles east of Mine Run. The building was used as a field hospital during the fighting, and among the wounded men who received treatment there was young Charles Longfellow, a member of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. Charlie was the son of the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
That connection eventually led to the creation of one of America’s most beloved Christmas poems, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In 2011, ECW’s Meg Groeling wrote a post that recounted that story—a post that has become one of ECW’s most-read poems of all time.
Charlie Longfellow came from a family with wide-ranging creative talents beyond his father’s impressive literary prowess. Among them: his cousin, Mary King Longfellow of Portland, Maine, a well-known watercolorist. In 1877, Mary painted New Hope Church, site of her cousin’s wounding.
Longfellow House-Washington Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Longfellow family home, preserves the family’s creative legacy, including a number of paintings by a variety of Longfellow family members. (Learn more about their art here.) It was through their website, searching for something completely unrelated, that I stumbled across Mary’s painting of New Hope Church.
The image appears in the book, and here on the website, courtesy of the National Park Service, Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site (LONG 18791). I am especially grateful to curator Christine Wirth for her assistance.
There’s more about the image, Charlie’s story, Longfellow’s poem, and the fighting at New Hope Church in The Great Battle Never Fought, available now on Amazon and from Savas Beatie. 😉