Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alfred Edward Mathews

Alfred E. Mathews was the son of a book publisher who was raised in an environment of music and art. He became a typesetter and an itinerant bookseller in New England, but was also a talented landscape drawer. Sometime in 1859 or 1860 Mathews traveled to the south and became a school teacher in Tuskaloosa County, Alabama. When the Civil War began Mathews was forced to join an Alabama militia company. His Unionist sentiments though precluded him joining a Confederate unit and so he soon began a trek back home to Ohio, taking a circuitous route through Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri until he reached Chicago on May 28th. After arriving in Ohio he joined Battery A of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery but was eventually transferred to the 31st Ohio as a musician.[1]

Mathews was known for his battle field sketches before Shiloh and would grow to greater fame after Shiloh. One of his first war sketches was of the battle of Wildcat Mountain, which he sketched on October 21st, 1861. A few months later, on January 19th he would sketch the death of Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer at the battle of Mill Springs. This sketch was turned into an engraving by Walton Taber and this engraving is believed by some historians to be the most accurate artist rendition of Zollicoffer’s death. He also had two sketches of the war in Kentucky published in the November 23rd, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly.[2]

The 16th Ohio’s surgeon, B.B. Brashear, wrote his hometown newspaper on March 12th, 1862, “I had the pleasure to meet A. E. Mathews formerly of New Philadelphia. He is on ‘extra duty’ as artist for that Regiment [31st Ohio]. I saw some of his sketches. They are all good. His lithograph view of “Boon’s Knob” where the turnpike crosses the Kentucky River, is very beautiful and true. He has his drawings lithographed in Cincinnati. When I parted with him he was on his way to the lithographer’s with his sketch of the battle of Mill Springs, or Webb’s Cross Roads.”[3]

General Ulysses S. Grant personally commended him for his battle sketches, illustrations, panoramic depictions of the War in the deep South, and topographical work. On August 9th, 1863 Grant wrote Mathews, “I have examined the lithographs of views taken by you of the ‘Siege of Vicksburg,’ and do not hesitate to pronounce them among the most accurate and true to life I have ever seen. They reflect great credit upon you as a delineator of landscape views.” When Mathews later toured the country with his lithographs he carried endorsements from Generals Thomas, Sherman, Logan, Rosecrans, Pope and McPherson, as well as Grant.[4]

There are five sketches made by Mathews of the Shiloh area in known existence. He made sketches of Shiloh Church, Shiloh Spring, Pittsburg Landing and the gunboats Tyler and Lexington. His sketch of Shiloh Church has the following caption in the Voices of the Civil War: Shiloh, “Two days before the battle, AE Mathews of the 31st Ohio Infantry sketched the humble log meeting house known as Shiloh Church. Following the engagement, Mathews’ drawing was published in the form of a lithograph.[5]” Upon examining the lithograph in the Western History collection at the Denver Public Library it is not clear how the editors of Voices of the Civil War: Shiloh were able to determine when it was sketched as there is no date on the lithograph. Mathews’ Shiloh lithographs were produced by the Cincinnati lithographic firms of Ehrgott, Forbriger & Co and Middleton, Strobridge & Co.[6] The other sketch Mathews made was of the 14th Wisconsin capture of a Confederate battery, entitled “Charge and taking of a New Orleans battery by the Fourteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers, Monday, April 7, 1862.”[7]

All of this does nothing to prove where Mathews was when he sketched the charge of the 14th Wisconsin. On April 7th his regiment was miles away from Shiloh and wouldn’t arrive at Shiloh until the fighting was over. There is a possibility though that Mathews was on detached service from his regiment specifically to do sketches of battles. His regiment was not near the site of Zollicoffer’s death at the battle of Mill Springs yet his sketch is considered one of the most accurate and so perhaps he was allowed to roam battlefields and was near Zollicoffer when he died. Perhaps as the Army of the Ohio neared Shiloh Mathews was requested by General Buell to leave his regiment and make sketches of the battle. It is odd that Mathews would make a sketch of the church two days before the battle and then only make one sketch of the battle, apparently he made no sketches of actions on the first day.

There are 38 Civil War sketches by Mathews in existence today. Judging by the list of sketches it is clear that Mathews was not always with his regiment. He makes sketches of events that his regiment was no where near, sometimes by hundreds of miles. Two such events are his sketches of the battle of Jackson, Mississippi and the siege of Vicksburg. From Mathews’ sketches four paintings were made of the siege of Vicksburg. Later he made a four piece panorama of the battles in the Western theater which included the siege of Vicksburg, the battle of Stones River, the battle of Chattanooga and Sherman’s March to the Sea. During the siege of Vicksburg his regiment was operating in the Murfreesboro-Tullahoma area a few hundred miles northeast of Vicksburg yet Grant called the sketches of Vicksburg the “most accurate and true to life I have ever seen.” All of this casts further doubt as to where Mathews was and to whom he reported. No sketches of his exist for the battle of Chickamauga but he arrived in time to make several sketches of the battle of Chattanooga. It is possible that sometime after the battle of Stones River Mathews was ordered to Grant’s army to sketch the siege of Vicksburg. Then he appeared in Chattanooga sometime after the battle of Chickamauga but before Grant arrived as he sketched General Thomas’ Corps in Chattanooga. Upon Grant’s arrival Thomas was elevated from corps command to command of the Army of the Cumberland.[8]

Most of Mathews’ lithographs have an explanation on them as to what units are depicted on the sketch. Among his pre-Shiloh lithographs there are none depicting Thomas’ division. Of the seven pre-Shiloh sketches only one depicts the 31st Ohio, that of Chaplain Drake preaching to the 31st Ohio. His other sketches depict Fort Anderson in Paducah, Kentucky; the first Union dress parade in Nashville; the Female Seminary in Nashville; the Battle of Wildcat Mountain; Zollicoffer’s death at Mill Springs; and Union troops crossing Fishing Creek. General Crittenden is to be found in the sketches of Zollicoffer’s death at Mill Springs and Union troops crossing Fishing Creek. The 14th Wisconsin was temporarily attached to Crittenden’s division at Shiloh and it is possible that during this period of the war Mathews was following Crittenden’s division either officially or on his own. It seems clear from his later work that he pretty much roamed as he wished. His sketch of the battle at Jackson, Mississippi shows the attack made by Sanborn and Boomer’s brigades. At Perryville he is near Starkweather’s brigade. At Stones River he has one sketch of Starkweather and Scribner’s brigades and another of Walker’s brigade. Walker’s brigade included the 31st Ohio and Walker was the former commander of that unit. His sketches of Vicksburg focus on Logan’s troops. In September 1862 during the campaign that would culminate in the battle of Perryville he sketched the 103rd Ohio at Fort Mitchell in Cincinnati and the 121st Ohio crossing pontoons at Cincinnati. At Chattanooga one of his sketches shows the entire battlefield as sketched from the north side of the river where no troops were stationed at the time of the sketch.

After the war Mathews traveled extensively through the west. In 1866 he published Pencil Sketches of Colorado, followed a year later by Pencil Sketches of Montana. His third book, Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery he lithographed himself in New York. He also did sketches of Nebraska and California and was working on the first commercial fish hatchery in northern Colorado before his death in 1874.[9]

[1] Mathews, Alfred E. Interesting Narrative; being a journal of the flight of Alfred E. Mathews. (Denver: Nolie Mumey, 1961) p 7. Mumey, Nolie. Alfred Edward Mathews 1832-1874. (Boulder, CO: Johnson Publishing, 1961) p 27. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1866. Cincinnati: Wilstach, Baldwin & Co., 1886. Vol 3, p 447.
[2] Taft, Robert. “The Pictorial Record of the Old West, VII: Alfred E Mathews.” Kansas Historical Quarterly. Volume XVII, Number 2. (Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, May 1949) p 106.
[4] Unidentified newspaper clipping in the Western History Department Denver Public Library. Central City, Daily Miners’ Register. December 1, 1865, p 3. December 2, 1865, p 3. Copies in the Western History Department Denver Public Library. Draper, Benjamin. Alfred Edward Mathews: Soldier, Pioneer, and Delineator. Antiques. (March 1939) Copy in the Western History Department Denver Public Library. p 128. Mumey, Alfred Edward Mathews, p 27.
[5] Voices of the Civil War: Shiloh. p 96.
[6] Accessed June 1, 2002. Taft, “Alfred E Mathews.” pp 105-6.
[7] Aberbethy, Private Elisha Stockwell, p 18.
[8] Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. (Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1994) Vol 2, p 1511. Taft, “Alfred E Mathews.” pp 105-6. Draper, Alfred Edward Mathews, p 128.

1 comment:

Susan Kniebes said...

Alfred is buried in a remote grave on the north bank of the Big Thompson River about 10 miles north of Loveland, Colorado and near the old Mont Rose Inn. For more information on his grave, contact