At ‘This Place in History’, we’re in Johnson with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.
“We’re here to talk about Julian Scott, one of Vermont’s most famous 19th Century artists. I’ve got some great works of art for us to take a look at. He was born in Johnson in 1846, and ultimately by the time he was 15 years old, the Civil War had broken out. He decided he would follow his older brothers and join the Union Army. He was only 15 and he was a pretty scrawny little guy, but he ended up becoming a fifer, so he was a musician,” began Perkins.
“I think what some people don’t know is that the musicians also served as medics or ambulance men. At the Battle of Lee’s Mill, he crossed over a stream numerous times bringing back wounded soldiers. Julian Scott was the first American solider to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for battlefield bravery.”
“He was wounded and ended up in a hospital in New York. In his convalescence, he really showed an aptitude for drawing. There was a benefactor, a man who was funding the hospital from New York who saw his work and funded some of his study so he could continue his artwork,” said Perkins.
“This is a pastel sketch from the Vermont Historical Society collection. It’s very indicative of Scott’s work. He always put the common soldier first. So if you look at other artwork from the time, often you see the general up front leading the troops and they’re kind of in a blur in the background. He always focused on the common solider,” explained Perkins.
“He painted this monumental painting called the Battle of Cedar Creek. The Battle of Cedar Creek took place near the end of the Civil War. Vermont soldiers played a very pivotal role in that war and so he was asked to commemorate Vermonters’ roles by painting this large painting. The legislature voted to pay him $5000 to paint this painting. It ended up costing him more to paint the painting than what they gave him. He went back, but typical thrifty Vermonters of the time refused to give him another $5000. They gave him $4000. So he came out making $400 or $500 total on this huge painting,” explained Perkins.
“By 1890, he was looking for some work and was hired to be a special agent of the US Census. They hired a bunch of well-known artists of the time to go especially to the American West. The 1890 Census was the first census to count Native Americans as Americans. He was sent out to not only count Native Americans, but also create images of them,” said Perkins.
“This is a great little autograph book that was dropped off in a box of donations for the Vermont Historical Society. This is an autograph booked owned by a young man, 10 or 11 years old, whose father died in the Civil War as a cavalry officer. I’m flipping through this little book, and sure enough, here’s an autograph in the book that says Julian Scott, November 18, 1874. He must have been back in the state in 1874. It’s got this beautiful pen and ink drawing of a soldier, I will assume sleeping against a tree. It’s obviously a calvary officer with the high boots there. It could have been the young man’s father. Just flipping through this book, you never know what you’re going to find,” concluded Perkins.
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