Charles W. Reed

Charles Wellington Reed. Charles Wellington Reed Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

An especially gifted artist in capturing the everyday life of a Union army camp, Boston native Charles Wellington Reed (1841–1926) enlisted in the 9th Massachusetts Light Artillery on August 2, 1862. Serving for much of the war as a bugler, in 1895 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in saving the life of Captain John Bigelow at the Battle of Gettysburg. Reed also fought at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg in 1864–1865. In many letters to his family, as well as in two sketch books, Charles Reed produced a number of perceptive drawings of his wartime experiences. Whether he was recording the commonplace or historic events, the illustrations are noteworthy for their intricate detail and humanity. A severe saber wound to Reed's right hand in August 1864 during the Petersburg siege failed to impede his artistic endeavors because the young Bostonian was left-handed. Transferred to the staff of General Gouverneur Kemble Warren as a topographical engineer in November of 1864, Reed's enthusiasm for drawing inspired him to pursue a career as an artist after the war, illustrating a number of Civil War publications including Hardtack and Coffee (1887).

Related Items