The Eastman Forts - Guide to the Print Set
After the Civil War the U.S. Army had troops stationed at more than 250 military installations spread across the North American continent. These posts varied in size from a few crude buildings on the western frontier to massive fortifications mounting hundreds of guns. In 1870 Congress commissioned Seth Eastman, a retired brevet brigadier general, to produce a series of paintings for the House Military Affairs Committee. The only guidance given to Eastman was that the paintings were not to include any battle scenes. The result was seventeen paintings of fifteen contemporary military installations in the United States (Eastman included three different renderings of Fort Sumter). Artistically, the paintings represent the style of the period, but perhaps more importantly they provide a visual snapshot of Army forts of the nineteenth century.
Although Eastman completed his paintings between 1870 and 1875, he had already served at, or visited, most of the forts he selected for the series during his active duty years. In most instances the forts had changed very little between the time he first saw them and when he completed the painting, but in the case of Fort Defiance, the Army had abandoned the post years before Eastman painted it for this series.
CLAYTON R. NEWELL