The material that Homer collected as an artist-correspondent during the Civil War provided the subjects for his first oil paintings. In 1866, one year after the war ended and four years after he reputedly began to paint in oil, Homer completed this picture, a work that established his reputation. It represents an actual scene from the war in which a Union officer, Brigadier General Francis Channing Barlow (1834–1896) captured several Confederate officers on June 21, 1864. The background depicts the battlefield at Petersburg, Virginia. Infrared photography and numerous studies indicate that the painting underwent many changes in the course of completion.
With Samuel Putnam Avery, New York, 1866; John Taylor Johnston, New York, 1866–76; sale, Somerville Art Gallery, New York, December 20, 1876, no. 181; Robert Lenox Kennedy, New York, 1876–died 1887; his sister, Mary Lenox Kennedy, New York, 1887–died 1917; her great-grandniece, Rachel Lenox Kennedy (Mrs. Frank B.) Porter, New York, until 1922