Exhibitions/ Art Object

Quaker Gun, Centreville, Virginia

Artist:
George N. Barnard (American, 1819–1902)
Former Attribution:
Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)
Date:
March 1862
Medium:
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions:
Image: 8.1 × 9.4 cm (3 3/16 × 3 11/16 in.) Mount: 10.7 × 12.6 cm (4 3/16 × 4 15/16 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.1232
Not on view
The principal subject of this humorous view is a tree trunk expertly carved and painted by the Confederate army to look like a massive cast-iron cannon. George N. Barnard’s assistant stretches to fire the weapon known as a "Quaker gun" (it can never be fired, no one gets hurt). The photograph offers wry commentary on the nature of war and on the art of deception. At Centreville, Virginia, Union General George McClellan had been fully deceived by the Confederate fortifications and row upon row of "large guns" seen through the lenses of his ever-present field glasses, or binoculars. His Confederate counterpart, General Robert E. Lee, had far fewer weapons than McClellan, but he had outsmarted his opposite by designing and building his fortifications to appear at a distance far stronger and more dangerous than they actually were.
Signature: Inscribed on verso: "305-IV / Conf. Fortifications at Manassas"

Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on mount, verso TC: " 1 pos[?] 200% // 305 - IV // Conf. Fortifications at // Manassas".
Frederick Hill Meserve Collection Century Magazine General Albert Ordway; [Paul Katz, North Bennington, Vermont, June 10, 1984]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York

This is a field print, made from the negative of a smaller camera, and used for a preliminary view. It was probably printed on-the-spot in the field. The confederates who had a shortage of cannons would occasionally put dummy wooden guns in place to simulate real artillery positions. The Quakers as a matter of conscience did not bear arms - hence the appellation. (Katz)
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