A Bit of War History: The Veteran

Thomas Waterman Wood American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 762

This work, painted at the close of the Civil War, forms a narrative triptych (84.12a, b, c) of African American military service. In "The Contraband" (84.12a)—a term that referred to enslaved people who fled to Union lines at the beginning of the conflict—the self-emancipated man appears in a U.S. Army Provost Marshall General office, eager to enlist. The Recruit (84.12b) represents him as proudly ready for military service. In "The Veteran" (84.12c), he is depicted as an amputee possibly seeking his pension in the same office where he first enlisted, or returning to military service. By the war’s end, African American men made up more than ten percent of the United States Army and Navy, fighting bravely in so-called U.S. Colored Troops. Wood, a White Vermont-born painter, produced this empathetic work in New York at a time when caricatured representations of African Americans were the norm.

A Bit of War History: The Veteran, Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York), Oil on canvas, American

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