Henry Mosler's Civil War Diary


About This Project

The artist Henry Mosler (1841–1920) kept a diary in October 1862. This digital exhibition, made possible by the generosity of the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation, offers visitors the opportunity to explore Mosler's observations during the month of October 1862 when he served as an illustrator for Harper's Weekly and an aide-de-camp to General R. W. Johnson with the Union Troops as part of the Ninth Indiana Volunteer Regiment. This was his first professional position as an artist.

During this period, Mosler wrote about his movements with the troops and mentions encampments, encounters, and occasionally his work for Harper's. He recorded these impressions in a slim pocket diary. Though not lengthy at only thirty–seven pages, the diary provides a first–hand account of the suffering and weariness of war. The verbatim transcriptions found on this website preserve the exact spelling and punctuation of the original diary. The format of the diary, however, has been standardized according to the modified block style for greater clarity.

About Henry Mosler

Portrait of Henry Mosler, 1860, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Henry Mosler papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Portrait of Henry Mosler, 1860, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Henry Mosler papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Henry Mosler (1841–1920) worked primarily in Ohio, New York City, and Europe as a genre painter. He painted landscapes and portraits. And, Mosler served as an artist correspondent for Harper's Weekly during the Civil War.

Born in Silesia (Poland) in 1841, Henry Mosler immigrated to New York City with his family in 1849. In the early 1850s the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Mosler received art instruction from James Henry Beard, becoming an accomplished portrait painter and an active participant in the Cincinnati art scene.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Mosler became an artist correspondent for Harper's Weekly, documenting the Western Theater in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama. He served as a volunteer aide-de-camp with the army of Ohio from 1861-1863 and was present at the engagement at Green River, and "present and under fire" at the battles of Shiloh and Perryville.

Immediately thereafter, Mosler relocated to Dusseldorf for two years and attended the Royal Academy, followed by six months in Paris where he studied with painter Ernest Hébert. In 1866 Mosler returned to Cincinnati where his portraits and genre scenes enjoyed growing popularity.

In 1875 Mosler traveled to Munich and two years later settled in Paris from where he enjoyed critical and financial success both in Europe and in the United States. Mosler was known for his genre paintings of peasant life in rural Brittany and he became a regular participant in Salon exhibitions and won honorable mention in the Salon of 1879, when his painting Le Retour, became the first work by an American artist to be purchased by the French government. In 1888 he won the gold medal at the Paris Salon and in 1892 he was made chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and officier de él'Académie.

Mosler returned to the United States temporarily during this period, including a trip in 1885–1886 to visit the West and collect material for paintings of Native American life.

In 1894 Mosler returned to the United States and settled in New York, where he became a popular teacher and an active participant in the New York art scene. In 1895 he was made an associate member of the National Academy of Design, and in his last decades took up landscape painting during summers in the Catskill mountains, and produced genre paintings depicting scenes from colonial and rural life. Mosler continued to enjoy widespread popularity until his death in 1920.

About the Henry Mosler Papers, 1856–1929

Front cover of Henry Mosler's Civil War Diary in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Front cover of Henry Mosler's Civil War Diary in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

This diary is one item from the Henry Mosler papers in the Archives of American Art. The papers of painter Henry Mosler measure 4.5 linear feet and date from 1856–1929. The collection documents Mosler's life and career through biographical material, personal and professional letters from members of the military, museums, family, friends and colleagues, writings including the Civil War diary, personal business records, printed material, artwork and sketchbooks, and photographs of Mosler, his family, colleagues and artwork.

Biographical material includes passports for Mosler's travel during the Civil War and to the American West in 1875–1876, as well as identification cards and awards from Mosler's years in Germany and Paris, including the Ordre National Légion d'Honneur awarded to him in 1892.

Letters record Mosler's service as an aide–de–camp for the Army of Ohio and his activities as an artist correspondent for Harper's Weekly from 1861–1863 in the Western Theater of the Civil War. However, the bulk of the letters document Mosler's career from the 1880s onward. Found are letters from museums, art associations, government agencies including the Minsistere de l'Instruction Publique et des Beaux–Arts, and colleagues in Europe and the United States including artists James Henry Beard, Julien Dupré, Gabrier Ferrier, Ernest Hébert, William Henry Howe, William Ordway Partridge, and Leon Germain Pelouse, among others. There are also scattered letters from Mosler.

Writings and notes include the Civil War diary and two illustrated notebooks from 1862 and 1863 containing sketches, and travel and financial notes. Also found are two biographical accounts of Mosler's career and poems by various authors, many inspired by Mosler's paintings.

Personal business records include an account book documenting Mosler's income and expenses from 1869–1878 and 1886–1892, and Library of Congress copyright certificates for four of Mosler's pictures.

Printed material documents Mosler's career in the United States and Europe through news clippings, a brochure, and an exhibition catalog for an 1897 exhibition of his paintings at Galleries of Pape Bros.

Artwork and sketchbooks include six sketches and an engraving by Mosler, and two books containing sketches by Mosler and other artists including James Henry Beard. The series also contains one ink drawing each by Leon Germain Pelouse and E. Hillery.

Photographic material includes albums and individual photographs of Mosler in his studio and with others including his immediate and extended family, and students. Also found are photos of artists including Gabriel Ferrier, Ernest Hébert and Thomas Buchanan Read, Brigadier General R. W. Johnson and opera singers Emma Nevada Palmer and Renée Richards. Photographs of artwork are primarily found in 2 oversized albums dedicated by Mosler to his children, Edith Mosler and Gustave Henry Mosler respectively.


The digitization of the Henry Mosler papers, and this website focusing on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War through Henry Mosler's diary, were generously funded by the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation. Joseph F. McCrindle (1923–2008) was an art collector, literary agent, publisher, and philanthropist. He was the great-grandson of Henry Mosler.

Mosler's digitized collection also forms part of the Terra Foundation Center for Digital Collections. The Terra Foundation for American Art has funded Archives of American Art's ongoing project to create an unparalleled virtual repository for the study of the visual arts of the United States. A digitization project team—a manager, archivists, curators, digital imaging technicians, and a webmaster—ensures that the Archives remains a vibrant resource for the critical study and appreciation of American art, anticipating and responding to new digital modes of learning, scholarship, curatorship and reference. This web project seeks to engage and familiarize growing audiences worldwide with the Archives' unique holdings.

Dr. Kelly Quinn, Terra Foundation Project Manager for Online Scholarly and Educational Initiatives