"Young Timmy Volunteers for Confederate Sniper Accuracy Test"
Johnny Eastman

Always the comedian despite the Depressionist focus of his work, the American painter Eastman enjoyed traveling with the jolly, devil-may-care troops of the Union Armies during the Civil War. Works that have survived from this period include Rebel Horse Takes a Cannonball Right in the Brisket, which highlights the astonished expression on the face of the horse as the shell explodes, matched almost perfectly by the astounded expression of his rider, who, still in the saddle, is accelerating straight up with enough force to peel his uniform off. Another, Rain of Arms and Legs at Sunset, has the mood of a Whistler nocturne until the viewer notices the comically fluttering Union flag still clutched in the hand of one of the descending extremities.

In the subject piece young Timmy, one of the drummer boys who were so expendable in the conflict, recognizing that his belly full of shrapnel isn't going to get better no matter what the nice doctor said, offers to check out the range and accuracy of the CSA snipers. He is even using his drum to attract the attention of, and further taunt, the rebel marksmen. His Zouave¹ comrade-in-arms, Mickey Augustine from the Bronx in New York, is happy to help him achieve his goal, understanding that it is all part of the manly joy of warfare.

Augustine, who survived the war, later published his memoirs, Mickey and Minié and the Big Noisy War as a children's book, with all the participants in the form of anthropomorphized mice. He included the brave little drummer boy, whose last words he records as, "Tell my Momma I ... aaargh!"

 

---------------------------------

¹The Zouaves were soldiers of the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry who thought dressing in harem pants would terrify the enemy troops. In a way they were right about the effect, if wrong about the emotion invoked. What happened during the first time they entered battle was that the enemy troops were so overcome with laughter they couldn't hold their rifles steady. Inspired by their success, the Zouaves later went on to add red-sequined vests, glittery rhinestone jewelry, Neon Blaze lipstick, purple eye shadow and pinwheel hats to complete the effect. As testimony to the effectiveness of their approach, only one member of their company died in action, and that was due solely to an allergy to the antimony in his Tuscan Sunset eye shadow.

 

BACK          NEXT