Digital History>Virtual Exhibits>Water Color Sketchbook by Private Henry Berckhoff

Water Color Sketchbook by Private Henry Berckhoff
8th New York "German Rifles"
27 May 1861 to 23 May 1863

What did the Civil War look like to the soldiers who fought in it? The pictures in this exhibition were drawn by a young Union soldier, Henry Berckhoff, during the war. Berckhoff sketched these pictures in graphite and later added ink and watercolor. He also attached the images to paper boards and bound them together.

Berckhoff's paintings of large groups of soldiers marching and fighting are shown in part one of this exhibit. In part two, there are more personal and solitary scenes of camp life. His drawings allow us to see the Civil War through a soldier's eyes.

Berckhoff was a career soldier. He served in the military almost continually from the time he fought with the Union army until his retirement in February 1894. Twenty years old when he enlisted in New York City, Berckhoff became a private in the Eighth New York Volunteer Infantry, Company B, which was also known as the First German Rifles. This was an "ethnic regiment" composed of approximately 1,000 German immigrants. The drawings displayed here represent the early years of Berckhoff's military career.

Part One: Sketches About Marching and Fighting

Part Two: Sketches About Camp Life

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