Civil War art at county museum

The Sheboygan County Historical Museum has opened a new special exhibit – Watercolors of Corporal John Gaddis: Documenting the Civil War.

Produced by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the exhibit captures the daily life of a Union army soldier during the 1860s. All of the paintings were done “in the field” by Corporal John Gaddis while he was based at Camp Randall in Wisconsin, and while on military campaigns in Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Gaddis, who served for three years between 1861 and 1864, enlisted as a private from Dellona. A farmer in civilian life, he received no formal art training. Besides the 14 framed watercolors in this exhibit, only two other of his works are known to exist . another Civil War drawing owned by a private collector and an oil portrait in the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society

Gaddis' regiment, the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, was organized at Camp Randall, Madison, in October and November 1861, and left the state Jan. 11, 1862, proceeding to Fort Leavenworth, Kans. The 12th Wisconsin remained in active service until the latter part of May, leaving on the 29th of that month for Columbus, Ky., which was reached June 2, 1862, and thereafter was a part of the Army of the Tennessee.

The 12th was one of the “Marching Regiments.” Its service began with many miles of marching in Kansas, thence transferred to Western Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi and finally with Gen. Sherman. It is claimed that the regiment marched 3,838 miles, traveled by railroad 2,506 miles, by steamboat 3,159 miles, a total of 9,503 miles. The 12th also participated in three of the most famous campaigns of the Civil War.

Watercolors of Corporal John Gaddis: Documenting the Civil War will be on display at Sheboygan County Historical Museum through March 31. The special exhibit is part of an expanded visitor season the museum is introducing in 2018. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to the Gaddis exhibit, visitors will also be able to explore a mock encampment, including replica dog tent, cooking equipment and Civil War era pastimes.

The Sheboygan County Historical Museum, in historic Taylor Park, is a six-building campus focused on the mission to collect, preserve, and educate about the history of Sheboygan County. For more information on the museum, including hours, admission costs, and programs, please visit or call the museum at 920-458-1103.

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