Devil's Den - Gettysburg by Bradley Schmehl
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Devil's Den - Gettysburg by Bradley Schmehl ~
July 2nd, 1863- 4:30 pm--
As we view the scene before us, we are standing near the bank of Plum Run Creek, which is behind us and looking north-northwest at the Devil’s Den. We see an officer urging on the men of the 17th Georgia. They are contending with infantry fire from the front (the crest of Little Round Top) and left flanks (Houck’s Ridge, where the 99th Pennsylvania has wheeled to there left rear and is raining down heavy fire on the Rebs), as well as canister fire from a two-gun section of Captain James Smith’s 4th New York Light Artillery.
The 17th Georgia, from Benning’s Brigade, Hood’s Division, were in the second wave of Confederate troops to sweep through the “Slaughter Pen,” the boulder-strewn gorge through which Plum Run Creek flows, just to the south of the Den. Along with the 2nd Georgia, they had attempted to reinforce and bolster the attack of the 44th and 48th Alabama of Law’s Brigade, which has now stalled completely.
The dead Yankees in the painting belong to the 4th Maine, which was pushed out of Devil’s Den by the 44th Alabama earlier in the fight. The surviving men of the 4th Maine now huddle several tens of yards in the rear of the Georgians. The green-coated captain in the right foreground is from the 2nd U. S. Sharpshooters, one of two regiments of crack shots raised by Colonel Hiram Berdan in 1861. They were deployed as skirmishers this day, before Hood’s division began its assault and part of the regiment has retreated through Devil’s Den.
In the end, the seven Union regiments which had held relatively strong positions in and around the Devil’s Den were confronted with overwhelming odds and forced to retreat. Fortunately for the Union, Devil’s Den was no longer the left flank of the army. Yankee forces atop Little Round Top had already repelled several Confederate charges and reinforcements were on the way.
About The Artist
As an artist who loves and studies history, Bradley Schmehl has made it his life’s work to research the subjects for his paintings through diaries, letters, books, visiting historical sites, and generally immersing himself in any materials available to him. From the Civil War to the cowboys of the West, Schmehl finds his subjects fascinating. Talking and exchanging ideas and information with others who share Schmehl’s interest in history also offer the artist opportunities to expand his resources. The artist says, “History is a world which is past, yet exerts its influence on us all. It is possible to visit and experience the world of history through the work of writers, filmmakers, living historians, and artists. I want to help open the window on our history so that more people can share in the view.”
Schmehl’s detailed paintings reflect the many historical aspects he includes in his images. As an avid reader, the artist tries to capture in his mind the events chronicled in the books and other materials he reads. Schmehl also consults with historical experts. Armed with all the research available to him, the artist’s goal is always to paint each element of an event or story. From uniforms to weapons to horses to even the time of day and weather conditions, Schmehl’s paintings are as authentic as possible.
The artist usually starts with a rough pencil sketch, mostly done on location, then he engages his models to pose as the various characters in the image and photographs them. Once Schmehl is satisfied that his concept is historically accurate, he commences creating his painting. Working in oil on canvas, the artist creates a rough under-painting. After drying, he over-paints the details and refines his brushwork. Schmehl describes his technique as “painterly realism.” “I strive to capture the true nature of the light, the color, but I make no effort to disguise the brushstrokes. Even while attempting to render meticulous detail, I strive to paint boldly and deliberately.”
Schmehl has traveled throughout the country in pursuit of his subject matter. Extensive trips to Civil War battlefields, to other historical sites, to even being on the range in Texas have allowed the artist to collect and record the many, many notes, sketches, and library of materials that contribute to Schmehl’s fine work. A Schmehl painting gives the viewer a unique perspective on the subject matter portrayed. As the details in the image come to life, an appreciation of history is evident.
When not on a research trip, Schmehl cherishes the time he and his wife, Becky, spend in their 1885 Victorian home with their two cats. As committed Christians, the artist and his wife are active in their church; Brad plays the guitar in the worship band.
Come live history through the eyes and paintings of Bradley Schmehl…it will be a most enjoyable journey.