Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles of artwork featured this October in the book and exhibition, "One Hundred Stories: Highlights from the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts."
The scene is inside a barn. Three men look cautiously out a sagging plank door in the back. Distant flames are visible through the door. Across the barn floor are men, women and children who have collapsed in exhaustion. At least one man is wounded.
This is "The Burning of Chambersburg," by Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839-1924). The painting is at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. Inspired by the horror of the burning of Chambersburg, Pa., by Confederate soldiers on July 30, 1864, Knight (1839-1924) painted not the drama of the flames, but the effect of the attack on citizens who had fled to a nearby farm for safety.
Whether the artist was actually in Chambersburg at the time is not certain, but he was a Pennsylvania native who had left his artistic studies in Paris in 1863 to fight for the Union during the Civil War. By 1867, when he painted this large picture, there was still a great deal of talk in Chambersburg about the experience.