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'Burning of Chambersburg' image included in Washington County Museum of Fine Arts exhibit

August 15, 2012|Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
  • American artist Daniel Ridgway Knights The Burning of Chambersburg, 1867 is an oil on canvas on display as part of Valley of the Shadow exhibit at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.
American artist Daniel Ridgway Knight¿s ¿The Burning of Chambersburg, 1867¿ is an oil on canvas on display as part of ¿Valley of the Shadow¿ exhibit at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.

Special to The Herald-Mail



The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts recently opened a landmark exhibition, "Valley of the Shadow," to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Gettysburg and other important regional events of the Civil War. The exhibit continues through July 28, 2013.

The Civil War inspired a number of images, many of them painted after the war. Included in the "Valley of the Shadow" exhibition is a painting by artist Daniel Ridgway Knight, an eyewitness to the devastating experience of the burning of the town of Chambersburg, Pa.

A Chambersburg citizen and a Union soldier, Knight decided to pay tribute to the Confederate burning of his city some two years after he had left the army and set up his studio in Philadelphia. He chose not to represent the violence itself, but the effects of it, with the result being a memorable history painting.

This dramatic painting depicts exhausted Chambersburg civilians who had fled for safety from their burning city in 1864. On July 28, Confederate Brig. Gen. John McCausland had demanded a ransom of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency to save the city from being burned to the ground. However, the skeptical town leaders refused to pay it. So on July 30, Confederates fulfilled their threat, although some soldiers refused to participate, considering it to be barbaric.

Daniel Ridgway Knight was not only present at the conflagration but actually carried infant James A. Hamilton, a future local leader, to safety. He walked the 10 miles to Shippensburg, Pa., with the infant on his shoulders.  In 1867, Knight, by this time settled in a studio in Philadelphia, painted this remembrance of the trauma experienced by Chambersburg residents, focusing on some who had fled to the countryside. In the painting, "The Burning of Chambersburg," exhausted refugees rest in the foreground of the barn interior, while three young men peer out the collapsing door at the flames in the distance. Knight later wrote a friend that he could remember every single house in the town.

"The Burning of Chambersburg" is on view at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts as part of the important exhibition, "Valley of the Shadow."  Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 301-739-5727 or go to www.wcmfa.org.



Elizabeth Johns, PhD, who lives in Hagerstown, is professor emerita of art history from the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts


If you go ...
What: "Valley of the Shadow"

When: Now through July 28, 2013. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. and Sunday.

Where: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, off Virginia Avenue, Hagerstown

Contact: For more information, call 301-739-5727 or www.wcmfa.org



'The Dignity of Free Men'

 Historian Edie Wallace will discuss "The Dignity of Free Men: The Story of Tolson's Chapel" Thursday, Sept. 6, at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.

Dinner will be at 6 p.m. in the museum's Kaylor Atrium. Advance registration is required for the dinner. The lecture will be at 7 p.m.

Wallace will talk about Tolson's Chapel in Sharpsburg, which is a tiny, log chapel that became the spiritual and educational center of a vibrant community of black families. This presentation will trace the lives of the men and women of Tolson's Chapel, beginning in the years prior to the Civil War, and as the building served the community as church and school from 1868 to 1899, and continued its spiritual services through the next century to 1996.

Wallace has a master's degree in historic preservation from Goucher College, where she received the 2003 Hiram McCullough Award for her thesis on preserving African-American historic resources in rural Washington County. Wallace leads historical research and historic context development services for Paula S. Reed and Associates Inc. in Hagerstown and serves as president of the Friends of Tolson's Chapel.

Tickets for dinner and the lectures are $25 for non-members, $20 for museum members. Tickets for the lecture only are $5 each, free for members. Special pricing is available for groups.

The event is part of the Thursday Evening Civil War Lecture Series and will be offered monthly through July 2013.

To purchase tickets, call the museum at 301-739-5727.


If you go ...
What: "The Dignity of Free Men"

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6; dinner at 7 p.m.

Where: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, off Virginia Avenue, Hagerstown

Cost: Tickets for dinner and the lectures are $25 for non-members, $20 for museum members. Tickets for the lecture only are $5 each, free for members.

Contact: Call 301-739-5727


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