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Hampton History Museum

Posted on: August 2, 2018

Civil War Journey: The Maps and Sketches of Private Robert Sneden - Exhibit now open!

Robert Sneden Civil War sketch

“Civil War Journey: The Maps and Sketches of Private Robert Sneden,” a touring exhibition organized by the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, is on view in the museum's second floor gallery.


Eyewitness accounts and images from the Civil War memoir of Union soldier, cartographer, and Confederate prisoner of war Robert Knox Sneden are showcased in an exhibition of 45 watercolor maps and drawings with views of battles, battlefields and military life that provide a unique and mesmerizing perspective on the Civil War. Local imagery includes a rendering of Hampton after its 1861 destruction by fire, a depiction of Fortress Monroe, as well as maps and views of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, along with other extraordinary scenes.


The entire Sneden collection, a 5,000-page memoir, four scrapbooks and 1,000 watercolors, represents perhaps one of the largest collections of Civil War soldier art ever produced. Several of the images are the only known depictions of lesser-known locations and events.  The collection forms one of the premier treasures of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (formally know as the Virginia Historical Society). His scrapbooks came to light in 1993 after having lain for more than sixty years in a bank vault. Research on them led to the discovery in 1997 of the five-volume diary-memoir in a mini-storage unit outside Tucson.


The collection is also the basis of the bestselling books Eye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey (Free Press, 2000) and Images from the Storm (Free Press, 2001). More information about the collection and can be found in the Guide to the Robert Knox Sneden Diary, 1861–1865 at http://www.virginiahistory.org/arvfind/snedenillist.htm.


Robert Knox Sneden (1832–1918) was born in Nova Scotia and later moved to New York City, where, in the summer of 1861, he enlisted in the 40th New York Infantry Regiment. Sneden served with the Army of the Potomac in Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days' Battles and in Washington, D.C., as a topographical engineer on the staff of Maj. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman. In November 1863 he was captured by Mosby's Rangers and spent the next thirteen months as a prisoner of war in various Confederate prisons including Andersonville in Georgia. After his exchange in December 1864, he was discharged and returned to New York City where he compiled a diary/memoir and a scrapbook of images documenting his service in the Civil War. He died at the Soldiers Home in Bath, N.Y., in 1918.


“Civil War Journey: The Maps and Sketches of Private Robert Sneden” continues through Sunday, April 21, 2019.

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