The Army of the Potomac

The Army of the Potomac

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This print by John Henry Bufford shows the Army of the Potomac at the conclusion of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. General McClellan had intended to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond in the summer of 1862, but after a series of engagements with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the Seven Days Battle, he withdrew to the James River, 20 miles from Richmond. Lincoln then called for the Army of the Potomac to return to Washington, D.C. The failure of the Peninsula Campaign crushed the morale of Union forces, who believed the capture of the Confederate capital would bring about an end to the fighting.
In the background of this print, long trains of covered wagons and troops of the Army of the Potomac retreat from Chickahominy to the James River. In the foreground, some soldiers cross Bear Creek while others rest on its banks. General George McClellan is visible at the bottom of the print on a white horse, looking out upon the withdrawal of his forces. This print is identical to another by Bufford, which has the more cynical title – “The Retreat.”
This print was published by the lithographer John Henry Bufford. The son of a sign painter and gilder, Bufford trained with Pendleton's Lithography in Boston, 1829-1831. He worked in New York with George Endicott and Nathaniel Currier (1835-1839) before returning to Boston where he had a good reputation for printing and publishing popular framing prints, commercial work, labels, and trade cards. The company went through several iterations and name changes until about 1865. He became the chief artist for Benjamin Thayer until buying out the firm to found J. H. Bufford & Co. (1844-1851). He continued to work in the lithography and publishing business for the remainder of his life. In 1865, his sons Frank and Henry John became partners in Bufford & Sons or J.H. Bufford’s Sons Litho. Co. After his death they continued the family business as Bufford Brothers and as Bufford Sons Engraving & Lithographing Company until 1911.
John Badger Bachelder (1825-1894) was born in New Hampshire and began his career as a portrait and landscape painter. During the Civil War, he accompanied the Union Army and made sketches from 1861 to 1863, and worked as a print publisher in Boston from 1863 to 1865. Union officers often commented on the accuracy of his artwork. He documented scenes of the War, particularly at Gettysburg and created a guidebook to the battle in 1873. From 1883 to 1887 he served as Superintendent of Tablets and Legends for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, during which time he wrote a detailed history of Gettysburg from the Union perspective.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Bachelder, John Badger
Bufford, John Henry
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
image: 17 in x 27 1/4 in; 43.18 cm x 69.215 cm
overall: 20 1/2 in x 30 in; 52.07 cm x 76.2 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Civil War
Uniforms, Military
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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