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Theodore R. Davis (1840–1894) was a 19th-century American artist, who made numerous drawings of significant military and political events during the American Civil War and its aftermath.

Theodore R. Davis
Theodore Russel Davis

Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Davis' drawing of the Battle of Champion Hill.


Early yearsEdit

As a child, Theodore R. Davis was taken to Washington D.C. where he graduated from Rittenhouse Academy. When he was fifteen, he moved to New York where studied art under Henry W. Herrick and James Walker.[1]

War and BeyondEdit

Davis received informal training from James Walker. He was hired by popular magazines and newspapers to illustrate the Civil War. He was hired by Harpers Weekly in 1861.[2]

During the Civil War he served as a captain in the 15th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he became a companion of the New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

Some of these drawings include the Battle of Champion Hill, and the most significant sketch of General Joseph E. Johnston and General William T. Sherman meeting at the Bennett Farm near Durham Station to discuss the surrender terms of the remaining Confederate armies in the Southeast.

After the war when the Atlanta Cyclorama in Atlanta, Georgia was being painted, Davis was asked for his ideas from his travels with Sherman's army. He was later added to the painting.

Theodore Davis was a staff artist at Harper's Weekly[3] and many of his drawings were published in it from wood engravings.

Dinner plate designed for Lucy Hayes, wife of U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes

Theodore R. Davis was chosen to create china diningware for First Lady Lucy Hayes, wife of president Rutherford B. Hayes.[4] Davis suggested using flora and fauna from America and produced 130 designs of animals, plants, and scenic views.[5] At the time the cost for the order came out to $3,150. A guest named Clover Adams (a Washington D.C. Socialite) observed that when she ate at the White House she could hardly eat soup peacefully if she had to watch a coyote leap at her from behind a tree.[6]

During the Civil war, Theodore Davis commanded a regiment but resigned because it interfered with his art.[citation needed] While documenting the war he traveled with a British Journalist, and pretended he worked for the London illustrated News. A major effort in his career was his documentation of the fight between the Merrimac and the Monitor. During the war, Theodore Davis was injured twice, and his horse was shot out under him[7]

Theodore Davis worked with panoramic painters such as Friedrich Wilhelm (artist) and August Lohr on larger projects.[8]

After the Civil War, Theodore Davis spent a short time Illustrating Reconstruction activities in the South and spent time with Generals George Armstrong Custer, and Winfield Scott Hancock during their campaigns against the Indians in the West.[9]

Selection of wood engravings from Harper's WeeklyEdit


  1. ^ Theodore Russel Davis
  2. ^ Davis, Theodore (artist)
  3. ^ Biography Theodore Russel Davis
  4. ^
  5. ^ [First Ladies Trivia & Fascinating Facts]
  6. ^ [White House China Service]
  7. ^ Visual Art in the Civil War.
  8. ^ Theodore Russel Davis
  9. ^ Davis, Theodore (artist)

Davis, Theodore (artist). War and American Popular Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. M. Paul Holsinger. Greenwood Press Westport Connecticut. London. Library of Congress Publishing Data. 1999 Theodore Russel Davis. The South on Paper: Line, Color, and Light. Essay by Estill Curtis Pennington and Essay and Catalogue by James C. Kelly. Copyright 1985. White House China Service Fascinating First Ladies' & Fascinating Facts. Biography Theodore Russel Davis. ©10/17/2007 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, Wisconsin © 2016, Museum of Wisconsin Art | 205 Veterans Ave. West Bend, WI | 262-334-9638 Visual Art in the Civil War. Sarah Tollman.