This collection contains 111 images of drawings and text, depicting both important events and everyday scenes from the Civil War. The pencil, pen-and-ink, crayon and wash drawings range in size from 5 x 5 inches to 19 x 12 inches.
The drawings were made by 'special artists' employed by Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and used as a basis for the wood engravings that illustrated it. Many of the artists were professionals such as John Francis Edward Hillen and E. B. Bensell. Others were soldiers and others in the field who submitted their drawings for publication. The sketches were made from the earliest days of the war, in April 1861, when troops were being moved to defend Washington D.C., to February 1865, when the U.S. flag was raised over Fort Sumter after being recaptured by Union troops. Some works date from April and May 1865, when Lincoln's body was lying in state after his assassination. The sketches were able to capture action that photographs were not able to convey at the time, and provide immediacy lacking in the other mediums. This collection of drawings from the New-York Historical Society's Museum Department was acquired through the James B. Wilbur Fund from the collection of John T. Kavanaugh, Rutherford, N.J., in 1945.