History, with guns

My father, being a hunter, liked rifles. So when I was little he let me help him make bullets, weighing the gunpowder before putting it in the cartridge and sealing it in some kind of contraption. That’s my memory. Later, when he tried to teach me to use a real gun, I was repelled. And now I am repelled by the accessibility of firearms in our society.

But here I was on an absolutely spectacular day in San Francisco, right beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point for a meet up with the S.F. Urban Sketchers. History Day at Fort Point was a staging of Civil War era activities, enacted by costumed history buffs, with an weaponry and soldiering drills.


Fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor Artists Journal Hand Book, 8X8″

This soldier was exhibiting Civil War medicine. Note the saw for removing limbs, so the gangrene didn’t kill the soldier, I assume. I was trying not to listen.


There was a lot of standing around and looking military, with the weaponry clearly displayed.


Since the actors had mostly ornamental tasks that day, we asked these two ladies if they would pose, and discovered they were a wealth of information about the Historical Artillery Society they belong to. Evelen is normally in the uniform of a male soldier on manuevers, hauling the canon onto the field on horseback. Be not confused by their interest in war history – they are both pre-school teachers in their day jobs!

fortpoint04‘While sketching this group I overheard a recruiter talking to some interested visitors about the society. Apparently you can join them on one of their history days, borrow costumes, camp out with them in tents. “It’s like camping with guns!” he said enthusiastically.


I was getting a bit weary of sketching soldiers and looked up at the water tower and through the lattice of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Then back for a last sketch of this soldier enjoying a sunny spot. There were only Union soldiers here in San Francisco. The war ended before the fighting ever got here. But I got a bit of a taste of the soldier’s life on this day. More than once I looked up from my sketchbook to see a formation of soldiers following a drill that resulted in my facing down (unloaded) rifle barrels. Hopefully I’ll never face down the real thing! This one was enacted in all seriousness, and yet also, all in a day’s fun!


  1. Thanks for sharing the beautiful paintings! I recognize my husband and myself in one of them. What a wonderful surprise.


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