Thomas Nast is perhaps best known for his post-Civil War accomplishments. You may know him as being the man responsible for our image of Santa Claus as the jolly old man dressed in a red suit trimmed with white fir. He was also an editorial cartoon known as the "Father of the American Cartoon" and helped to bring a corrupt New York City political machine down. He also developed the donkey and elephant symbols still used today by our Democratic and Republican parties.
But before Thomas Nast did all these things, he was a Civil War illustrator. One of his most famous pictures was this one, picturing a Civil War Christmas Eve.
Nast was only in his early 20's during the Civil War, so his entire career was ahead of him. A native of Germany, Nast was solidly on the side of the Federals. Nast worked for Harper's Weekly starting in 1862, and many of these issues are online - a very nice primary source document for those with the time to do that type of research.
Here are some other examples of his Civil War art work.
After the war, it is said that Nast helped get former Union general U.S. Grant elected President.
He died in 1902.
I personally love to look at art of the Civil War era, such as advertisements, recruitment posters, and the like. It is a very ornate style, and speaks to a pace of life we can only dream about today. Someone had a lot of their time on their hands, it sometimes seems, to include the amount of detail in some of these drawings.
Thomas Nast is only a number of people who got their "starts" in the American Civil War and later became famous. Over the next few months I hope to highlight some others. Some of them may surprise you.