Robert Knox Sneden

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A restored version of Sneden's map for the Battle of Harpers Ferry, 1862.

Robert Knox Sneden (1832 in Nova Scotia – 1918) was an American landscape painter, as well as a map-maker for the Union Army during the American Civil War who was a prolific illustrator and memoirist. According to the Virginia Historical Society, Private Sneden's artwork was the largest collection of [American] Civil War soldier art ever produced.[1]


Robert Knox Sneden was born in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada and moved to New York when he was age 19 (1851).[2] He left Brooklyn in 1861 to enlist in the 40th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment (the Mozart Regiment) of the Army of the Potomac. He served as a quartermaster. In 1861, they camped near Leesburg Turnpike.

He served on Samuel P. Heintzelman's III Corps staff, as a draughtsman on map work, from January 12, 1862. On March 22, 1862, Sneden embarked with him for the Peninsula Campaign,[3] participating in the Battle of Williamsburg, Battle of Seven Pines, Battle of Savage's Station, Battle of Glendale. Returning to Northern Virginia, he took part in the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was assigned to the defenses of Washington, first in Alexandria, then at Arlington House.[3]

In October, 1863, after Battle of Bristoe Station, he was assigned to David B. Birney's division, participating in the Battle of Kelly's Ford.

He was assigned to the staff of general William H. French, during the abortive Battle of Mine Run. On November 27, 1863 Sneden was captured by Confederate troops under John S. Mosby.[1][3]

He was held at a tobacco warehouse next to Libby Prison, from November 30, 1863,[3] where he suffered from Typhoid fever.

After a small escape, they were shipped to a new prisoner of war camp in Georgia, on February 22, 1864.[3] He was held in the notorious Andersonville Prison, but continued making clandestine drawings. On December 11, 1864, he was exchanged at Charleston.[3]

After the war, although crippled from his time in Andersonville, he made a number of his war drawings into watercolors.

Archival discovery[edit]

In 1994, an art dealer approached the Virginia Historical Society, about a Civil War archive that had languished in a Connecticut bank vault. Sneden's great-great-nephew also sold his "diary", and watercolors.[3]

His works held by the Virginia Historical Society, are available at the Library of Congress.[4]


  • Robert Knox Sneden (2000). Charles F. Bryan, Nelson D. Lankford, ed. Eye of the Storm. The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86365-0.  [5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Virginia Historical Society.[1] Accessed 22 July 2008.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Knox Sneden. Charles F. Bryan, Nelson D. Lankford, ed. Eye of the Storm. The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86365-0. page 12; 26
  4. ^ "Sneden, Robert Knox, 1832 1918", Civil War Maps, Library of Congress
  5. ^ [2]