Originally Published: June 15, 2014 6 a.m.
During the Victorian era, a publication called Outing: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation exposed its many subscribers to the work of an up-and-coming new addition to the pictorial periodical scene.
In its December 1886 installment, an obscure illustrator named Frederic Remington joined the stable of artists commissioned to work for Outing. At that point, Remington was virtually unknown, and he welcomed this golden opportunity to break into print with a journey to Arizona where he was to link up with the 10th U.S. Cavalry.
Setting out by train from New York, the green dude packed his artist's supplies and a fresh bound volume with blank pages that became his "Journal of a Trip Across the Continent through Arizona and Sonora Old Mexico." Remington recorded the start of this incredible artistic journey in his June 10, 1886 diary entry: "Got up late after a good night rest at Palace Hotel (Tucson), took camera went to the detachment of 10th Colored Cavalry - took a whole set of photographs." Some of the early endeavors, which he produced from his first foray, were more caricature than fine art, but even in their raw simplicity they conveyed a glimpse of a fresh topic - the black soldier in the West.
His sojourn to the Southwest likewise provided inspiration for a slightly more polished presentation based on a dramatic incident he learned about from eyewitnesses. His journal referenced Lieutenant Powhattan Clarke. This young West Point officer was responsible for a heroic act during a desperate encounter with Apaches that ended the life of one of the embattled African American troopers and felled another black soldier, Corporal Edward Scott. Sustaining a near mortal wound and exposed to the enemy fire, Scott's life hung in the balance. Braving a hail of bullets Clarke rushed to the stricken corporal's aid, carrying him to safety at the risk of his own life.
After learning of this dangerous rescue, Remington made a special trip to interview Scott. At the post hospital, Remington recorded "an attendant led me over to one [a bed] where a fine tall negro soldier lay. His face had a palor (sic) orspreading it, the result of the lost limb. I greeted him pleasantly and told him of my desire to sketch his face...." Comparing a photograph of Scott with Remington's depiction of this event reveals that the image was far more detailed and faithful to life than his quick sketches he provided for Outing. Arguably, Remington's ascent into the ranks of one of the most celebrated American-born artists can be traced to his first rough renderings of black soldiers in Arizona Territory, which would play a prominent part in the approximately 2,300 outpouring of his pens and paint brushes produced between 1886 and 1897, nearly all of which were published. In so doing, Remington might be viewed as the father of the "buffalo soldier" legend as it has come down to us today.
John Langellier is the director of the Central Division of the Arizona Historical Society located in Tempe. On June 23, he will be speaking at Sharlot Hall Museum about Frederic Remington and the Buffalo soldiers. For details, see www.shartlot.org.
Days Past is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners, International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit articles for consideration. Contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 445-3122, ext. 14, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.