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Seth Eastman: The Soldier Artist

Seth Eastman: The Soldier Artist

by Patricia Condon Johnston

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The Artist (continued)

On August 28, 1848, Eastman wrote a formal request to the Office of Indian Affairs asking to be ordered "to the duty of painting, if the work being compiled on the N. American Indians is to be illustrated with engravings." He also petitioned the secretary of war for a transfer to the Office of Indian Affairs (which was still under the War Department).

He would wait three months for a reply. In the meantime, Captain Eastman had new orders transferring him to Texas. The War Department’s long-awaited reply reached Eastman in late November. His request had been refused. Baffled and angered, Eastman pleaded his case with friends in government. If a transfer could not be arranged, then Eastman would accept a leave of absence to work on the pictures.

Taking matters into her own hands, Mary Eastman, wrote to their friend Henry H. Sibley, territorial delegate to Congress from Minnesota, pointing out that "during the twenty three or four years Capt. E. has been in Service he [has] never had a leave (except for a few days) but the one which occurred during the Florida War, when he was very sick….If Captain E is not here [out East] in the Spring, it may be a great loss to him… which he could not repair."

Sibley also heard from Captain Eastman: "I presume my wife has written to you before this...I hope you have been able to do something for me in regard to my painting those Indian pictures." But although Sibley personally pressed Eastman’s request to the secretary of war, the answer was still no, and Eastman remained on assignment in Texas nearly a year.


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