Home Guard: Midnight On The Border
Overall: 24 x 11 x 11 in. ( 61 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm )
Genre figure, as described in Rogers' catalogue: A painted plaster sculptural group featuring "two females living on the border during our Civil War, and the only ones left to guard their home as the men are all in one army or the other, are suddenly called up by an alarm at midnight. The older one is in the act of cocking a revolver, while the other clings to her for protection"(Smith 70). Patent # 2062: May 9, 1865
Rogers' famed Civil War subjects explored a range of experiences of the conflict, from humorous scenes of camp life, to interactions between soldiers and civilians, to soldiers under the duress of battle. In this singular group, the artist showed how the terrors of war affected civilians. Rogers was well aware of the guerilla violence that threatened those living in the contested border states, where inhabitants were subject to sudden attacks by "bushwhackers," as they were called. Here he depicted two young women of the region, who were, in his words, "the only ones left to guard their home, as the men are all in one army or the other . . . suddenly called up by an alarm at midnight." Roused from a sound sleep, the women are in dishabille, the elder with her strap falling off her shoulder, the younger apparently wrapped in her bedclothes. Both stare intently at the same point in the distance, trying to discern the unknown threat. The younger girl crouches fearfully behind the elder, whose gaze shows her own trepidation, but she cocks the revolver in her hand, ready to face the danger. In 1868, three years after the group was introduced, the New York Evening Mail connected The Home Guard with a work that Rogers released at the same time, The Bushwhacker: The Wife's Appeal for Peace (1949.240). The writer compared the dreaded midnight raid with "the other side of the cloud," the man who would carry out the attack, who in The Bushwhacker is being persuaded by his wife to relent. There is no clear indication that Rogers intended the two groups to function as a pair, but they create a compelling circuit of aggressor and victim, both poised for the attack and perhaps both equally terrified by its possible consequences for themselves and their loved ones, but neither certain whether it will be carried out. Rogers finished this work in a hurry in the spring of 1865 as he prepared for his wedding. His fiancée, Harriet Moore Francis, may have inspired his portrayal of the older female in The Home Guard; Rogers admired his bride for her strength, independence, and resourcefulness, and the women he depicted in his later work would share those characteristics. Though Rogers was not satisfied with The Home Guard, it received some positive critical notices: it was called "one of the most spirited" of his works to that point, "almost startling in its strength."
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. "A Visit to the Studios: What the Artists are Doing," The Evening Post, Feb. 16, 1865, pp. 260-1. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 76. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.70-1. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 104, 148, 214, 284, 295, 297, 299, 304. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 94-5.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.