“Home Sweet Home” by Winslow Homer depicts the scene inside a lively camp before the Union Army goes into battle; the makeshift tents that provide the only shelter at night, the stale hardtack by the fire, the hot tea boiling over the flames, the coarse fabric hanging in the sun to dry, the soldier’s gear lying where it had been left the night before, the smell of soiled boots drying in preparation for combat and the sound of Union band playing patriotic tunes such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “When Sherman Marched Down to the Sea”. Directly across the Rappahannock River, which is faintly visible in the background, lies the Confederate Army as they too are enjoying their last few hours before battle; cooking dinner over small fires, sharing memories of less trying times and surely trying to drown out the Union’s patriotic songs with their own such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Dixie, The Land of King Cotton”.
However, the true meaning of “Home Sweet Home” lies in the middle of the Union camp with the two soldiers dressed in blue. Both are in such deep thought as if their immediate surroundings are suppressed by the memories of long-forgotten feelings; fresh cornbread cooking in the stove, cherished laughter of children playing in the backyard, the comfort of sitting in a rocking chair by the warm fire or maybe even chime of the grandfather clock reminding them that they are in the safety of home Time appears to have no bearing on the two Union soldiers as they sit lost in thought. The painting suggests this moment of reminiscence was brought upon the two men by the opened letter on the sitting soldier’s lap. The picture offers no clues as to whom the letter is from, but it doesn’t matter. A letter from anyone dear before a gamble with death catches a person off guard with bittersweet recollections.

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