Civil War artist visits Strasburg, Winchester
When Civil War artist John Paul Strain visits the Northern Shenandoah Valley region for signings and discussion, it’s not often that he stops by Strasburg.
His new painting, titled “Evening Orders in Strasburg,” depicts General Stonewall Jackson delivering orders outside of Spengler Hall with a colorful sunset as backdrop, on the eve of the Valley Campaign and the First Battle of Kernstown. In line with the Strasburg theme, Strain will give signings at Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park and Museum on Saturday and at King James Galleries of Winchester on Sunday.
Strain said he had encountered Spengler Hall on a historical tour of the area and noted that time hadn’t changed it very much when comparing the building to historical drawings.
“Nowadays I’m trying to focus on landmarks that people can recognize and are proud to have in their neighborhood and in their town,” he said. “It felt like a good subject to attack.”
He said the house’s level of outward preservation is somewhat rare. For a painting depicting “Headquarters at Narrow Passage” in Woodstock, he said he had to mentally reconstruct the buildings that would’ve been there and erase others that had been built overtime.
Research into what the “Evening Orders in Strasburg” scene may have looked like on March 22, 1862, was accomplished with the help of those who currently live in the house. Strain said he only had to fill in a few elements, like the building’s shutters and the family watching the exchange. In the painting, Strain said Jackson is handing off orders to Capt. Abram Spengler, the nephew of those who owned the house at the time.
“It was an easy connection to make,” he said. “We know that they were there that night in Strasburg, and the idea of the tension that was involved because of what Jackson had to do the next day as far as going to Winchester and mounting an attack on a force that was six to seven times larger than his.”
Even the puddles he painted in on the ground have their basis in the “miserable conditions” he said were recorded at the time.
Strain said he makes around four trips a year from his home in northern Texas to the Northern Virginia area for signings like this. Many of his works depict scenes in and around Winchester or Gettysburg – two areas where King James Galleries are located.
“Winchester gets a lot, but it seems like Jackson and his troops were in Strasburg and camped there throughout 1862 during the Valley Campaign,” he said. “It was kind of like one of the focal areas.”
He said a Strasburg moment was a challenge to depict since there aren’t many prominent historical buildings downtown, but he has a few other possible future subject locations in mind.
Linda Wooten, an employee at the Hupp’s Hill visitor’s center, said she believes Strain’s appearance will be the first artist signing to be held at the museum. She said the museum staff is anticipating plenty of questions about the significance of the historic Spengler Hall.
“Of course, its Civil War history, its local history, its connections to descendants…it’s important in many different ways,” she said.
IF YOU GO:
• 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park and Museum, 33229 Old Valley Pike, Strasburg.
• 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at King James Galleries of Winchester, 161 Prosperity Drive.
Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org