June/July 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 4
A few years back a Massachusetts hardware salesman named Stuart Goldman bought a trunk which, he believed, had been sealed since 1799. When he opened it, he found the crisp silhouette of the Continental officer at left. The soldier was identified as Major Hugh Maxwell of Charlemont, Massachusetts; the artist, only as “P.C.” Intrigued by his find, Goldman set about tracking down F.C., and eventually learned that the initials stood for Frederick Chapman. The name, unfortunately, was all Goldman could discover about the man, but he apparently worked the military camps in upstate New York, charging a few pennies for his quick, deft likenesses. Goldman has located twenty-one of Chapman’s silhouettes and owns four. Some of the subjects remain as shadowy as the artist himself. We have no details of Maxwell’s service, and know nothing of Stephen Horton, at right, save that he was a sergeant, and survived the war to prosper sufficiently to give his wife, Submit, shown below him, a silver tea service in 1790. Despite our scant knowledge of the subjects, however, their silhouettes have a charm and immediacy often lacking in the detailed and carefully composed formal portraits of the era. Done hastily and on the spot, they still manage to convey a vivid sense of those who fought the war.