Phunny Phellow – August 1863


In contrast to his serious, solemn and often grim Civil War illustrations in Harper’s Weekly — almost all of which were signed — Nast had a platform in Phunny Phellow where he could be unrestrained, even boisterous — and anonymous. From 1859 until 1873 (when he signed an exclusivity agreement with the Harpers that paid him $5,000 a year), Nast regularly contributed to Phunny Phellow.

During the first week of May 1863, Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson won a masterful victory over the Union army, now commanded by Joseph Hooker, at Chancellorsville, Virginia. (Lincoln had replaced Ambrose Burnside with Hooker after Burnside’s disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg the previous December.) However, the victory proved pyrrhic for the Confederacy when Jackson was shot and mortally wounded by one of his own soldiers while reconnoitering at twilight.

Nevertheless, Lee, buoyed with over-confidence, crossed the Potomac with 75,000 men in June, to invade Pennsylvania and win a decisive battle. He counted on facing the same dazed Hooker he had beaten at Chancellorsville, but Lincoln replaced Hooker with George Meade three days before the battle. The two armies met at Gettysburg on July 1-3, and Lee lost. Gettysburg, along with Antietam, turned out to be the most critical Union victories of the entire war. Losses in either almost certainly would have changed its outcome.

Nast immediately gave General Meade his due in Phunny Phellow.