call 985-630-8674 or email for inquiries or for online purchases.

Past Exhibits:

Ebb & Flow Festival, Baton Rouge, LA. April 7th-8th, 2018.

Art From Art, Manifest Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH. November 1oth-December 8th, 2017

Columbus Art Festival, Columbus, OH. June 11-13th, 2017.

Telfair Art Fair, Savannah, GA. November 11th-13th, 2016.

Provincetown Art Association & Museum, Provincetown, MA. January 15th - February 28th, 2016.

Hudson D. Walker Gallery, Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA. from March 18th-23rd, 2016.

Listen to Orlando Montoya Interview Isaac McCaslin

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pontoon: African American History Surrounding General Sherman's March to Savannah

I had been living in Savannah, Georgia for 7 years when I was introduced to a story about her history which seems to be affecting peoples’ collective thinking at an escalating pace. This series of charcoal drawings illustrates a narrative from the American Civil War known as, “The Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek”. The story is about the Union response after a bridge between two sides was dismantled resulting in the deaths of freed colored people. It is now up to this generation and following generations to build bridges of understanding through a conviction to truth and righteous moral behavior.   

Related Press

General Sherman's Army Marching to Savannah, Georgia
Isaac McCaslin, Sherman's Army Approaching Savannah, 24 in. x 15 in. charcoal on paper, 2015.

In the drawing it is 1864. General William Tecumseh Sherman is leading his 62,000-man army toward Savannah Georgia on his March to the Sea. The African Americans in the mid-ground of the composition are freed slaves coming from plantations in Atlanta that had been destroyed by Sherman's Scorched Earth Campaign. Having nowhere to go, the Freed-people follow Sherman's Army.

Isaac McCaslin, Sherman's Army Crossing a Pontoon Bridge over Ebenezer Creek, 18 in. x 11 in. charcoal on paper, 2015.

When Sherman's army arrives at Ebenezer Creek 25 miles Northwest from Savannah his military engineers construct a pontoon bridge.

Freed-people Waiting to Cross Ebenezer Creek
Isaac McCaslin, Freed-people Waiting to Cross Ebenezer Creek, charcoal on paper, 18 in. x 11in. 2015.

The Freed-people are told to wait on the other side of Ebenezer Creek while the union army crosses. They are led to believe that they will be allowed to cross after the soldiers are all accounted for on the other side.

Dismantling the Pontoon Bridge at Ebenezer Creek
Isaac McCaslin, Dismantling the Pontoon Bridge at Ebenezer Creek, charcoal on paper, 18in. x 11 in. 2015.

 Fearful that the large trail of freed-people had been slowing down General Sherman's army, Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis gives orders to pull up the pontoon bridge, effectively stranding the freed-people on the other side of Ebenezer Creek.

Confederate Approach
Isaac McCaslin, Confederate Approach, charcoal on paper, 18 in. x 11 in. 2015.

The Confederate troops approach on the same side of the creek that the freed-people had been abandoned.

Abandonment at Ebenezer Creek
Isaac McCaslin, Abandonment at Ebenezer Creek, charcoal on paper, 18 in. x 11 in. 2015.

The freed-people beg across the river to the union soldiers for help.

Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek
Isaac McCaslin, Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek, charcoal on paper, 18 in. x 11 in. 2015.

With the Confederate troops surrounding the area, a mass of hundreds of freed-people jump into the flooded waters of the Creek in a frenzied attempt to swim across. Over 500 people drowned.

General Rufus Saxton's Speech at the Second African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia
Isaac McCaslin, General Rufus Saxton's Speech at the Second African Baptist Church, charcoal on paper, 18 in. x 11 in. 2015.

Fast-forwarding a bit,  A union soldier had leaked the story of the Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek to the press. Here had been a case where the Union side and the Confederate side had both been in part responsible for a tragedy of racial injustice. It became a media spectacle and a call to action to address a more fundamental issue. In response, President Abraham Lincoln sent Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to Savannah to talk with General Sherman about the underlying issue that there had been no structures established for the freed-people to guide them toward sustaining themselves. General Sherman issued the solution titled "Field Order No. 15" popularly known as 'Forty Acres and a Mule'. In this drawing a speech is given by General Rufus Saxton at Savannah's Second African Baptist Church to the local black community where the people are promised that each black family would receive ownership of 40 acres of tillable land.

Field Order No. 15 Map
Isaac McCaslin, Field Order No. 15, charcoal on paper, 11 in. x 18 in. 2015.

Under "Field Order No. 15' The shaded area of this map 30 miles inland from the coast, stretching from below Charleston to St. Johns River in Florida is to be an African American Colony.

Forty Acres and a Mule near Savannah, Georgia
Isaac McCaslin, Forty Acres and a Mule, charcoal on paper, 30 in. x 18 in. 2015.

African American families began settling on the land that was promised them. Shortly after The Civil War ended in 1865 President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Vice president Andrew Johnson took his place and withdrew "Field Order No. 15' giving the land back to the former plantation owners. The freed-people largely became sharecroppers, in many cases, to their former masters.

Isaac McCaslin, Installation View, Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek Narrative Charcoal Drawings, 2015

Open Studio 4/3/15

 First Look: Isaac McCaslin’s Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek series
 First Look: Isaac McCaslin’s Tragedy at Ebenezer Creek series

View the Article

This group of drawings has been adapted for a gallery setting from a more gestural group of sketches commissioned from me by the Savannah company ‘Resurrection Life Counseling’ for their upcoming docudrama titled Forty Acres and a Mule. I felt transforming this work from sketches to more detailed drawings would offer the viewer incentive to spend more time contemplating the US History of African American oppression and how this oppression re-surfaces in shameful ways today.